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How to Change an Us Against Them Workplace Culture

Most businesses don’t intend to end up with a contentious workplace, but it happens again and again. Why? People have the need to belong to groups. Social identity theory was proposed as a concept in 1979 by Henri Tajfel who noted that the groups that people belong to help them define themselves in the world and are a source of pride, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging.  

Interestingly, when people feel that they belong in a group, they tend to define that group by comparing it to others. Now think of the team you are part of…do you compare yourselves with other similar teams at work in a healthy way? When you’re spending eight hours or more in a work environment, it’s easy to understand how the us versus them mindset can take root. 

Tips For Creating Workplace Cohesion  

The divisions within companies don’t simply lie between management and employees, they can crop up all over the place and cause conflict, bad feelings, and disengagement along the way. The best way to avoid this professional rivalry is to intentionally work to create workplace cohesion. Try these steps to combat the “us vs them” mentality and build highly engaged teams.  

  1. Transparency

When things are done privately, we create instant division, even if that is unintentional. Being as transparent as possible puts everyone on an even playing field and fosters a sense of community and teamwork. Even if it’s bad news, sharing this information with the entire company can create a sense of unity and you can tap the creative and unique talents of the entire company to find a viable solution. 

Another way to open up transparency is to publicly communicate the roles of different groups and individuals. This starts from the top down, ensuring all teams know where the others stand, and also creating clear outlets where teams can share tips and best practices to ensure the team that matters most is your company. A big reason we created our performance management software, Manage 4 Performance, is that it gives you the tools you need to build transparency though role/team/company performance objectives and real-time feedback. 

  1. Team Spirit

A lot of business articles talk about how to create a sense of teamwork. It could be through group activities, a recognition program, annual events, or trips. It honestly doesn’t matter which technique you use, as long as it legitimately works for your business.  

Teamwork and playing well together helps your company avoid an “us vs them” atmosphere. It might create an us (meaning your business) vs them (your competition) approach, which can actually be great catalyst for your company. 

An incredible way we have found to bring team spirit is to meet every week in person or video for a “company huddle”. News, updates, wins, training, shout-outs, etc. are shared with the whole group, led by the CEO to ensure people see how much leadership cares about every team and person equally. 

  1. Good Leadership

The right leaders make all the difference. We too often promote people exclusively on performance in their role and ask them to manage others, assuming they will easily create a team of replicas who smash their goals. In reality, performance is only part of the equation that we recommend leveraging. Look for behaviors that work well with a variety of personalities, like natural collaborators who communicate well and easily build a rapport of respect. Management or leaders that aren’t inclusive, who make employees feel inferior or singled out if they’ve done something wrong, are bound to cause an “us vs them” mentality. Leaders that put themselves before others naturally damage any sort of unified team environment. 

It’s also vital to ensure managers have the opportunity to focus time on mentorship and training in specific skills and competencies that will lead to successful performance. This will further inspire people to naturally buy into your company culture, core values, mission, and vision. That equates to better engagement, which always equates to better performance and retention. 

So, how will your people managers be coached and supported to be that well-rounded leader? Arguably, they more than anyone else in your organization need to be equipped with tools, training, and resources for success. That’s another reason why we designed Manage 4 Performance, as it provides leaders with all they need to drive engagement and performance through consistent feedback, communication, and coaching in one place. 

  1. Re-Evaluate DEI Strategies

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are so important in a cohesive workforce. An “us vs them” mentality is all too easy as you begin to diversify your workforce because people naturally side with a group they already see as part of their identity. Most of us feel comfortable around people that come from similar backgrounds or look, sound, act, or think like we do – but that stunts our growth.  

Companies often fear diversity because they think it will negatively impact the “culture” they have established. This is all too often the fatal mistake of companies because they then wonder why they cannot grow at the rate they want to without unique voices, opinions, ideas, and backgrounds. The best advice I have been given is to forget “culture fit” and look for culture additions instead.  

In order to do that, you’ll want to hire, reward, and fire based on your VALUES instead. Picture your organization speaking the same language as it relates to key ideals like integrity, innovation, or fun. When you base the most important company decisions on shared values, and truly live by them, the “us” becomes the company as a whole that follow your values, and the “them” are those that don’t. 

Now, hiring people from a variety of background becomes that much more exciting and powerful. Interviewing around shared values becomes a major focus, as does better understanding what each person can bring to promote company innovation and growth. This is where all leaders can and should walk the walk , further empowering their teammates to bring their true selves to work for the good of the company.  

  1. External Approach

Because belonging to a group (or many) is an intrinsic part of human nature and self-identity, it can be difficult to spot “us vs them” divisions, especially when you’re involved personally. Or if you can see it, you may not even necessarily view it as a problem because it provides you with a sense of belonging.  

This is why having an external consultant might be a good approach. An outsider can take a more objective view of the company and identify areas that need some work. They can also bring their experience into the company to help build cohesion and an atmosphere of teamwork, collaboration, and unity. 

As we’ve established, an internal “us vs them” culture can be detrimental to your organization. Whether it’s a gap between leadership and employees, diverse groups, or something else entirely, it creates animosity and a disengaged workforce.  

That said, “us vs them” is not always bad in business. When used properly, it can be used advantageously to promote friendly competition, a stronger desire for brand success, and even create cohesion within your company when the “them” is someone else.  

If you’re serious about erasing the line between management and your employees, or internal teams vs. internal teams, the first step can be connecting with an expert in our Talent Optimization Division. We would love to further discuss tools and strategies your managers can utilize to create engaged, motivated, and winning teams. Connect with us today by clicking the button below!

Remember when people used paper maps to navigate road trips? If you got lost, you would pull over, unfold your crinkled up maps, and try to figure out where you were and how to get back on track.  

Modern innovations have pretty much eliminated these situations altogether. GPS technology has swiftly replaced maps, giving us constant knowledge of where we are and how to get where we’re going. 

Maybe you can guess where I’m headed with this. Performance management is a lot like a road trip. Employees need to know where they are, what the destination is, and how to get there. The question is, are you giving them a paper map or a GPS system to get to their destination?  

If you haven’t implemented a performance management software platform, you’re essentially handing your employees a physical map instead of GPS technology. A well-designed performance management software system eliminates wasted time, confusion, and inaccuracy. Much like the frustration experienced while sitting on the side of the road with a paper map, old-school performance management systems rely on outdated paper-pushing methods that fail to communicate clearly and efficiently. 

Let’s consider some of the key advantages of performance management software: 

  • Continuous: Just as Google maps shows you exactly where you are at all times, a performance management software provides real time feedback. Research continues to show the benefits of consistent, regular feedback over annual performance management reviews. Performance management systems give employees access to performance metrics at any given time. 
  • Clear: Clarity is key with driving performance. A well-crafted performance management software provides employees with visuals and numbers, giving a precise picture of where they are and where they’re going. To stay ahead of competitors, organizations need to remove the ambiguity in performance management. Utilizing high quality performance management technology minimizes the confusion and miscommunication that often occurs in outdated systems. 
  • Data-Informed: The best human capital decisions incorporate high quality data. Performance management software has the advantage of collecting and analyzing data for you. When that data is recorded in a software, your company can make promotion and compensation decisions based on documented facts. In this way, relying on high quality data in performance management can mitigate the potential for bias to contaminate employee reviews and serve as a form of legal documentation.  

It’s important to note that not all performance management software is created equal. You need a software that fits your specific organizational needs and goals. For instance, you’ll want something that is simple enough for all of your employees to navigate. Employee skill sets and organizational culture will guide the level of complexity you should seek in a performance management software. Additionally, software systems with customizability have a clear advantage. You don’t want to pay for services you won’t use, and you want your performance management software to flow with your existing company brand and culture. 

Manage 4 Performance is a performance management software that measures quality of hire, maximizes real-time data, and optimizes performance. It’s highly customizable, offering a plethora of services that you can opt in or out of depending on your goals.  

It’s hard to overstate the impact of the quality of an organization’s performance management system. Everything from ensuring a strategically aligned talent pipeline to making legally defensible human capital decisions relies on the quality of your performance management process. If you’re still giving your employees the equivalent of paper maps for performance management, consider using M4P as your performance GPS. Clear, continuous, data-driven feedback is imperative for organizational success.  

Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Jan 24, 2022
Post Categories: Insights
Date Published: Jan 24, 2022