3 things that can hurt your performance at work

NBC's "Parks and Recreation"
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NBC's "Parks and Recreation"

Leaders have spent millions of dollars investing in various methodologies in the interest of improving an organization's performance. Six Sigma, Agile and Total Quality Management (TQM) are all management approaches that promise greater productivity, higher quality and faster delivery. Implementing any of these initiatives is a great investment in both finances and people.

But, despite the resources that go into these transformations, the overwhelming majority of them fail to produce the intended results. This is because what actually happens in your company is determined largely by your company's culture.

Let us first clearly define what "culture" means. Culture is the line a group draws that separates the behaviors they stand for, advocate and tolerate from the behaviors they will not tolerate. This line is always present and is being drawn and enforced at all times.

Here are three aspects of a company's culture that can promote or inhibit how your perform at work:


Gossip begins when two or more people talk about someone in a manner that leaves that person diminished in the eyes of the group. Gossip's destructive power unleashes when no one commits to engage with the person in a constructive manner.

Even though gossip is such a damaging force, it's pervasive and even tolerated to some degree in most organizations. Attempts to eliminate it often prove ineffective because many people who engage in gossip fail to recognize their own behavior. The key to eliminating gossip is teaching everyone how to recognize it and securing their agreement not to participate in it.

Gossip stops when no one listens.

Victim mentality

Great leaders and high-performance teams listen carefully to the tone and direction of their conversations. They can identify when a group begins to lose its power by complaining about things it can't change and blaming others for its own lack of effectiveness.

There's nothing to be gained by wishing that things were different. Listen for when groups slip into discussing things outside their control and using them as excuses for why they are not more effective. When this happens, guide them back to focusing on that which they can change. High-performance teams focus their attention and resources on things they can control instead of wasting energy on things outside of their control.

Waiting for a consensus

Everyone "agreeing with everything" is overrated. Within management teams, decision making is often hamstrung by the need for consensus. Managing process in which the only definition of success is that "everyone agrees on everything" will often result in failure.

Group decision-making that operates according to the following rules has a much greater potential for success:

  1. Process satisfaction: Each stakeholder believes that the decision-making process is explicit, rational, and fair.
  2. Personal treatment: Each stakeholder feels treated honorably, meaning they have had ample opportunity to be heard, to make their opinions known, and to consider the opinions of others.
  3. Outcome satisfaction: Each participant can live with the outcome. Notice the words "live with" as opposed to "agree with."

Go out into your organization later today and actively observe your culture. You will see it. Ask yourself to what degree are you tolerating these behaviors? If you truly value peak performance, are you spending the time and energy to do away with them?

Chris McGoff is the co-founder of The Clearing, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm, and the author of "Match in the Root Cellar: How You Can Spark a Peak Performance Culture."

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