Unintended Culture | Team Talk vol. 3

We have all had the moment where we caught our kids demonstrating a bad habit they have seen repeated by us multiple times. The realization then hits hard…” Oh, crap, what did I create?” Our behaviors and words had been watched so carefully by our children that they adopted our mannerisms, good and bad. And why wouldn’t they watch us? Our children look up to us as their parents, role models, guidance counselors, and leaders out of respect and admiration. Unintended behaviors are created when we are not purposeful in our personal behaviors. 

In the workplace, employees are watching every move, word, step, body movement, and facial expression you make. You are creating culture with every non-verbal communication cue you give. When you are not purposeful in your behaviors, unintended culture is the result. 

If you want to know and understand what your unintended culture has become, watch how people work together as a team.

  • How do they speak to each other? 
  • Do they collaborate? 
  • Is there hostility? 

Unintended culture shows up in everyday conversations and relationships. 

As leaders, we must first take ownership, responsibility, and accountability for company culture, intentional and unintentional. Company behavior is very often mimicked by what the leadership is producing. If culture expresses goals through values, what does unintended culture express?

For instance, if a company value is respect, but leaders talk very demeaning to employees, company culture will reflect the disrespect given. It will show up toward customers, vendors, and especially employee to employee. As another example, if a company says work and home life balance is important, but we shame an employee for using earned vacation, unintended culture will begin to arise. Resentment will begin to arise.

Companies and leaders can no longer afford to ignore unintended culture consequences. 

I am sure most of you have heard the phrase, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It is absolutely true! All good and well-intended strategy will not succeed if culture is not purposeful to create it. 

The strategy for changing culture begins with you. Unintended culture needs to be called out and identified. It is recognizing the behaviors causing the unintended culture. It is asking yourself, “What behaviors do my employees identify?” Creating a positive culture must be purposeful each and every day. 

I read an article from the Harvard Business Review one time, and it stated that “culture and leadership are inextricably linked.” It also said that over time “leaders shape a culture, through both conscious and unconscious actions.” The author is 100% correct! Leaders must be aware of the culture themselves are creating each day with the power of influence and behavior. 

Creating intentional culture starts with the top leadership of a company. There is value in creating a culture of purpose and intent. When leaders demonstrate positive, purposeful behavior, culture will begin to change. But culture cannot exist with one person. Culture grows in a team. 

The thing about culture, intentional and unintentional…it spreads fast! Think about the day you come to work in a bad mood. How was it around the office that day? Quiet and miserable or happy and joyful? My guess would be the first, quiet and miserable. My point is that you can start to see change quick. Employees recognize instinctively positives and negatives and will react accordingly. When you begin to switch to intentional culture, behaviors will fall in line. 

Being a leader isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone. Being a leader means being intentional and understanding that each day is purposeful. Culture has consequences, good and bad. 

It is your responsibility to stop ignoring and start owning. 


Marcie Richardson

With over 20 years of HR experience, Marcie understands the struggles companies face in compliance regulation and policy structure. She recognizes that effective company culture and policies start with how we treat employees. As the Director of Human Resources for Guarantee Restoration Services in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she values the need for a strong company culture to ensure operational continuity. Marcie obtained her IICRC in WRT and ASD because she believes to truly understand the needs of each employee, you need to understand their job. Marcie also holds a Louisiana Department of Insurance License in Health, Life & Accident.


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