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Corporate Culture Chasm: VitalSmarts Research Finds Bosses Are Out of Touch with the Day-To-Day Experiences of Their Employees

Our latest study found a concerning gap between what managers say they want their company culture to be and what employees say is really valued by these same bosses. Specifically, leaders say they want innovation, initiative, candor and teamwork, but what employees feel is really valued is obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers.

Overall, the study of more than 1,200 employees and managers, found that employees have a much more negative view of their corporate culture than their bosses. And, the more senior a person is in the organization, the more positive their perception of their company culture.

And these perception gaps matter—a lot. When employees believed that what was really valued was obedience, predictability, deference to authority and competition with peers, they were 32 percent less likely to be engaged, motivated and committed to their organization. This perception also had a dramatic impact on their performance. They were 26 percent less likely to rate their organization as successful at innovating and executing.

To see more results from our latest study, download our infographic below.

Culture Chasm Inforgraphic_071916

You can learn more insights and skills like this in Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue

2 thoughts on “Corporate Culture Chasm: VitalSmarts Research Finds Bosses Are Out of Touch with the Day-To-Day Experiences of Their Employees”

  1. Gladys

    Downloaded infogram not readable on screen or printed.

  2. Karen Schulze

    When I first read these findings, I thought: LOL! A significant gap between director and C-suite level leaders say they want and what employees sense through observation of how leaders act vs what they say they REALLY want? Duh!

    For me, and those with whom I shared the findings held very little shock value. But it does beg the question, why? What’s the root cause of this well known (if only via intuition) decades long gap?

    Indeed, having crucial conversations about the dissonance while listening deeply and taking personal leadership action first to begin to address either the difference in perceptions, or the actual existence of a gap between what leaders say they want and what they do and reward, is a useful strategy. But again, why does a gap that is so very obvious has to generate a “duh” exist?

    Could it be that the crucial conversations that need to occur need to take place NOT between leaders and employees, but between the various levels of leadership? The first conversation implies there is a perception gap, the second conversation suggests there might be a very real, even if unintentional gap between a leadership teams behavior and it’s rhetoric.

    It seems logical to me that the post WWII socio-cultural influences on the mostly Baby Boomer leadership base in Corporate America today tends to default to “Fake it till we make it” Corporate Cheerleader, Power of Postive Thinking, “don’t give any power to a problem by focusing on it” approach to culture building and change.

    So, over the years, the employee sees all this “talk” but very little of the “walk” from the leaders. A cyncial employee view of this gap holds that leaders don’t want to be held personally accountable for the changes and behaviors they seek to impose on their employees, but I wonder if Baby Boomer leaders really discounted the value of their actions in comparison to their ability to say the right things, inspire, and project energy and positivity to the “masses” while expressing confidence in how close to the targeted “ideal” the business was at any given moment in time. In other words, an underlying Baby Boomer preference for the power of charismatic leadership.

    I’d assert that what’s missing in today’s leadership base is authenticity. Millennial leaders have very little trouble coming right out and saying something sucks and we gotta fix it. Baby Boomer leaders are always trying to “put the best spin possible” on issues. This feels disingenuous to employees and to millennials. Let’s just name it, OWN it and fix it. Nothing personal. We’re not a Super Power. Communism collapsed, but no advantage was wrought, economic inequities between the classes, races and genders continues, and nationalism and religious fundamentalism have returned with a vengeance. America, democracy and capitalism is just as flawed as anyone else. So, there’s no false image to attempt to live up too anymore.

    This is why the Agile leadership movement holds such promise for Corporate America- it’s grounded in authenticity of spirit, authentic action and crucial conversations within teams, between teams and leaders and amongst leadership teams up and down and across the organization. It’s also a very, very difficult thing for Baby Boomer leaders to truly “get.”

    Your findings indicate “the more senior a person is in the organization, the more positive their perception of their company culture.” This makes perfect sense to me. If America’s top Baby Boomer CEOs believe their leadership role is to always speak of the way they want things to be, to not give the very real problems they face in running their business energy, to “fake it” until they get there, anyone on the leadership fast track has learned they must do the same. So, the further up the leadership ladder you travel, the more removed from the every day work reality of your employees you become as you seek to project a positive confidence for how well the business is doing. Daring to point out the fact that your employees don’t see things the way the leadership team does wasn’t going to get you promoted.

    What are your thoughts? Should the strategies you suggest in your infographic take place between the members of the leadership team, or between leaders and employees?

    Thank You,

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