When Cultural Values Lead to Groupthink, the Company Loses

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By Maud Lindley

November 13, 2018

As a business shapes its public reputation, hidden conflicts can undermine its effectiveness.

Excerpt from story published in Strategy + Business Magazine

But you can’t assume that everyone in a company agrees with the stand it has taken, even if there is a clear logic and rationale behind each decision.

Different people perceive values in different ways, and this clash of attitudes can remain under the surface, unvoiced and unresolved, with some employees feeling that their perspective isn’t recognized. Even seemingly innocuous values such as “courage” and “excellence” can have this effect. The value of courage could dishearten people who prize temperance and stability. The pursuit of excellence could be seen as encouraging perfectionism, which can hinder employees’ nimbleness and agility.

If you’re a leader taking a stand on values in your enterprise, you have a seemingly Herculean task: to engage all your employees, regardless of their attitudes and backgrounds. It’s not possible to achieve your goal by excluding the people who disagree with the prevailing corporate point of view. Nor can you avoid values altogether these days; some topics, including diversity and inclusion, LGBT identity, immigration, and trade relations, may relate directly to your core strategies. Instead, the key to success is authenticity: You must create a context for dialogue in which the organization’s leaders and employees can talk openly and genuinely about the values of the enterprise, and why they agree or disagree with those values. Only then can you diminish the virtue signaling, groupthink, and other forms of deceptive organizational communications that make it difficult to adopt values in a fully authentic way.

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