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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


It was Friday afternoon, and the Vice President of Marketing sat talking with the Vice President of Manufacturing in his office. “You know, our employees seem to be getting lazier and more worthless every day. People used to take pride in their work and go the extra mile for the company, but these days everybody just seems to be doing the absolute minimum they can get away with. What do you make of it?”

The Vice President of Manufacturing considered this for a moment and said, “Well, I just think that people don’t have the same work ethic they used to. Employees used to be thankful to have a job and a steady paycheck. I think that this new “me” generation just doesn’t know the meaning of hard work and loyalty like their parents did. They’re always looking for a free ride and the easy way out. They don’t want to have to earn what they get anymore.”

With that unmistakable “ain’t it awful” look on his face, the Vice President of Marketing nodded his agreement. “Well, this conversation is getting depressing. The Old Man isn’t around; what do you say we go play eighteen holes at the country club this afternoon? We can charge it off to the company as business development. It’ll be okay, too, because I’ll send you all the business you can handle!” The men shared a hearty laugh and headed out the door toward the parking lot.

What’s wrong with this picture? If a succinct definition of organizational culture is an organization’s values and priorities, what would you say is the organizational culture of this company? The Vice Presidents talk as if the important values in the company are things like mutual respect, pride in the quality of one’s work, teamwork, and loyalty.

But what are the values that these leaders of the organization are exemplifying by their behavior? To me they look like dishonesty, disrespect, lack of teamwork, and lack of pride in one’s work.

Here’s the thing. Regardless of what is written on the plaques and posters hanging on the walls of an organization, the behavior of its leaders determines its organizational culture. These leaders’ actions speak louder than their words and set the cultural tone for the entire organization. If you were an employee, what would you pay attention to?

The bottom line is that the most powerful way to change an organization’s culture is to change the behavior of its leaders. These cultural changes can be reinforced throughout the organization through communication, performance appraisal, compensation systems, etc., but it is important not to lose sight of leaders’ responsibility as the creators of organizational culture and as the originators of change in organizational culture.


Technique #1: Ensure that the organizational culture of your organization is communicated clearly throughout the organization.

Technique #2: Be certain that your actions exemplify your organization’s cultural values, especially if you want others to subscribe to these values.

Technique #3: If changes need to be made to your organizational culture, then use your leadership authority to be a powerful exemplar of the new cultural values.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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