Understanding Corporate Culture: Starting with Yours
For 50 years, Human Synergistics has been providing organizations with a reliable, statistically valid method of measuring corporate culture. The Organizational Culture Inventory measures 12 styles of thinking and behaving. These 12 areas are clustered into three culture styles: Passive/Defensive (discussed here in an earlier column), Constructive, and Aggressive/Defensive. Let’s take a closer look at the Aggressive/Defensive style.
The Aggressive/Defensive style is evidenced by four primary behavioral traits: Oppositional, power, competitive, and perfectionist.
Members demonstrate oppositional traits by looking for mistakes (especially in others), being cynical, criticizing others (not in a constructive way but in a way designed to make them appear superior), and opposing new ideas, initiatives, or change programs.
Power traits are demonstrated by members who want to control everyone and everything, believe in the use of force to get what they want, are abrupt with others and tend to be on the offensive with most everyone they encounter (especially co-workers and in particular team members they outrank).
Competitive traits are evidenced by members who are inclined to compete rather than cooperate or collaborate, have a strong desire to win (while others lose), constantly compare themselves to others to gain status and maintain the upper hand, and can at times be reckless in their behavior.
The perfectionist trait will commonly see members who never want to make (or admit) a mistake, set unrealistic goals causing undue stress, personally take care of every detail, rarely trusting direct reports to handle even the most routing, mundane tasks, and try hard to prove themselves to others, particularly those in a position of authority.
The Aggressive/Defensive culture style is driven by members who feel they are expected to approach tasks in a forceful way to protect their status and security. Members are encouraged to appear competent, in control and ahead of the competition even when this is not the case. Asking for help, cooperation, collaboration, or assistance is viewed as a sign of weakness, ineptitude, and incompetence.
Organizations with aggressive defensive cultures place a value on being “fast-paced” and stress internal competition between and among team members. While this style can result in some level of organizational results, it can be difficult to sustain that success due to the high levels of stress and pressure if often brings. Employee burnout can be commonplace in Aggressive/Defensive organizations.
As we’ve seen, both of the “defensive” styles are not optimal for long-term organizational success. Which brings us to the third style, the Constructive Style which we’ll examine next time.
For more information on how you can begin the process of understanding and improving your organization’s culture, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.