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Do Your Employees Believe That You Value Innovation? Probably Not

By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

Bosses beware: Researchers say most of you are out of touch with your employees’ day-to-day work experience.

A study of 1,200 employees, managers, and executives found a big gap between what managers say they want their company culture to be and what employees say is truly valued by the people they report to.

Business leaders surveyed by the cofounders of the leadership training company VitalSmarts, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield (whom we interviewed recently), say they value innovation, initiative, candor, and teamwork from their workforces. Their employees, however, don’t see it that way. They say their bosses actually value obedience, predictability, deference to authority, and competition with peers.

The survey asked employees and managers which of 13 norms were most like their own culture. The two groups clashed on all 13, but the researchers found the chasm to be greatest on 5 norms:

• Employees were 54 percent more likely than leaders to say that the norm where they work is to avoid conflict and maintain pleasant relationships—at least superficially— and that it’s important to agree with, gain approval of, and be liked by others.

• Employees were 53 percent more likely than leaders to say the norm is to conform, follow the rules and make a good impression in their conservative, traditional, and bureaucratically controlled organization.

• Employees were 54 percent more likely to say the norm is to do what you’re told and clear all decisions with superiors in their hierarchically controlled and non-participative organization.

• Employees were 18 percent less likely to say the norm in their culture is to set challenging goals, establish plans to reach them, pursue them with enthusiasm, and achieve them or that it is important in their organization to pursue a standard of excellence.

• Leaders were 67 percent more likely to say that the norm is to speak up immediately whenever there is a question or concern that could affect performance and that their people speak truth to power;

Do the misaligned views matter? Absolutely, say Grenny and Maxfield. Employees who believe their boss values obedience, predictability, deference to authority, and competition with peers are 32 percent less likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to the organization, they found. They’re also 26 percent less likely to rate their organization as successful at innovating and executing.

Employees and managers did see nearly eye-to-eye on one thing: The state of their existing culture. Just 9 percent of employees and 15 percent of managers and execs said they have a favorable opinion of their culture. 

To learn how to close the gap at your business, check out “How to align employees’ experience with management’s vision,” a July 21 live webinar in which David Maxfield will share solutions to creating a healthy culture. 

Follow Adrienne Jane Burke at @adajane
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