Many years ago, a company I was working at was merging five companies to create one “unified” brand. The leadership team was more focused on building up more revenue monthly than on what employees or customers wanted. 

They were not listening to the employees and their needs, and their communication was not great. 

The employees wanted to express what was important and what they needed for this huge company merger to go well, but there wasn’t a big appetite for listening to their voices. There was a huge disconnect between the employees and the leaders. 

The employees were fearful, and they had a distrust towards the leaders within this organization because the leadership team was so focused on the one thing that they wanted to accomplish but was not being present and attuned to their needs. Team members were also concerned that they would lose their jobs.

I felt the same way, so I decided that it was best for me to communicate these fears and worries to HR to help improve the workplace culture and engagement between the leaders and employees. 

I said to them, “Something has got to get done, we have got to do something about our culture and our engagement.”

I created an employee engagement council to create a connection with people who did not know each other and to create more team cohesion. I brought in many people around the table from other companies, the employees, and the leaders as well.  I did this to help them take their power back and feel like they can use their voices within the workplace. 

These merger dynamics created a huge culture clash, and unfortunately, that organization lost many of its most valuable team members and customers in the process.

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, major events like mergers, strikes, or layoffs can send shockwaves through an organization, leaving leadership and employees feeling out of sync and customers caught in the crossfire. This phenomenon is known as “Culture Clash.”

Culture Clash arises when the fabric of an organization is disrupted by significant internal or external forces, leading to a profound disconnect between leadership and employees.

While the effects of Culture Clash are primarily felt internally by the workforce, the ripple effect extends far beyond the company walls, impacting customer satisfaction, sales, and loyalty.

When employees and leadership are not on the same page, the result is chaos and confusion, leading to decreased productivity, morale, and ultimately, customer dissatisfaction.

It’s crucial to address Culture Clash swiftly and effectively to minimize its impact on both internal operations and customer experience.

Here are three areas to focus on to reduce the occurrence of Culture Clash:

Listen and Respond

Often, senior leaders and even frontline managers get so focused on results that they miss the underlying emotional currents that happen around big events like mergers and reorganizations. Pause long enough to notice and then provide many opportunities for them to voice their concerns. Then, try to act on at least some, of their suggestions.

Walk the Talk

Don’t quote an organization’s mission and values without making sure you live them out. Employees become disillusioned when their managers talk about “how” people should be or behave, but then don’t act in alignment with that. Culture clash will explode in environments where this dynamic is present. Work on being congruent with what you say your value.

Commit to the Long Haul

Culture clashes can increase when we announce changes and then try to move quickly to implement them while moving on to more and more initiatives. Leaders often fail to commit to seeing those changes through and supporting those initiatives for the long haul. This quick step action makes employees feel like they have whiplash from rapid change. Slow down the pace, bring more people along, and then lean in and commit to whatever it takes to see sustainable change through to its completion.

By prioritizing effective communication, empathetic leadership, walking the talk, and a shared commitment to the company’s mission and values in practice, organizations can overcome Culture Clashes and emerge stronger than ever before.

Together, let’s turn the tide on Culture Clash and create workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

Just as I mentioned above in my story, culture clashes can cause a huge ripple effect within different companies. To avoid culture clash, there needs to be strong and effective communication that is two-way, commitment to the stamina required through change, and a focus on leadership congruency. Focus on these areas and will most likely avoid it.

On that note, let us all work together to be on the same page with listening to our employees and their needs so that we can also be better at reading our customers and what they need.