March 26, 2020 | watsimp

Are “high performing cultures” legitimizing dysfunctional workplaces?

A young sales manager was burning up with fever and was still at work. When his colleague asked him to go home, he refused saying it was nearly the end of the month and he needed to make his quota for the month. He was afraid that if he did not make his numbers that month, his manager would rate him poorly and may even fire him. This fear made him come to work even when he was clearly sick and could both worsen his own condition as well as spread the flu around the office.

We have all seen the many times that our colleagues live in constant fear of losing their jobs or being humiliated in front of their team or peers by their manager. All in the name of creating a high- performance culture!

In today’s VUCA world, the desire for stability is considered a negative attribute. But lack of stability does not just mean constant change. Most often, lack of stability is the feeling of living in a relentless state of fear that their job or status will be taken away at will by their manager if they did not achieve the stated or unstated expectations.

This constant fear has multiple long- term side effects for the organization and the individual. For an organization, it leads to a culture of intimidation and fear, under the guise of creating a high performing organization. People make decisions that reflect well on them in the short term. No one wants to call out bullshit. And teams and managers prefer to cover up mistakes rather than flag them early for resolution. All in all, in the name of creating a high-performance cultures, leaders end up creating dysfunctional organizations.

The individual price paid for a culture like this is far higher! Continuous low-grade stress has proven to be detrimental to individual physical and mental health. Constant fear also means little willingness to innovate and take risks leading to the collective “maintaining the status quo” approach in the organization.

The time has come for us to define what a high- performance culture really means! It’s not about driving performance through constant fear. It’s about creating a culture where people can be their best!

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