Those of you who read these posts regularly--both of you--know that I generally publish each week's Worst Idea on Fridays.  So why this post today?  Because the selection of the "Top Leadership Book of 2015" by The Book Review Company was to have been announced yesterday.  My book, Otherwise Engaged, is one of the five finalists.  My plan, therefore, was to have written about whether or not my book had been selected as #1.  To that end, I had prepared two versions of the planned post and was ready to drop the appropriate one into this space today.  However, it's now mid-morning on the 16th, no decision has been announced, so I moved this (half) week's Worst Idea up in the queue.  In theory, I'll use Friday's post to announce the results of the book competition.  Or not.


An article  appearing on reports on a just-released study indicating that HR professionals, managers, and rank-and-file employees “have very different opinions about workplace culture, who drives it, what’s important to creating a great one, and what can destroy workplace culture.”

Since the degree of Employee Engagement (EE) is a byproduct of workplace culture, I found the following excerpt to be especially relevant to our ongoing conversation about EE:

When asked who at their organization most defines the workplace culture, HR professionals, managers, and employees each felt they were most important: 

       About one-third of HR professionals said that the head of HR defines the culture, while only 10 percent of managers and three percent of employees agreed. 

       Twenty-six percent of managers said their executive team defines the culture, while only 11 percent of HR professionals and nine percent of employees felt the same. 

       Finally, 29 percent of employees said it is the employees who define workplace culture, with only nine percent of HR professionals and 13 percent of managers agreeing. Interestingly, a full 40 percent of Millennial employees feel that employees define the culture – an indication of an evolving view of workplace culture where employees feel they have more power. 

       Troublingly, 28 percent of employees feel that no one defines the workplace culture, whereas only five percent of HR professionals and seven percent of managers feel this way. 

Frankly, I’d have been surprised if different categories of people were not shown to have different opinions on this matter.  What makes this item worthy of Worst Idea honors is the adverb—“Troublingly”—that begins the fourth bullet. 

It’s pretty clear from the context that we are supposed to be “troubled” that some people feel that “no one defines the workplace culture.”   What troubles me about that fourth bullet is how few people share that feeling.

Workplace culture is a complex brew of many individual ingredients, each of which is complex in its own right.  Saying that one group or another defines the culture makes a major category error.  (While the oboe section can certainly affect the orchestra’s performance, it doesn’t define it.)

Let’s end on a more positive note.  I find it heartening that the category with the highest percentage—by a large margin—saying that no one defines the culture was “employees,” thereby demonstrating the residual common sense and humility of people who have not spent too much time in the rarefied atmosphere that exists at higher levels of the hierarchy or in the fever swamps of HR.  (If I used smiley faces, I would include one here.  But I don’t so I won’t.)