Saturday, May 24, 2008
Fighting an Organizational Culture
Organizational culture is composed of the underlying thoughts, assumptions, attitudes and values that really guide an organization. These are not the clever words placed on the wall or filling the personnel manuals, but rather the way the life of the organization is lived out day to day. Whether or not you acknowledge it or not, organizational culture is the true measure of an organization. Having served in several churches, businesses and religious organizations, I have seen that organizational cultures that are contaminated with distrust, uncertainty and self-interest will not only cause the organization to struggle it will torment and burn out the best people in those organizations as they often feel unsupported and ill-equipped to deal with the unacknowledged and subversive nature of bad organizational culture.
I have a friend who is struggling in such a situation now. We share a similar story of coming into an organization and having those who surround us intentionally and irrationally working against us. I see her struggle, as I have struggled, to side-step landmines and work around obstacles that are placed in her way by an organizational culture that allows them to continue. I see her struggle as I have struggled with a culture that supports mediocrity and accepts as the norm the practice if insubordinate innuendo and the propagation of unsubstantiated rumor.
So, what are my words to my friend in her time of trial? How have I survived thus far?
1. I discovered a purpose beyond my daily vocational objectives that allows me to focus upon the bigger picture.
2. I found friends, there are others in any organization that understand the struggle and desire to help you survive despite the obstacles.
3. I had to personally realize that my entire self-worth was not determined by my vocational accomplishments. My work has always been important to me but I have moved it from the center of my life by remembering that God should be my center and not my work.
4. Practice the biblical precept of loving those who hate you. This is by far the hardest and most difficult, but I have truly tried to love and pray for those who have intentionally sought my failure and worked against me.
For a while I pushed against the organizational culture. I complained about its injustice. I internalized the struggle. I then began to realize that I may not be able to change the entire culture but I could continue to practice a different way of life within the culture. I could rise above the distrust, uncertainty and self-interest by living out my faith in everything I did. I could stand against mediocrity by working to bring excellence to my work, I could stand against innuendo by speaking the truth in love and squash rumor by remaining silent. Do I continue to struggle? Yes, everyday I struggle, but I am surviving, and despite it I remain:
Consumed by the Call,
Gracious God who walks with us during the valley in the shadow of death, grant that we who serve you would live our lives in such a way as to reflect your love and life amidst those who need to embrace you love the most. In the name of the one we desire to reflect, Jesus, amen.