With great anticipation, best places to work lists come out. Companies and individuals post their pride on LinkedIn and other social media outlets, praising their HR team and senior leadership. WE ARE A GREAT PLACE TO WORK! "Employment Branding" it's called.

Every company tries, but only 10, 20, 50...maybe 100 make the list. Not a lot. Companies should be proud. They have a great culture. People are happy. People are being promoted. They offer great benefits, fun perks, are growing and profitable. They're doing it right!

What can go wrong? One manager. One. It's a game of telephone. They hear X, and they translate it as B. They don't know how to drive a message to their team. They nod accordingly in management meetings and during one-on-ones with their boss. They understand the numbers, and where their group and the company need to go. They just don't know how to communicate down. Why?

1. Emotions. They let their emotions dictate the group's behavior. Any team will eventually imitate the personality of their manager. Goofy. Disciplined. Lazy. Strong. Resilient. It doesn't matter. People see how the person they report to behaves and imitate. (There are exceptions to the rule...)

2. Threats. If we don't achieve this, Mary is going to be pissed (Mary being the manager's boss or CEO). There may not have even been a conversation, nor does Mary know what's going on, but for lack of a good management strategy, the manager falls back on the 1970's parenting tactics, "when your father gets home from work" strategy.

3. Protectionist. They look out for their group more than the company. A project should be moved to another group for the betterment of a client, but it's not. An employee wants a transfer, but the manager says they can't move. To them, it's all about short-term accomplishments. 

4. No fun. They may laugh with their superiors and maybe fun outside the office, but with their group, they are a hard ass all the time. They aren't creating a fun atmosphere. There isn't any laughing, and they're not a part of any team jokes (they may be the butt of the jokes).    

5. They tell, don't show. Most people want to understand, but they are told, not taught. The best way to manage is to learn philosophically what the results of behavior will be and how that affects the company overall. The ability to teach is crucial. 

6. Teaching for short-term gains versus teaching for long-term development. This is the problem in the US education system. Do we teach for standardized testing, or do we teach for long-term knowledge. In business, we need to do both, and the analogy of teaching someone to fish is very appropriate. 

The best HR team and leader can miss this in a medium-to-large organization. You have to talk to staff. You have to listen to what people below management say. You have to accept that managers may not be what they appear to be by their superiors.  Leaders have to want to hear bad news.

The hardest part is that this behavior isn't intentional most of the time. These managers believe they are doing the right things. They believe they are doing what they are paid to do. Most poor managers want to be successful. They don't have the 360-degree view to comprehend the consequences of their behavior. 

So realize, being a best place to work and having a great culture is like your health. You can run, lift weights and eat healthy all you want, but if you don't get checkups, you may have cancer or high blood pressure and not even know it. While you're winning awards and turnover is low, don't be fooled. Want to hear the bad news about your culture. Investigate the level of communication and cross-functional interaction. Don't take for granted that people are doing it "your way." If you don't get a physical and a checkup, you'll never know. 

If you like this post, follow @TomGimbel for more.

Published on: Dec 22, 2017