How to effectively manage organizational subcultures

These are five ways you can manage your office subcultures to prevent them from turning into the counterculture.

April 27, 2020
Darpan Keswani

In our previous article about organization subcultures we covered what subcultures are, how they’re formed, and a few factors that can trigger a coexisting subculture into a counterculture. In this post, we’ll share some insight as to how we manage organizational subculture in our offices across the globe.

1) Identify existing subcultures

The first step is to recognize the subcultures that exist in your organization. To do so, you must understand how these subcultures started within teams, by noticing distinct values, working processes, and even interactions between employees.

Think about your departments, functions, locations, and facility, and remember to account for formal and informal communication channels. Keeping all these factors in mind should help you detect commonalities and patterns, which should guide you to a natural starting point.

2) Try an approach that has worked in the past

One way to do so is through informal observations, such as gathering stories from the grapevine or paying close attention to employees and managers who are well-liked and respected within your organization.

For a more scientific, reliable approach you could use tools like Myers-Briggs, Culture Index, or DiSC. These tests highlight the subtleties of how people communicate, collaborate, and respond to change. They also shed light on desirable qualities your employees are looking for in a leader, so you can adapt your management style if needed.

3) Account for sub-cultures when making organization-wide decisions

If you’re implementing necessary policy changes that you know will negatively impact one or more departments, let them know. This shows that you’re paying attention to how they work, and you might even receive feedback on how you can tweak the new policy to make it easier for each department to adjust to the change.

Proactive communication with your departments has another advantage: they make everyone feel like part of the majority culture, and build upon it so it holds meaning.

4) Be sensitive to changes in subculture

If you notice a department behaving differently over time, investigate. Different behavior could include anything from unusual feedback about an employee or manager to a sudden decrease in productivity, don’t let it slip under the radar, for it could develop into something much larger.

For instance, if a team is facing more setbacks than usual, explore why. Is the manager at fault? Is the team in-fighting? When a problem is caught early, you can nip it in the bud, and prevent a subculture from evolving into a counterculture.

5) Prevent counterculture

In case a shifting subculture is allowed to develop into a counterculture, a significant action may be required to revert to normalcy. Actions like removing a manager, reshuffling teams, scraping projects, enforcing new policies — all or a combination of these might be necessary.

What’s more, these actions need to be taken in a way that does not reinforce the problem that led to the counterculture in the first place!

The best managers pay as much attention to what’s happening in the culture as they do customer feedback, product quality, and financials. Therefore, your success as a leader depends on your ability to shape employee behavior. This involves connecting with your employees in a way that means something to them while linking them with your group and organization. Understanding your culture and subcultures are your path to establishing that connection.

Unlock the true potential of your organization

Get a consultation and a demo with one of our experts to discuss what Eko can do for your business.

Sign up for our newsletter.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.