Is friendly fire killing your company?

Corporate culture

Many companies spend a lot of time worrying about competitors, market changes, and other outside forces as potential threats. But what if the real threat is coming from inside the company?

Friendly fire can just as swiftly take a company down as any competitor, yet it is often neglected. And some seemingly innocuous behavior and attitudes like fear of success, power silos, and jealousy, if gone unchecked can, over time, have a significant impact on the culture and ultimately the vitality of a company.

There are essentially three forms of friendly fire. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Infighting – When rivalries, jealousy, and power silos cause employees to work against each other, become entangled in petty battles, or even sabotage each other.
  • Self-sabotage – When employees experience fear of success. This stems from the fear that if you do succeed, more will be required of you and you are unable to live up to people’s expectations. This is actually more common than you may think.
  • Mutiny – When individual goals are at odds with the overarching goals of the company or fear of being unable to perform when faced with the demands of sudden growth or expansion.

An inherent challenge in guarding your company from friendly fire is visibility – you don’t always see it coming. When entrenched in the day to day operations of business, pressed for time, it is easy to overlook the first indications of a problem. Often, we become desensitized from constant exposure to petty squabbles and personal agendas. As a result, all of those warning signs that seem so glaringly obvious after the company has imploded may have been easy to justify or attribute to typical office politics at the time they occurred. And often, employees are unaware that they are sabotaging the company’s efforts and would never do so deliberately.

The only way to stop something you can’t see coming is to take preventative measures. It’s not a matter of a couple of bad apples that need to be routed out. There is likely no evil mastermind bent on your demise. It comes down to company culture. An unhealthy company culture can encourage the best of employees to compromise their integrity and a great culture can encourage the worst to step up their game.

Developing a concrete plan to assess and manage company culture is just as important as managing projects, employees, or anything else.

  • Develop a clear vision of the type of culture you want to cultivate and put it in writing.
  • Every manager and supervisor in the company should be aware of your vision and how you expect to reach and maintain it.
  • Make it clear that everyone is expected to do their part in encouraging a healthy work environment and outline in detail what their role should be.
  • Create a method to evaluate the current company culture and how it changes and develops, between individual employees, within departments, between departments, and in the company as a whole.
  • Create a schedule to periodically revisit your plan and vision and make adjustments when needed.
  • Consider hiring an outside consultant. Someone who can take an objective look at how your company operates and help you build a plan to make any changes needed.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of a healthy company culture. It not only strengthens the inner workings of your business but also provides a solid line of defense through employee loyalty, camaraderie, and competence.


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