Tips for Dealing with a Culture of Avoidance

Avoidance of dealing with unacceptable behaviour and performance can be a big part of the culture of many organisations across commerce and government, costing them loss of talent, productivity, innovation and opportunity.

This avoidance culture leaves the organisation vulnerable to serious disruption by competitors who are more agile and performance focused with a culture of trust, openness and learning.

Some symptoms of the avoidance culture are:

  • tolerance of underperformance and bad behaviour
  • negative gossip and rumour mongering
  • lack of trust
  • fear of error leading to inaction
  • silos
  • back-stabbing
  • withholding of information
  • submissive compliance
  • passive aggression

These issues are often called ‘elephants in the room’ – everyone knows they exist and are a problem but nobody is willing to even talk about them, except in hushed whispers with only those who trust each other.

The opportunity to ‘eat’ these elephants is immense and requires authentic leadership to realign the culture to openly, ethically, lawfully and respectfully address the issues.

Here are the steps in order of suggested occurrence:

  1. The leadership becomes aware and committed that the organisation is to improve and needs to involve everyone in agreeing what our behaviours and performance are to be for a sustainably successful workplace.
  2. Plan carefully using a proven change model such as ADKAR or Kotter’s Model – remembering that inclusion, persistence, coaching, supporting and acknowledging progress are key leadership behaviours required.
  3. Be prepared for the change to occur over a longer period than anticipated, hence the need for persistence.
  4. Be prepared for some people to choose to leave, both desirable or otherwise.
  5. Practice everyone in Attitudinal Competence to empower them to improve themselves.
  6. Train and practice everyone in a process for ‘Dealing with Anything’ such as below:
  7. Become calm and centred (use the 5B model or something else that works for you)
  • Brake: pause, stop!
  • Blocked Breathing: in for 3, hold for 3, out for 3 hold for 3, in for 3, hold for 3….
  • Balcony view, big picture: Will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 years?
  • Brain: Use it, think carefully, think rationally.
  1. Gather the facts and their various meanings (people see the same facts in different ways).
  • Use open ended respectful questions.
  • Assess the type of personality they are and how best to work with them – use the DISC model.
  1. Plan and rehearse
  • Questions
  • Possible responses to your questions etc.,
  • Key messages that must be discussed – best done by open ended respectful questioning.
  1. Engage
  • Lead with questions – open ended and respectful
  • Gain rapport first.
  1. Negotiate the fix, remedy, solution, desired outcome.
  • Keep your objective in mind
  • Discover their objective
  • Consider whether and how both objectives can be met.
  • Aim to gain agreement through adroit questioning styles e.g. ‘Can we agree to work together to achieve both of our objectives?”
  • Practice the core skill of answering with a question yet embracing their question e.g. “Yes, I’d like to do that, can you show me how, so we can achieve both of our objectives?”
  1. Gain agreement, commitment and accountability.

What do you think?

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