Your Company’s Culture Can Benefit From Just One Word

by | May 18, 2024

From The Wall Street Journal this week, “The New Most Dreaded Word at Work: ‘Hey’” dives into how simple, context-free messages like “hey” are stirring up quite the emotional storm in the workplace. You can check out the full piece here. 

The article does a great job exploring why these short messages can be so stressful, but I think there’s more to it. The unease that “hey” brings up might not just be about the awkward pause that follows; it could be a sign of deeper trust and cultural issues at work. 

When a simple “hey” causes worry, it often points to bigger concerns about the health of an organization’s culture and the trust between its people. If employees feel secure and trust their leaders, a brief message shouldn’t send them into a panic. But when communication is unclear and uncertainty looms large, even the smallest note can trigger stress. 

Think about the stories in the article where folks felt nervous after getting these messages, often imagining the worst about their job or workload. This isn’t just about the words we use; it’s about the whole vibe of the workplace. A culture that champions open communication, clarity, and respect can change the whole game in how these messages are seen and felt. 

To fight the negative vibes from “hey hanging,” it’s crucial for leaders to nurture a culture where transparency and curiosity are at the heart. This means tweaking how we communicate and making sure these values are woven throughout the organization. 

Here’s what leaders can do: 

  1. Encourage Complete Communication: Help your team get into the habit of giving context right away in their messages. Instead of just “hey,” encourage them to start with why they’re reaching out. This can cut down on anxiety and make conversations more efficient. 
  1. Foster a Culture of Openness: Make sure your team feels they can voice their concerns and ask questions. Reducing the mystery around vague messages can lessen the fear they bring. 
  1. Build Trust Through Transparency: It’s vital that leaders keep everyone in the loop about changes, goals, and the state of the business. When people understand what’s happening, it builds trust and lessens the fear sparked by uncertain communications. 

While the “hey hanging” issue spotlights a particular annoyance in how we talk at work, it also shines a light on larger trust and cultural issues. By tackling these deeper problems, we can turn workplaces into spaces where a simple “hey” is just the start of productive and positive conversations. 

Elsewhere In Culture 

Walmart lays off hundreds of employees and requires others to relocate

Walmart’s recent announcement of significant layoffs and mandatory relocations for many of its employees highlights a critical challenge in maintaining a strong company culture during times of organizational change. The decision to consolidate offices and require personnel to relocate aims to enhance collaboration and innovation by bringing teams together more frequently. However, these changes can lead to increased employee uncertainty and anxiety, impacting morale and productivity. Leaders must address these cultural implications proactively, fostering a sense of stability and support to mitigate the negative effects of such transitions. Aligning cultural strategies with business decisions is essential to maintaining trust and engagement during periods of change. 

Leaders must recognize the importance of a cohesive and adaptive company culture to navigate workforce disruptions effectively. Walmart’s strategy to centralize its workforce in key locations may streamline operations and foster collaboration, but it also highlights the need for clear communication and cultural alignment. Creating a culture of accountability and support, where employees feel valued and understood even amid significant changes, is crucial. By focusing on transparent communication, empathetic leadership, and maintaining a shared vision, organizations can turn challenging transitions into opportunities for strengthening their cultural foundations and driving sustained success. 

This Working Mom Overcame Decades of Employment Bias to Become The CEO of Her Own 6-Figure Company. Here’s How She Did It.

This story of a working mother overcoming decades of employment bias to become a successful CEO resonates deeply with me as a working mother myself. Despite facing numerous challenges, including discrimination and lack of support both at work and home, she persevered by taking matters into her own hands and leveraging her skills to create a thriving business. Her journey highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing bias, not only for individual success but also for fostering an inclusive and supportive company culture that allows all employees to thrive. Her experiences emphasize the critical role of support systems, such as fair childcare policies and equitable opportunities, in enabling working parents to succeed professionally. 

Leaders can draw valuable lessons from her story to cultivate a more equitable workplace culture. Providing paid family leave, normalizing paternity leave, and ensuring equitable opportunities for advancement are essential steps in supporting working parents. By addressing these needs, companies can foster a culture that values work-life balance and recognizes the contributions of all employees. Additionally, the importance of actions speaking louder than words is evident; companies must go beyond lip service to implement tangible changes that support gender equality and work-life integration. This approach not only benefits employees but also strengthens the organization’s overall performance and reputation. 

If you want people to genuinely care, you need to change their beliefs, not only their actions.

I’ve been approached by countless CEOs and leaders, all expressing a shared frustration: despite reminding, urging, and implementing perks and benefits, they face a stark lack of genuine engagement.

This is precisely what we refer to as the “Action Trap.” The Action Trap occurs when leaders find themselves in a continuous cycle of implementing new processes and systems (taking new actions) to change results, rather than addressing the underlying experiences that lead to those results. Our beliefs stem from our experiences.

So, if you want to instill a new belief, you need to create a new experience.

That’s the key to making people care.

What can we learn from an MMA fighter about leadership and running a non-profit organization?  
This week on #CultureLeaders, we explore the journey of Justin Wren from an MMA fighter to a visionary humanitarian. Despite achieving his childhood dream and conquering the UFC, Justin felt a deeper calling that led him to advocate for the Pygmy communities in West Africa. Hear about his transformation from achieving personal victories to building a global non-profit creating opportunities for thousands of people. 
Listen to the full episode here: 
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