If you’re running a small business and have worked for a larger organization, then you most likely have experienced two very different workplace cultures. Small businesses tend to be a relaxed and less corporate-y environment; if you work at a company like Red Branch Media, it’s kind of like being part of a huge, always-in-your-business family.
This isn’t a bad thing – having a relaxed company culture is thought to raise productivity. Close-knit employees tend to work more effectively together, collaborate better and spend less time stressing over social interactions and co-worker conflicts. However, if your small business culture becomes too relaxed, this can all backfire. I’ve seen it happen, and the results aren’t pretty. But if you nip it in the bud immediately, you can fix the problem.
Problem #1 – Miscommunications
One of the biggest issues I see in relaxed company cultures is miscommunication. This can happen in any business, but the effects are more rousing and personal to a small team. The common thread: employees prefer different means of delivering and receiving information, which can quickly throw a wrench in projects. Rayanne Thorn (@Ray_anne), recently reminded Social HR Camp attendees to not treat others how you want to be treated, but treat others how they want to be treated. This applies to how we communicate with one another, especially our colleagues.
Fix This Now: Create a simple questionnaire using Google Form, SurveyMonkey, or even a Word doc to ask employees about their online communication preferences. Refer back to some of your most memorable miscommunication situations and pinpoint what went wrong. Make the forms public to the rest of your team and encourage employees to get to know eachothers’ preferences. Better yet, check out this new tool called Crystal Knows, which analyzes a person’s social media posts and emails to help employees tailor messaging to coworkers’ style of communication.
[Tweet “The common thread of miscommunication: different preferences of sharing & receiving info”]
Problem #2 – Lower Productivity
Red Branch Media started in my CEO’s basement… employees could run around barefoot, wear their sweatpants and bounce on exercise balls while they worked. Now that we’re in an office building: shoes must stay on your feet, exercise balls have been switched out for mini balance boards, and you can still wear your sweatpants (if you’re having a really bad day). All in all, I’ve noticed that when employees are in a more serious environment, they’ll take their work more seriously, too.
Smaller teams tend to bond quickly and perhaps a little too well. This can damage productivity – more than you can imagine. Constant sideline chatter, secret chat messages and posting 30 GIFs a day can do major damage to employee output. If your company uses a company collaboration tool like Yammer, HipChat or Bitrix24, then you probably know this issue all too well.
Stop and think about the time employees are taking to do such a simple thing. If finding and posting a GIF takes 5 minutes, but employees are posting them 6 times a day, you’ve lost 30 minutes from their potential output. Now imagine a team of 16 posting 6 GIFs a day… you’ve just lost an entire day of collective work.
Fix This: Set guidelines for workplace communication and chatter. Limit employees to posting one GIF a day, and talk to employees privately if you see them on their phones, on chats all day or disrupting the entire office from shouting across the room. Relaxed cultures are meant to be fun, but there’s a time and place. If you’re seeing more GIFs than tasks completed on your project management software, then you might want to consider laying down the law.
[Tweet “Relaxed company cultures are meant to be fun, but there’s a time and place for everything.”]
Problem #3 – Lack of Authority
When small businesses experience growth, hiring tends to happen in rounds. This means many of your employees probably hold the same tenure at your company. When employees on a small team get more responsibility, it’s common for them to receive some pushback from their counterparts. Even if your company isn’t hierarchal, this will happen. While it’s the newly promoted employee’s responsibility to take control of the issue and make their team collaborate, it may require a little push from upper management.
Fix This: Don’t place employees in managerial positions without notifying the rest of the team. Send out an email or memo to explain the new responsibilities. Clearly define each person’s role in the company so you leave all questions answered. You don’t need to make a pyramid, but you do need to let your small business team know who has authority over what. Balance the authority by giving untenured employees an internal project to manage. This makes every employee feel like an important part to your businesses’ success AND they’ll know to take their friend-coworker-person who was hired on the same day as them, seriously when work needs to get done.
These three issues can be detrimental to a small business team. Don’t be afraid to set guidelines, make sure you practice them yourself and remain consistent at all costs. If you find other related issues like these that are influenced by your relaxed culture, the best thing to do is set a benchmark immediately before personalities become stronger, and productivity turns weaker.
Has your company culture become too relaxed? What issues have you noticed, and what tips do you recommend to fix them?