Overcoming Resistance to Corporate Culture Changes

Updated Over a Week Ago


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Companies are like individuals and communities, they have beliefs and behaviors that shape them. These beliefs and behaviors are known as corporate culture.

Corporate culture may be written. But in small companies, it is usually unwritten. An example is where a bank pays for all its employees’ lunch on Wednesdays, and the employees identify with it.

Barron’s Business Dictionary defines corporate culture as, a “general organizational operating environment including ethical and value structures”.

Corporate culture transcends all aspects of the business entity. It affects how a company’s employees work, their chain of command, their method of communication, and how they are viewed by their customers and outsiders.

Corporate culture can also determine the type of industry the company operates in and its products.

Outside Leadership

The CEO is the corporate leader of the company. They are the one that has a vision for the company and galvanize the support of the employees to achieve the goals of the company.

The leader could rise from within the company or organization to become the CEO. This type of leader should not necessarily have problems with the company’s corporate culture, having been groomed in it.

Though the leader may introduce changes by dislodging bottlenecks for greater efficiency as the CEO, such leaders are not the object of this article.

This article looks at issues that confront a CEO or leader coming from outside the company and not being properly groomed in the culture of the new company.

Poaching Leaders

It is common for a company to hire a CEO from outside its fold, even from its major competitor.

Lee Iacocca in the 1970s was fired by Ford Corporation, only to be hired by Chrysler Corporation as their new leader.

Boards of corporations see the sterling performance of their hiring prospects in the companies they are working for. If such performance fits into what a board wants, and the board thinks the prospect can transform their company in the same way, they will hire the prospect.

The board’s desire will be that the prospect replicates those qualities in their organization.

The New Leader

The new leader now steps into another company totally different from where they are coming from. They have to make new friends, but above all, they would be faced with a corporate culture that they have not been trained in.

The leader should understand that they have joined a company with a different corporate culture. He should start with the board which hired them and make their vision known.

They will need the support of the board to make changes to the corporate culture where and when necessary.  Such changes must be for the overall benefit of the company and not for their ego.

The backing of the board is crucial since they are the ones to evaluate them, and can make such changes become company policy.

The New Culture

It is important that they understand and come to terms with where changes should be made.

Some resistance, at least initially, is expected because these people are entrenched in the company’s culture and they may not want to be changed into a new culture.

After they strike an agreement at this level, they could meet with the other employees through their managers, representatives, memos, or other forums.

The leader should use the opportunity through these channels to communicate their plans for the company, and how the company and employees can benefit from their plans.

The new leader must:

  • Be willing to listen and not suppress suggestions
  • Not be a know-it-all leader
  • Study the company culture to know what needs to be changed
  • Be accessible
  • Not see everything about the new company as bad

New CEOs Bring Changes

Changes, no matter how well thought out, will witness resistance.

Some resistance is fueled by the desire of employees to defend their rights or defend the culture of the company.

Sweeping changes without due consultation can damage the company. The new CEO should apply tact and effective communication in handling the corporate culture of his new organization.

How Can You Deal With Changes in Corporate Culture?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Bradley Morgan
Bradley Morgan
Bradley is a certified coach, gerontologist, author, keynote speaker, conflict mediator and Founder of Walks Beside Coaching and Consulting. Bradley coaches healthcare organizations such as Mayo Hospital, Hoag Hospital and Scripps.
  • Ramdeo Choudhary says:

    This is a very valid and common situation with outside CEO’s appointment. Here the onus to prove himself or herself is on the CEO. The effective CEO uses the rule of flexibility to understand the situation and people down the line. He applies his strategy with flexibility like a duck’s neck while catching his ‘prey’. If the element of flexibility with firmness and tact is missing he is bound to be an utter failure. With these tools he has to devise his matrix for change and acceptability by all in order to stretch his neck little more to have his goal attained. Initial phase is the wash out phase of resistance to defend the status co, next is the acceptability of changed strategy by all with clear and convincing communication and finally the implementation phase where the neck is to be starched bit more for gaining hold of the ‘prey’. Once results start flowing the stretching of neck become smaller and then the system is put on auto mode with necessary checks and controls in place. Here again the CEC has to seek new mountains in the form of new product or projects to keep the companies growth and bottom lines at par with or even exceeding the forecasts

  • Amanda Woods says:

    Very important points to remember, not just as a CEO within an organization, but any leader in a company facing change. This article comes about at a very timely point in my career – one in which I will probably be facing these exact same challenges within the near future. As an ‘outsider’, I can appreciate the advise given on how to embrace the new company and the changes to culture that I will face. Thank you.

  • Osei frimpong says:

    I like these articles will be very pleased if it will continue for sometime

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