Minding the Gap Between Mission Statements and Workplace Culture

The Gap Between Workplace Cultures and Mission Statements | HRDQ-U Blog

Without looking at your company’s mission statement, would you be able to tell another person what it says? Could you paraphrase it? Most of us, no matter how long we have worked in our jobs, can’t do this. Take a moment to read the carefully crafted mission statement that announces to the world your organization’s ideals and values. These essential words and phrases are meant to guide the way your clients and customers are treated. These words should also point internally to the kind of rapport you expect between co-workers, management, and leadership in your organization.

A strong mission statement is crafted to project an image. It communicates a company’s persona. Perhaps your company’s statement captures its core branding position, helps it stand apart from competitors, simplifies its strategic direction. It’s a marketing tool, useful and necessary, but does it accurately reflect the culture of your workplace?

Good mission statements are written in plain language and are actionable. The ideals and values set forth can actually be demonstrated by people working together in the organization. A mission statement should be manifest in the culture of a workplace.

FastCompany magazine’s 2/29/21 issue included an article by a manufacturing executive sharing the motto he lives and leads by: “Culture is the single most important ingredient in any company’s success.” The author then goes on to admit how he fumbles when asked to describe his company’s culture. “I can’t categorically define it. I can’t add this precious asset to my balance sheet or easily measure it. But I realize, if I want to succeed, I have to get culture right. 

Understanding of the culture of any organization starts by working backwards from its mission statement. In other words, it is important to do a reality check with employees about their actual experience. If, for example, a mission statement includes language about “being inclusive and expanding reach in a way that leaves no one out,” then one would expect employees of the organization to express a sense of belonging. Observe team communication dynamics. Watch what actually goes on in meetings. Who does all the talking? Similarly, if your leadership claims to value egalitarianism in the organization, explore the actual power distance that exists between bosses and employees. Is it consistent across departments? Any degree of hierarchy can be appropriate in a specific work setting. Take the military as an example of an institution where strict hierarchy is absolutely necessary. What matters is the consistency and authenticity in the way power distance is demonstrated. Nothing is worse than telling employees their voice matters when, in fact, those at the top of the ladder pay little attention when input is offered from below. Employees who are encouraged to speak should not have good reason to regret their honesty later.

Through understanding several key dimensions of culture such as power distance, individualism, time control, and universalism, it is possible to create a framework for exploring your workplace culture and team dynamics. Does the culture of your organization sync up with the ideals in your mission statement? Perhaps there is a gap worth considering. Closing that gap can improve employee engagement and productivity as well as the overall quality of work-life in your organization.

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This guest post was written by Marcia Carteret of Carteret Communications and comes from the webinar, The Gap Between Workplace Cultures and Mission Statements

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