Changing Bad Norms Without Alienating from your Team

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Changing Bad Norms Without Alienating from your Team
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

Grenny (2017) writes about effective ways to change bad norms / behaviors in organizational teams while honoring your fundamental duty with minimal resistance. They provide some suggestions for new managers to bring about fundamental changes effectively:
  1. FEEDBACK: first of all, it is important to obtain feedback from a number of key figures in the organization, to ensure that your concerns about the bad norms in the organization are truly valid and do conflict with an organization’s policies rather than being just a matter of a subjective personal view on organizational norms and values.
  2. ESTABLISH SUPPORT: the second suggestion has to do with the fact that it is often not known to what extent the bad norms are accepted throughout the team/organization. If, for example, people above you are supporting the bad behaviors, it will be difficult to change those. In that case it is necessary to first create active consent or even common cause among your boss and peers. Only with a certain degree of support it is possible to take a step further.
  3. PUBLIC DIALOGUE: The third step include starting the conversation about the problems openly and publicly. Acknowledge your own vulnerability to negative norms while at the same time maintaining your ethical stand. Provide room for feedback and try to balance referring to those above and besides you and making your own argument.
  4. FUTURE: Emphasize the fact that the past is the past and the future must be the main focus.
  5. CONSENT vs. DISAGREEMENT: Of course, there will be people who comply with your arguments and principles, and people who don’t. Praise those who comply. But the probability that you will be tested – and the principles set are violated - is high. As Grenny (2017) points out correctly “human beings are social learners…discern social norms mostly by watching what happens to others when they conform or violate them.” In those cases, confront the violator and impose fair sanctions calmly and decisively. Always keep in mind that those attacks aren’t personal but rather about the principles that have been set.
  6. DON’T IGNORE ASSOCIATES: the last step is about communicating the new principles. This is important because changing the norms will occur at the pace with which associates will start to tell others about the new norms.
Those steps can be a clear guide towards changing bad behaviors/ norms without causing conflicts within your team. How do you think about the aforementioned steps in terms of bringing about fundamental changes in team/organizational behavior?

Grenny, J. (2017) “What to do when you inherit a team that isn’t working hard enough?” HBR June


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