Avoid the “Jail” Culture
Have you ever worked for a company in which you were afraid to make a mistake, fearing you’d get fired? More than likely, you were working in what MAP calls the “jail culture.” The jail culture creates a culture of fear. In this environment, you see red flags such as:
- low employee morale
- high turnover
- micromanagement on behalf of leadership
- people being caught making mistakes
- constant criticism
- lack of coaching and effective feedback
- people feeling like they can’t do anything right
No doubt, the jail culture is anything but a healthy, productive place to be. Yet it’s quite common and is one of the reasons why many companies never reach their full potential.
As a leader, it’s possible that you’re battling the tendency to run your company like a jail, with an overzealous approach to accountability. Some of us were raised in this type of environment, and it’s how we’ve come to treat our own “families”—both at home and at work. The key is to recognize this tendency and put a stop to it. If you’re noticing even just a few of the red flags mentioned above, take the opportunity to address those warning signs before it’s too late.
Here are six ways you can do that:
1. Catch someone doing something right.
While it could be something monumental such as reaching a major goal, this activity is more about praising people for something smaller that perhaps has a meaningful impact over time. For example, consistently solving customers’ problems without having to ask for a manager’s help would present an opportunity to catch that person doing something right. Or, it could even be noticing that your IT support person took out the office kitchen garbage. Was it his “job”? No. But was he being a team player in doing something right? Yes. So praise him!
2. Focus on problems, not on people.
In the jail culture, things feel highly personal to everyone and about anything. So when problems arise, fight any tendency to blame people and personalize whatever happened. Get to the point quickly—the problem at hand—and pick that apart, never the person. You’ll understand and resolve the problem much more quickly and provide a more supportive environment in which to do so.
3. Coach more.
When things are amiss or have even gone seriously wrong with either a person or an entire team, look at whatever it is as a learning moment and an opportunity to coach. Don’t just tell people what they’ve done wrong and how they need to fix it. That will get you nowhere. Guide them in understanding what happened and empower them to develop solutions and avenues to change and get better as much on their own as possible.
4. Delegate however you can.
What responsibilities are on your plate now that others could realistically do, particularly with a little training or initial support? Offloading these duties frees up your time so you can focus on more leadership-centric responsibilities. And it makes people feel empowered, important, and capable—which are all things that will help keep those employees developing and wanting to work for you.
5. Give effective feedback.
Make it about thriving, not surviving. Whatever is going on, use that as an opportunity to provide constructive feedback that will lift, not lower spirits and get everyone closer to the goal.
6. Connect the dots for your team.
Relay successes, big and small, and show your people where they started, how they got there, and, more importantly, how their successes can continue with such great habits and hard work. Paint a picture that inspires them and keeps everyone full of the right kind of hope.
How have you changed your jail-like culture for the better?