Beware of the Cultural Assassin on the business growth journey

It is fair to state that not everyone in the business will share your ambition for the organisation, particularly at the beginning of the journey when you announce your new and exciting plans for growth.

Growth and change are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other and for every individual who responds positively to the planned new destination for the business, some will not.

A poor attitude to work, previous baggage from another company or a lack of respect for the organisation and everything it stands for can contribute to the one person you don’t want on the journey – the Cultural Assassin.

Thankfully the Cultural Assassin operates in a minority but they can do a great deal to harm your good work if you don’t know how to address them. They behave in a different way to the Cultural Architect.

The Cultural Assassin is always ‘actively disengaged’ with the organisation on the business growth journey and is easy to recognise in the workplace.

You will find that Cultural Assassins:

  • Are physically present but psychologically absent
  • Are unhappy with their work situation
  • Insist on sharing their unhappiness with others
  • Have often experienced poor leadership in the past
  • Are ‘going through the motions’ in the workplace

The Cultural Assassin is a negative individual, generally speaking inflexible and is prone to blaming others for just about everything that goes wrong in the organisation. Assassins will constantly make excuses for their poor performance and will offer ‘yes, but….’ responses when challenged.

If not tackled quickly by leaders in the organisation, the Assassin will work to their own agenda, will try to enlist a small revolutionary group with similar views to themselves and over time will prove to be a ‘thorn in the side’ of others in the workplace.

Tackling the Cultural Assassin

The natural and understandable reaction of leaders is to act very swiftly and sack any Assassins who are likely to get in the way of the organisation’s progress on the business growth journey.

However from my own experience – and I’ve never quite understood this – firing a destructive Assassin tends to back-fire on the company. Employees often feel intimidated by the decision to remove a fellow colleague - even though they have been destructive – and this in turn affects individuals who previously had been committed on the journey.

The answer is for the leaders to take the following action

  1. Communicate the plans for growth with all employees from the outset of the journey
  2. Include in the plans the production of a compelling vision for the organisation
  3. Highlight the proposed end destination on the journey, the timescales involved and the challenges likely to be faced by the organisation
  4. Emphasise the importance of having as many people as possible committed to the journey and the need to have Cultural Architects operating within the business
  5. Over emphasise the benefits of supporting the organisation on the journey and explain in detail the destructive role of the Assassin
  6. Hold regular review sessions and if possible carry out surveys inviting confidential feedback on the role of the leaders, the performance of the organisation and any improvements needed to help take the business to the next level
  7. Inform operational employees of the results of any review sessions and surveys and explain the practical and positive things the leadership team will put in place to support them on the journey
  8. Publicly recognise that commitment from everyone on the journey takes time and indicate a timescale which you and the leadership team are prepared to be measured against
  9. Organise regular public journey progress review sessions with all employees and recognise any milestones achieved on the journey
  10. Communicate the importance of fairness, personal integrity, team-working, ownership and collective responsibility to the success of the organisation on the journey

By implementing the ten areas highlighted above, a greater degree of trust and confidence will be realised with the leadership team. More employees will be inspired by the journey and in time with the support of Architects will play an ever increasing role in the business. Cultural Architects will support the traditional leaders operating in the organisation.

Never underestimate the power of peer pressure

More importantly, Assassins will feel isolated and as a result of the ‘wave of enthusiasm and commitment’ created on the journey by other colleagues, will leave the organisation and look for new opportunities and targets better suited to their mindset and demeanour.

Some although from my own experience not many; will reluctantly change their attitude and commitment towards the organisation on the journey. But don’t hold your breath and better still don’t concentrate your time and energy addressing the negativity emanating from the Cultural Assassin.

Instead focus on building a nucleus of support via Cultural Architects. The more you have in the workplace the more successful your organisation will become.

Best wishes on your business growth journey, wherever it may take you.

John Stein – Founder of the winning (formula)®


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 2:35 pm and is filed under Employee Engagement, Leadership Development, The Business Growth Journey, The Cultural Architect. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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