Why a Team Culture Trumps a Family Culture in the Workplace

We all spend a significant portion of our lives at work. It’s where we invest our time, energy, and talent. So, when a once-great company with fantastic people turns toxic due to a harmful company culture, it can feel like a betrayal. People become unhappy, tensions rise, and finger-pointing begins. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” as the renowned consultant and writer, Peter Drucker, wisely said. This isn’t to downplay the importance of strategy, but to emphasize that, no matter how brilliant your strategy may be, a toxic culture can undermine your results.

In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of working with several companies that proudly stand by their “Family Culture”. They held their core value to be “People matter”. Most of these companies are family-owned or were founded by visionary entrepreneurs who prioritised relationships. At first glance, it all seems wonderful. People share meals together, the office kitchen becomes a hub of social interaction, coffee and cookies make their way into many meetings, and birthdays are celebrated with warmth and cake. Everyone knows each other, and a sense of camaraderie permeates the workplace.

But is this really as idyllic as it sounds? Is a family culture always the superior choice compared to a corporate culture driven by shareholder satisfaction and market domination?

Unfortunately, there is a potential downside to a family culture. It can easily turn toxic, and when it does, the so-called “family” becomes unhappy, misaligned and disoriented. Expectations about who we are and how we should interact cease to be met. Meetings take an emotional turn, often veering off track and wasting time. Instead of behaving as professionals and colleagues striving for the best possible outcomes, we start behaving like siblings and parents, resorting to criticism, blame, shame and self-pity. Gossip becomes the order of the day, discipline erodes, and accountability gives way to excuses or cover-ups.

These days, I’m more inclined to encourage companies to adopt a Team Culture. In a healthy Professional Work Team, individuals collaborate toward a common goal. They support each other’s success. The focus is on scoring points, growing, and achieving. While relationships remain crucial, professionalism and accountability are equally emphasized.

In Professional Teams, conflicts are addressed maturely through dialogue and solution-seeking. Our meetings stay centered on our objectives and how we can collectively and productively reach them.

A Team Culture is about striking the right balance between a healthy, supportive environment and a professional, goal-oriented mindset. It’s about fostering relationships while maintaining accountability. When done right, it can lead to a workplace where people not only matter but also thrive, achieving their best and helping their colleagues do the same. This not a magical solution to all our problems but can definitely help a lot.

So friends and colleagues, in a world where culture plays a pivotal role in shaping our work experiences, let’s consider the benefits of a Team Culture, where success is the aim, relationships are cherished, and accountability is upheld.


One thought on “Why a Team Culture Trumps a Family Culture in the Workplace”

  1. Johann
    Thank you for your insightful message. As the CEO of a business which was born out of a visionary leader and entrepreneurial purpose, we find ourselves facing the challenge of growing into a bigger more formal business structure. The issue you mentioned is something I am currently dealing with as we move forward into the next stage of the company’s lifecycle. Thank you for creating the awareness and shining light on what to focus on.

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