Management Magazine

Ingraining organisational culture in staff

Personal goals can hinder or build the organisational goals


A company executive was very frustrated after failing to meet his annual targets. He had done everything right – at least in his estimation. He ensured salaries were paid on time, the staff were adequately incentivised, weekly and monthly meetings were held, and all support given to program staff was adequate. What then would be the reason for the annual targets below expectation? Whether leaders are born or made is of little value at the workplace. Organisational leadership is after all meeting targets: financial profitability, service delivery, program accomplishment or others in line with organisational vision and mission. 

The one thing that startles me is how difficult it is to get staff to work as ‘the organisation’. That staff have branded T-Shirts, cups, cars and table napkins does not necessarily mean they see themselves as ‘the organisation’. Officially, they may refer to themselves as ‘us’, but really what they are speaking is minimally identifying with the organisation for they have to work and earn. Out and away from office they speak in the ‘we (the staff) and they (the management leadership)’ in a manner that shows little sense of belonging to the organisation. 

Is it the boss’ laxity?

At the bottom of failed achievement of targets is not always about the boss who, sometimes mistakenly, gets fired. When top flight football teams underperform it is always the coach who is shown the exit. I wonder how much time reflection goes in evaluating how everyone else except the boss contributes to underperformance. There is always an underlying tension between personal employee interest and organisational interest. People join organisations basically to draw income. Recruitment processes to ensure the right person gets the job is only a piece in understanding human behaviour where personal interest is involved. 

In fact, it is much easier to understand the interest of the organisation as this is printed all over including in the vision and mission. The command chain often ensures staff attend meetings (daily, weekly or as determined) so that everyone works towards a common goal. The ultimate indicator on what the organisational interest is all about is seen on the continued existence of the organisation. 

Every human has interest. The shining explanations provided during interviews on how people are not motivated by money are neither here nor there. Yes, there are a handful people and in very specific circumstances where a recruit is not primarily motivated by money. However, how many staff will be in an organisation inspired to do good to society regardless of what a pay looks like? 

There is power in an inclusive set up

A staff with a managerial position in an organisation used to always speak with an unmistakable emphasis on ‘I’ whenever he spoke as a staff representing his organisation. It was always “I cannot pay you, I will advise the boss, my organisation does not, my point is that the organisation, I have organized this conference, I am here to find out, I warmly welcome you to tell me,”. Well, this was not nice to listen to especially as a co-employee. The courtesy attitude is to emphasize ‘we’. The ‘we’ carries a spirit of inclusivity and respect to everyone in the organisation. This gentleman is a perfect example of why it is a pity bosses are fired, sometimes, for what they are not responsible for. This fellow turned the attention of staff from the organisation to himself and to personality contests in the organisation. Granted that he had a right to assert himself with the ‘I’ when appropriate, it instead, turned out his emphasis was both destructive to the image of the organisation and polarising to the staff.

Obviously, whenever this person received instructions from the boss he would convene a staff meeting and state a list of “I have decided …, I want you to …”. Often, the staff would not know what the position of the top boss is other than the one they are told.  This can be detrimental to the motivation of staff and clarity on what ought to be done.

Personal fulfilment within organisational success

Every staff has a right to pursue their interest. But this must be found within the bigger interest of the organisation. For this, every staff has a self-obligation to contend with what is practically achievable to appease their ego – which is not necessarily a bad thing to run with. What is an organisational risk is, an ego that bites a bigger chunk of a cake than is available for everyone else. The bitter truth is no amount of incentivisation, promotion, motivational speeches, outings and capacity buildings will redeem a character of this nature. Someday a staff of this kind will have to be confronted that the organisation comes before an individual much as human development must come before organisational profitability. It helps that once identified, characters of this kind are encouraged to move on from the organisation.

Dr Elias Mokua is an Adjunct Lecturer, School of Journalism at The University of Nairobi. Email:

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