Cull the Oxen – A guide to removing toxic culture
Let’s start this one with a short story. I heard John Eales tell this one at a conference once, to illustrate the point I’m about to make. If it’s good enough for one of our greatest ever Rugby Union players (and a top public speaker I might add), it’s certainly good enough for me.
Sweden changed the side of the road they drove on around the 1960’s. When this change occurred, it went pretty much seamlessly in terms of road users. Drivers in fact had fewer accidents than the previous day (driving on the side of the road they had been for decades). But, there was a problem. In rural parts of Sweden, Oxen are widely used for farming purposes. Unfortunately, not all of the Oxen were able to re-learn which side of the road to walk on. Those that couldn’t, posed a massive hazard to traffic, and their owners walking them. They sadly had to be culled.
So, the business lesson here is, how many ‘oxen’ do you have in your team? Those that can’t keep up with your basic requirements, can’t adapt to change, or far worse – create a poisonous and toxic workplace?
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of you out there holding on to employees that you should have let go long ago. You’ve tried to get them to adapt, to keep up, to stop gossiping and creating a negative culture. Why do you keep them? Maybe you think they have too much information to just lose them? Or you think they hold the key to keeping a customer that you just can’t afford to lose?
Whatever the reason, there is no excuse to keep them on your team while they poison your work environment, force good employees to leave, and create havoc with your customer base.
Perhaps you hate confrontation and are scared of their reaction. That’s normal, no one likes firing people. It is the most unpleasant task you will ever do as a manager and business owner. However, the consequences of not doing the hard task are worse: bad culture, resignations, and lost customers.