Nassim Khadem Reporter

Nassim covers the accounting and tax rounds for BRW, as well as general business news. She previously worked for The Age newspaper covering general news, state politics and economics.

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How CEOs can end an ‘us v them’ mentality at work

Published 13 December 2012 14:49, Updated 17 December 2012 16:18

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How CEOs can end an ‘us v them’ mentality at work

A life less punishing ... If CEOs live and breathe their companies’ core values and reward desired behaviours they may find they have happier and more productive workforces.

It’s a common problem for CEOs to find that their staff have developed an “us versus them” mentality.

“Whenever something doesn’t go well in work, you can either ‘own it’ or blame someone for it,” says entrepreneur and chief executive of E-Web Marketing Gary Ng.

His business was ranked No.4 on BRW’s Best Place to Work list this year. But Ng says keeping it a fun and happy place to work gets harder as the business gets bigger.

“As your business grows beyond a 10-person team, it becomes harder to ask everyone what they got up to over the weekend,” he says. “It also becomes logistically harder to socialise – to agree to have the same cuisine for lunch or go on trips away together.

“This is when the group starts to split into subgroups. The management team versus the non-management team.”

This may result in staff members feeling as if they aren’t getting enough appreciation, a high enough salary or job satisfaction.

“When this happens, the company’s culture starts to go into a downward spiral,” Ng says. “Management blames the non-management team members for not being engaged enough to care about the business, and company results start to decline.”

When Ng noticed this was what was about to happen at his company, he took immediate steps to redefine the company’s core values.

“The definition of hard-working to one person could be completely different to someone else,” he says. “When you have a culture where everyone is aligned, people are happier and more engaged.”

Ng says that in this environment, people focus on working together as a team instead of working against each other, and productivity goes up. “Money no longer becomes the primary driver of going to work, but going to a place where they can do something meaningful with the people they enjoy working with,” he says.

The company is encouraging CEOs to connect with their workers: “On the 12-12-12, we invite all businesses to rally their team and go out to give some high fives and spread happiness,” Ng said on that auspicious date.

Ng’s tips about how to create a happier workplace are:

  1. Define a set of core values.
  2. Create a vision, something bigger than just profit.
  3. Recognise and reward desired behaviours often.
  4. The chief executive needs to live and breathe the core values.
  5. Perform a random good deed for your colleague.