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Baked Beans and Culture

For a moment, think about the experience where you work.

What signs are there that you have a positive culture? What does your company do to support employees? When you receive external awards do you agree that your company deserves them? Do the social media posts portray your lived experience working in the company? Or is there a cultural mismatch between the external and internal perception?

The result of this mismatch is a negative impact on staff retention, sickness rates, performance and profits (HBR, 2017). 

Think Organisation has extensive experience measuring, analysing and understanding organisational cultures, to ensure we understand the root causes of cultural dimensions. Understanding these root causes are critical to decrypting why internal perceptions may be very different from the external ‘what is said on the tin’ perceptions.

Imagine you want beans on toast for breakfast.

You walk into your local retailer to buy some baked beans, yet when you get home and open the tin a pile of green sludge oozes out of the can into your pan. . . . How disappointed would you be? Would it matter or would you be ok with the green sludge? Maybe you could learn to like the green sludge on toast? Or maybe you put the sludge back in the can and take it straight back to the retailer to complain? The retailer may be sympathetic and try to help make it right, or maybe you fall out swearing never to use them again – and telling your network how bad they are for ruining your breakfast for good measure. 

But you end up with green sludge instead – how disappointed would you be?

Similarly, research shows people don’t tend to take direct action when they are unhappy. The majority would throw the beans away, as 96% of people don’t complain about a bad experience. However, they will tell 9-15 people about the negative experience (O’Neill, 2022).

So what have baked beans, green sludge and your employee’s experience got in common?

Think about this situation in relation to your job.

Have you ever spoken to your employer when the organisational experience they advertised did not match what you expected? Or did you just wait it out hoping your experience would improve? Did you tell people not connected with your work the reality of your experience? Whilst smiling at your employer and saying everything was ok? Then if things didn’t improve or change you reached another form of equilibrium – like leaving, working minimally or moving to another role?

Quantitative & qualitative information about your culture ensures you meet the expectations.

As an organisation it is vital to be honest with potential recruits. Giving them quantitative and qualitative information about your culture, including where it was, where it is and most importantly, where your cultural strategy is taking you. Culture is the attitudes, behaviours and values of everyone working at your company; it is the unique way your organisation interacts with employees, customers and each other. As the legendary leadership consultant Peter Drucker said in 2006 ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, because the majority of business decisions come down to culture.  

Culture eats strategy for breakfast, operational excellence for lunch and everything else for dinner. 

Peter Drucker, 2006

So in summary…

When there is a disparity between expectations and reality, what measure can an organisation take to rectify the situation and ensure poisiive workplace experiences?

The organisation needs to really listen. They should encourage open communication channels where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, ideas and feedback. Then, they can analyse the feedback received and implement any necessary changes. Culture is all encompassing so these could be anything from revising policies, improving recruitment processes, providing additional training, or creating work environment improvements. It is crucial that organisations are transparent with their employees about the steps being taken, involving them on the journey. The more this happens, the more the organisation fosters trust and accountability within its culture.

Think Performance. Think Excellence. Think Impact. Think Organisation.

Adapted from an article originally published on LinkedIn, February 6th, 2023. 

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  1. Harvard Business Review (2017). Accessed Jan 2023 at 
  2. O,Neill, S. (2022) Word of Mouth: Stats and Trends for 2023. Accessed Jan 2023 at:,bad%20experiences%20with%2020%20people