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How To Spot The People That Are Killing Your Culture

culture leadership mindset Apr 25, 2018

Have you ever seen a bucket full of crabs? 

The strange thing is that they don't put a lid on top to keep them from escaping. Why? The crabs keep each other from getting out.  As soon as one gets up above the rest, another crab will grab it and pull it back down into the group. 

Sadly, I see this in restaurants way too often. People who are supposed to be a "team" that constantly fight each other so no one gets ahead of them. The mentality screams, “If I can't have it, neither can you". 

How can you spot the signs of a Crab Culture? Here are a few:

  • No accountability (they blame everyone except themselves)
  • Entitlement (You deserve it, right? You paid your dues?) 
  • Those people who think they are the "only positive people at work or who do any work" (The song from Stealers Wheel comes to mind: clowns to the left of me jokers to my right...) Passive aggressive remarks (I don't do it like that, but if that works for you.
  • Playing favorites (schedule and sections based on likability, not performance)
  • Cliques (sometimes not consciously formed like "the chefs") 
  • Inconsistent standards (sometimes no standards- usually because nothing is written down as the standard, also known as "tribal culture") 
  • Average performance (people tend to adjust to the average output by the group and then they perform at that level - called team performance set point) 
  • Leaders with a superiority complex (they think no one is better than them, so they keep people suppressed from growth - they tend to use the "no one can replace me" line often.... don’t be so sure of that.) 
  • No one volunteers (staff has to be recruited or commanded) 
  • People that "excel" or make positive efforts are quickly shamed and ridiculed by the group (this is actually a form of bullying and creates a hostile work environment
  • Gossip runs rampant and out of control (Entrepreneur and Author Dave Ramsey has a great company policy- if you are caught gossiping you are given a warning one time; the next time you're gone. He does not tolerate people who gossip because it is the foundation of other poor behavioral habits) 
  • Backstabbing (throwing others under the bus to get even)
  • Two faced managers (they act nice to your face, and talk about you when you are not there)
  • Double standards on rules (especially prevalent with owners and managers, also known as "do as I say, not as I do") 

I think you get the hint here. 

If you have a Crab Culture, you need to isolate the "crabs" that are pulling the team collective down. Time to step up and be the damn leader! You need to remove crab personalities from your organization. Like now! It does not matter if they are an incredible sauté cook or are the server with the highest sales, destructive personalities only damage your culture and brand long term! 

If you can't spot the "crab" on your team, then there are two possibilities: 

  1. You have an outstanding culture that is free of crab personalities or....
  2. It's you.  

If it's you then you'll need to do some deep thinking into why. No, I am not going to say you should quit your job, give up your life and become a Buddhist monk seeking the path to enlightenment...well, not yet. ;)

So, why get rid of others who have a crab personality and not yourself? You can only change yourself, you cannot change others. Now, before you think you are Helen Keller, declare yourself "The Miracle Worker" and think you can change people, take a step back and hear me now: you can only change you. 

You can set the example, give coaching, offer tools, and be a positive role model for others, however, they will only change when they are ready...not when you think they are ready.  

Now, if "it's you". 

This self-sabotaging behavior is likely born from poor self-esteem. 

Now, you might say, "I am very sure of my skills and abilities!" 

Okay, that's self-confidence. Self-esteem is your sense of self-worth. Do you feel you deserve success? Do you feel you are trying to prove something to others?  I have to admit that a good part of my professional career I was trying to prove something to others. Now, I push myself to prove something to myself. That's the upside of getting older, you give less fucks about what others think. 

When you do not feel you deserve it, we have a tendency to act out (called protest behavior) so that the mental scorecard in our subconscious is even. You can only rise to the level of what you feel worthy of receiving. Up in that beautiful brain of yours you have your own internal crab mentality going on. When you rise above what you think you should be or have, you do stupid shit to bring you back down. That's your comfort zone. That is where you feel is where you should be. 

Now, you might be saying, "No, no, no! I want to be successful! I want more!" 

Then why aren't you where you want to be?

Why haven't you taken your foot off the brakes and hit the accelerator? What excuses do you have now? Those excuses and reason why you can't are "crabs" in your head pulling you down. It's time to have a "mental crab boil" and kill those suckers off! 

Remember that your words tell me what you say you want, it's your actions that tell me what you are willing to do to get it. 

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