The Impact of Spoken Ground Rules

I know because I’ve delivered customer service training to companies, usually a one off programme instigated by the training department. Within a couple of weeks of returning to their workplace, the learners drift back into the way they always do it.

That’s the way we do things around here, is the response and this is an incredibly strong driving force to guide employees how to act.

Sometimes it’s called culture, the way we work; around here we do it like this. Ground rules come to mind and they’re never written down. There’s always the framed poster in reception which illustrates the way we work around here but that’s usually instigated by HR or the key leadership team who think if they create these rules, everyone will live up to them.

That’s nonsense, it’s these ground rules that people speak about that we adhere to.

Have you started with a new firm and kept quiet, aiming to pick up the vibes on how to handle yourself around there?

I’ve attended meetings before when I’ve known no one. I go into quiet mode to listen out for how I should act. Who’s the loudest, who’s the person everyone respects and lets them talk most, and so on.

These spoken ground rules make the culture of a company, not posters in reception.

It’s also uncanny how blindness sets in the higher you go in a company. Looking through rose tinted spectacles is a phrase often used. Those at the top of an organisation think their culture is sound and as you descend the levels of management, the reports on your culture become scarier. Once you hit the ground floor, that’s when the spoken ground rules are very clear. That’s the current culture.

Culture takes time to change. It’s said to come from the top, which is true. But for it to survive it must emanate from the ground floor.

Here’s how:

  1. Create your desired vision/mission/culture – get everyone involved.
  2. Discover the spoken ground rules that are in place. Do some kind of anonymous 360 degree survey, send people into the workforce to discover them.
  3. Teach everyone in your organisation what a “spoken ground rule” is. They’ll get it instantly and realise the effect it has.
  4. Next, ask the same people what “spoken ground rules” they would like.
  5. Finally, embed these into the organisation.

And only then can you think about training people on how to do good customer service.