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Fresh looking people. Isn’t it the norm to see beautiful people loving their lives in the website shots of most companies?  As I have been helping with a not-for-profit website, I have gotten to look at a bunch of stock pictures.  They’re all so pretty.

Is it pretty at work?  I mean, I appreciate a good-looking crowd, but I don’t think that’s how it is at most places.  I think that there are some ugly things that go on and the crowd that we have at work might be taking on the strains.  The stress of a manager that has gone unchecked for years because he/she brings in lots of sales or has strong relationships in the industry despite being toxic to the subordinate staff leaves a mark, or a bruise, or permanent damage.  Or the executive that thinks he/she has a collaborative culture but that really means that everyone has to agree with the lousy ideas he/she brings up.

There is a conversation happening amongst the team at work.  They, too, look at the website and think, “Who are these people?”  They want to know how to make sense of those people in light of the truth they experience.  It’s incongruous.

Is the answer to have no stock photos on the site?  Or to only use photographs of the unhappy people working at the organization?  Of course not.  But rather, the answer should be to address the disconnect between the site and the reality.

First off, it’s not that the website is the be-all and end-all.  It’s representative of a potential problem.  Of course, there is a marketing purpose to the site.  It has to look attractive.  It is meant to appeal to an audience who will buy the product or service.  Got it.  The site, however, projects what a company either thinks it is or wants to be.  Employees, as well, will see those nuanced messages.  They will decide on the validity of it all.  And while some may not care about the website, the inconsistencies in messaging will be lunchroom fodder.

And then think about the intra-office orientation.  You know, the one where the seasoned staff given the skinny on how things really are at the company to those newbies with high ideals and excitement about where they’ve come to work.  And in about two weeks, those newbies have started to matriculate to the poor attitude and true company culture of those more-tenured staff.

Then pepper in the HR team who seem to live in a bubble of happy team-building and silly programs about fish, and there you have the makings of a disjointed culture.  Executives are fed a line from the senior management about the latest surveys and engagement results while the staff are laughing at our lack of connection to reality.  We need to wake up.

This isn’t negative.  On the contrary, it’s very positive.  We can have fluid, realistic impact on our teams.  It takes a commitment to communication and change.  Easy, right?  It’s not, but it is one where our time should be spent.  We need to be relevant to the business and we need to align idealism to reality.  If our company is not like the stock photos on the site, then address it.  Don’t hide.  It’s okay to have a dialogue about marketing while talking about culture.  Fix culture.  Ask staff what’s really going on.  And then do something about it.

Pretty people aren’t the problem.  Inconsistencies and disjointed culture are.  Executives, leadership, managers…whoever they are, have them start these conversations.  And have them often.

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