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Tight Vs. Loose: The Choice of Company Culture

The workplace has undergone quite an evolution (with a few revolutionary leaps) over the centuries, adjusting to the historical, political and sociological circumstances. Over the last couple of decades, we have experienced a trend where the workplace has become more relaxed, in every sense of the word.

As opposed to the very strict and hierarchically inflexible companies of the majority of the 20th century, the 21st century has seen the introduction of the “startup” way of handling company culture. This has left company owners and managers with a conundrum about which kind of company culture would work best for them – tight or loose?

As it is often the case, there is no one correct answer to this question. Both tight and loose company culture have their good and their bad sides and it all comes down to individual cases.

Tight Vs. Loose: The Choice of Company Culture

 

Running a Tight Ship

There are definitely more than a few good sides to running a tight ship. For instance, in a company where everyone’s roles are clearly defined and where the hierarchy is very clearly established, there is very little waste. In other words, people know very well what they should be doing and who they are answering to.

In addition to this, running a tight organization leads to a very clean sense of accountability. In a company where people have a clearly defined place, it is never too difficult to find out who is responsible for a certain lapse. This makes people more diligent and it reduces the number of cases where mistakes happen simply because no one is in charge.

In an organization with a tight company culture, employee policies are also clearly defined and this does away with situations in which a company’s everyday functioning and growth are endangered by unclear rules and regulations.

Another great side to a tight company culture is that people know what they can expect and for many employees, this is something they see as a plus. They know that if they put in a certain amount of effort and achieve certain results, they will get rewarded.

On the other hand, a tight company culture has its downsides too. For example, when too much emphasis is put on doing things a certain way, it becomes quite hard to deal with problems that have never occurred before. Simply put, the employees are not equipped well enough to deal with the unforeseen because their training and experience do not make room for such situations.

In addition to this, a tightly run company is not exactly the perfect ground for innovation. People find it difficult to come up with new things when they are pummeled into doing the same old thing over and over again. Truly innovative people are more likely to leave such a company than to break through miles of red tape before their innovations are noticed.

A tightly run company can, almost paradoxically, become a less productive environment as employees learn the amount of work that will get them by. They will know what the minimum of effort and work done is and they will sometimes choose not to do an iota more than that. For a company, this can result in stagnancy and missed opportunities.

Finally, a tightly-run company is often seen as a less-than-spectacular workplace, especially if their every step is being hawkeyed and if they have to justify and explain every decision they make.

 

Keeping It Loose

The second way to go is to keep things loose and allow people to act like adults and meet their goals while not being micromanaged to oblivion.  

An organization that approaches things in a lax way is more likely to be a pleasant place to work. For instance, when you are not being hassled about every minute you are late or every day you decide to work from home, you are more likely to be relaxed and give your best. Adults are not schoolchildren and showing respect will result in reciprocal respect from employees.

Moreover, in such an organization, innovation is better cultivated as people are allowed to come up with their own solutions to problems as opposed to following a script. In such a company, moreover, middle management is encouraged to notice innovation and to acknowledge it. As a result of this, a loosely managed company will more commonly benefit from one of their employees coming up with novel and revolutionary way to handle a certain task or solve a certain problem.

In addition to this, loosely-managed companies will also have a better approach to unforeseen problems since they will be used to coming up with new solutions. They will not be completely stupefied with every single thing that deviates from the everyday way of running things.

Unfortunately, loosely-run companies also come with their own bag of problems. For example, in such companies, there is often a certain amount of waste when it comes to both resources and work hours. Since people do not have a clearly defined process in front of them, they can often get lost in non-essentials, ultimately resulting in less output than predicted.

Furthermore, in such companies, a certain lack of accountability can often be observed where both employees and managers try to avoid taking responsibility for problems that occur. This can make it difficult to reprimand and discipline employees who fail to accomplish their tasks.

There is also a problem of employee replacement in these loosely-run companies. Namely, when people do not have clearly-defined roles, their responsibilities tend to balloon. In such situations, losing an employee is not simply losing a person that handles a certain role.

Closing Word

Like in most cases, a certain balance is probably the best solution. Running a completely loose company where no structure is in place will more often turn out to be less than perfectly productive. On the other hand, making your employees feel like they are working in a 19th-century factory where their every move is scrutinized and jotted down is also not the greatest idea you can have.

Probably the best way to handle company culture is to draw a rough outline that will define certain essential practices within your company. Within this framework, you will want to encourage a more loose approach to work that helps cultivate innovation and a pleasant work environment.

Image: Company Culture written on wooden table with clock, dice, calculator pen and compass


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Nate M. Vickery is a business and marketing consultant from Sydney, Australia. In his spare time he enjoys sharing some of his insights and experience by blogging.

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