3 Ways a Leader Can Undermine Cohesion at Work

When businesses are scaled up, fragmentation is a natural result. Organizations get divided into “pieces” as they get bigger – unless a leader drives something different by design.


To most business leaders, it remains important that people feel part of “something bigger.” But, with their actions, most people at the top do less for unity and ironically more for what Ron Carucci of Harvard Business Review terms the opposite of cohesion: “faux-hesion.”


Avoid these traps:

3 Ways a Leader Can Undermine Cohesion - AhaApps
  1. Declare a big target in lieu of an actual strategy. It’s amazing how few organizations have a thoughtful strategy, which could be the biggest unifying factor in an organization. Impostors for strategy are quotas, targets and mission statements. A majority of executives in a recent McKinsey study admitted they do not have a strategy. Stating that one wants to be “No. 1” or the “fastest-growing” company is putting forth a goal that is virtually unattainable for most everyone, actually undermining cohesion.
  2. Cover up negatives with fake “values.” Many companies concoct written values in response to something negative. Carucci uses the example of a company that publishes information about their “integrity” after a scandal. Leaders should avoid using “value” statements to fix something they perceive their employees as lacking – people will get the point, and it will not be motivating. True norms of a work culture will be obvious and displayed by the leader(s) and won’t have to be stated in a “faux-hesive” way. A recent study of 1,000 companies pointed up a strong relationship between financial success of a company and the percentage of workers who believe the stated values are real.
  3. Require too many unnecessary meetings and/or reports. Carucci notes that meetings and reports that are too frequent leaves employees feeling that “we have to do our ‘day jobs’ at night.” Piles of spreadsheets do not make any money. And while meetings can be a time of superficial unity – since you’re spending a lot of actual time together – they can result in “faux-hesion” if people resent spending too many non-productive hours in meetings. An informal poll at one large company showed their 400 highest-level leaders spent 57,000 hours a year in one meeting or another. That is 6.5 years. For real cohesion and performance, breaking up the responsibilities between said leaders would be more effective.


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Additional Resources & Further Reading: