Your team can't work through problems by denying that they exist. Mistakes happen, we're human. As coworkers, it's our responsibility to resolve issues with haste and maturity; even moreso if you're a team leader or manager.

That being said, it's not easy to admit that things aren't going well. Even harder is trying to discern what the root of the problem is, where you're likely to get it wrong more than you get it right. I find that talking with my peers and hearing what they believe our cultural problems are is a much smoother process. Whether that feedback happens anonymously - through a tool like - or via interpersonal conversation doesn't matter. The key is to listen to feedback, isolate the issues, and come up with a solution together.

Identify the problem

Figuring out that there is a problem can be tricky, especially if your team is used to everything being peachy. It can be a bit like the three body problem, where you're able to discern the presence of a third body in a planetary system just by observing the other two (simplification - I'm no physicist, my understanding is simple). In this case, the "bodies" that you need to keep track of are the attitudes of your peers.

To help keep this top of mind, I'll ask myself questions such as:

  • Are they cutting up less than they used to?
  • When is the last time I noticed them engaged in conversation?
  • Are they rushing out of meetings more than usual?

It can seem silly at times, but early detection of a cultural problem is important. Noticing subtle changes in a person's behavior can lead to solving the problem before it becomes an issue.

Accept reality

Cultural problems happen in every organization, that's life. Denying that your company might have an issue does nothing but feed it. Cultural problems are like a cancer in the body of your company; ignoring the problem only makes it worse. You have to accept that something has happened and do whatever you can to remediate it.

If that means admitting you were wrong it is your responsibility to do so.

Source a solution

Ask your team what they feel the solution may be. Invite them to help architect the solution to fix what they believe to be the root of the problem.

It's extremely easy to complain, almost like a reflex, but it's much harder to be part of the solution. I find it helpful to ask each member individually and then as a group. The true solution lies somewhere in between those exercises.

Final thoughts

I created because I've experienced multiple companies fall victim to the same cultural problems. Denial gets you nowhere but the bottom. Accepting that the problem exists and that you may not have all of the answers opens the door to the solution. In my experience, the best way to get started is by asking.

If this resonates with you, give a try.