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Are You Working in a Paternalistic Workplace?

workplace culture Mar 22, 2021

In the first article of this six-part series we introduced the four workplace cultures: Defensive, Paternalistic, Open, and Collaborative. In Part 2, we revealed the Defensive workplace culture. In this third installment, we set the stage for the Paternalistic workplace. Does this sound familiar to you?

  • Communication is top down. Your company mantra appears to be, “We only talk about the good things” – resulting in rampant rumors moving through the organization like a game of telephone.
  • The communication pipeline is clogged with propaganda, rather than purpose or progress.
  • Employees are treated like children; leadership makes decisions for them, and protects them from negative news.
  • The organization is firmly hierarchical.
  • People have a lot of responsibility but no decision-making authority.
  • Because employees have no authority, they take no accountability.
  • Healthy conflict is discouraged, with a focus on making everyone comfortable and happy through cosmetic displays.
  • Conversations are safe and superficial; the tough issues are swept under the rug.
  • Turn-over is heavy at the top levels of the organization.

Does this work environment sound familiar? Most people have worked in a Paternalistic enviroment, as it’s one of the most prevalent cultures. If you’re working in this environment, there are things YOU can do as an individual, or as a business leader, to transform it into a place where you can achieve your goals and enjoy going to work each day.

Here’s one simple Agreement-Building tool you can use, starting today, to create accountability and alignment. Ask the following questions at the end of meetings:

  1. What did we decide today?
  2. Who is going to do what? By when?
  3. Who needs to know about this?
  4. What is the message and the tone of that message?


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