When An Agency Employee Doesn’t Embrace Your Culture

(This is part 2 of Ed Burgoyne’s post Do Your Values Inform Your Agency Culture?)

When you are busy and stressed, I know it requires an extra effort to be in the moment and focus on being the leader the organization needs, and the leader you would like to be. This is why it helps to build out a system to support your intended culture.


Values are at the core of building an effective culture. Values are what your organization considers most important. Earlier, I mentioned how easy it is to spot the cultural cues in an organization. If you step back and just watch the way people work, their behaviors — how they run a meeting, how they collaborate (or don’t) — you can start to get an idea of how they make decisions.

Values drive decision making and how people behave. Think about a time in your organization when your team was working well, where everyone pulled together and had fun (yes, fun) doing it? What were the reasons why? How was the team aligned with each other? What behaviors did they exhibit?

Your Agency Culture And When An Employee Doesn’t Embrace It

Teams and values

Different teams can often display different sets of values.

While there may be one culture that is sought after in an agency, individual teams in the same organization can display different sets of values, creating organizational subcultures.

Teams depend more on human dynamics, not predefined structures.

A healthy project culture or efficient working climate is when everyone on the team embodies a similar set of beliefs and principals. You may have noticed this in your own organization. You have a standard of process, but wildly different teams.

Set common expectations for how people are going to work together, and understand that when you develop new teams it takes a while for people to gain trust. To be a real “team” and not just a bunch of people working in a group, a team must exhibit a minimum set of behaviors, such as co-operation, information sharing and team work, which is built on a foundation of shared vision, values and positive relationship qualities.

There is an element of bonding within a team, both on a rational dimension and an emotional plane. If the team isn’t functioning properly, it can be directly related back to a mismatched set of values between team members.


Rituals are ways organizations can build understanding of organizational values through real experiences. Agencies are known for having parties, and doing some whacky things that can be pretty memorable. There is one creative agency known for when a person was permanently leaving the agency, they would gather at the door, and they would say goodbyes, and everyone in the agency would start clapping as they left. It could be pretty emotional for people, but it was ritual based on a value the agency had.

Rituals don’t have to cost a lot of money or time. They can be almost anything that creates a shared experience that supports one of the organizations core values. These shared experiences, in organizations are a lot more effective than any mission statement written and framed on the wall.

Tribal storytelling

I was very fortunate early in my career to work for George Lois. Certainly, George could be very controversial at times. However, he was also one of the best storytellers I ever met in my life.

When George was telling a story, a random group would often gather, enraptured and to this day, I remember every story he told. They defined George’s view of the world. You understood where he was coming from, his values and the message he was trying to get across. It was consistent. Both internally and externally everyone knew what they would expect from George’s agency.

In creative land, we are natural storytellers. Storytelling is how we can share positive stories of our core values in action. We do it for our clients, we can do internally. We also know that the more a story is shared, the deeper the understanding about what you are about becomes.

Storytelling can also go the other way — we all know how fast rumors can spread. A negative story can kill motivation and build internal politics lightning fast. So we have to be very mindful to make sure we head off bad gossip.

Your Agency Culture And When An Employee Doesn’t Embrace It

Alignment – create a culture not a cult

Cultural mismatches happen — in agency leadership and in our best hires. Too many times, our stated culture does not reflect reality. Not every individual in the organization is going to embody every organizational value.

However, nothing kills an organization’s culture more than having someone in the agency that works opposite to your core values. You cannot build a consistent set of core values in an organization if you are tolerating behavior that is not in alignment.

I’m not saying everyone has to drink the Kool-Aid. You need diversity in thinking in your agency. As a leader it is very important to be consistent. If someone isn’t right, or being an asshole, they should be gone. No ifs, ands or buts. Core values should exist for the lifetime of your organization, guiding you through every decision and helping your organization grow.

About the Author

Ed Burgoyne runs Makr, an organizational development and operations consultancy that specializes in creative organizations, agencies and internal brands.

To read more articles like this one, visit www.adsubculture.com

Looking to realign your creative organization and improve your agency’s operations? Contact Ed today, ed@makrconsulting.com to learn more on how he can help you and your organization.

Ed Burgoyne

Ed Burgoyne

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at lee@rswus.com. What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.