This workplace can’t be saved—or can it?

3 things you can do to improve culture at your workplace

I’ve worked in an organization with a fantastic culture. It was an energizing place to be. I felt like everyone wanted to make things happen and backed each other up. People trusted each-other. Formal leaders were present, literally and figuratively, when needed. Informal leaders put their weight behind the managers and helped propel us forward. Teammates worked through many issues in a forthright manner and moved on without grudges. Goals were clear and milestones monitored pretty consistently. Leaders believed in people and lifted them up. When a process created obstacles, we worked to try to fix it together.

I’ve also worked in an organization with a culture that just didn’t work for me and drained me every day.

There was constant backstabbing amongst teammates; which was more than disruptive–it literally hurt my heart and made me afraid to talk to anyone lest I be seen as someone on “their” side. Formal leaders were noticeably absent and disengaged. Worse, when they were present they jumped in and tried to micromanage details on projects that were deep into the analysis or even implementation phase. Informal leaders worked against what were supposed to be common goals. Oftentimes, goals shifted frequently without any explanation. If a process was broken, good luck finding anyone with an interest in fixing it. More fun to whine and complain, I guess.

A changing culture doesn’t happen overnight. It happens overtime and sometimes you don’t notice until it’s too late. You may see things like: people not wanting to bring up issues directly to each other. Too many times missed goals devolved into complaints of understaffing; or the manager losing his patience with staff and at times was just unavailable to work through obstacles.

All that strife, can make you feel a helpless. I tried some things with minimal success, but eventually jumped ship. It’s not the same place it once was. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Watch this video from Strategy+Business about the concept of culture.

In my experience and research, here are three things you can do as a leader (at any level and with any title) to improve your company’s culture…

  1. Encourage productive conflict: When you’re approached by staff members about a conflict with a coworker, redirect them to take on the issue directly instead of coming to you or triangulating with other staff members. Make the time to coach them on how to have those challenging conversations.
  2. Stay focused on the organization goals: Keep the goals of the whole organization front and center. Avoid splintering along department lines and do not ever, ever share your disagreements with your peer leaders with your staff. They will become debilitated trying to guess who is safe to talk to.
  3. Enable your people to do their best: Encouraging your staff is great, but it takes more than that to make a great workplace. Giving people stretch assignments and supporting their experimentation with new ideas–with reasonable risk–does wonders to creating a workplace that is innovative and has employees excited to come to work.

What part will you play in improving or maintaining your company’s culture?

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Team dynamics are an important predictor of organizational health and culture. Teams that work well together, perform better. To learn how your teams can get to the next level, download the Blueprint for Team Cohesion.

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Samantha Kerrigan

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