How to Start Addressing Workplace Culture

Fresh off the celebration of my anniversary, I move into another month with a lot of personal significance because this year will mark our twin daughters turning 5 years old. They are my light in the world and a blessing in every sense of the word. They also are the reason I have grey hairs cropping up and the reason I’ve mastered the art of half-asleep-hallway-walking as I attempt to help nighttime potty train our girls. Between my wife, the kids, and the other friends and family in my circle, these months are a good reminder of how lucky I am to keep good people around me and in my life.

It’s with those positive feelings about the people around me which leads me to want to address the topic of culture. Specifically, do you have the right workplace culture to succeed professionally? I’m a huge believer the culture and environment you create and surround yourself within daily will dictate your outcomes in life. That’s not an earth-shattering assertion. Many would agree the environment of your upbringing (as example) will have long-term impacts on your socio-economic status, your views of the world, and even your sense of right and wrong. The same can be said for our workplace. Heck, we spend half of our awake hours at “work” (wherever that might be for you) so I think the argument holds the culture at your workplace will have huge impacts on the outcome you can expect.

Unfortunately, we are leaving the culture of these environments up to chance too often. We talk about culture in very loose terms and more solely focused in our personal lives. We don’t talk about culture at work nearly enough. We just say things like, “ I love the people I work with,” or “the office is a lot of fun” instead of intentionally keying in on the culture existent in those environments which is helping people to thrive where other work environments might be failing. We leave our work culture up to chance, every day.

Unless you work for an extremely progressive company, I’m willing to bet you were never trained on how to create a culture in your workplace. The truth is companies don’t train it because it’s hard. It’s not something you can easily grab and hold onto. It’s easier to metaphorically throw new leaders to the wolves and see what happens. After all, if the leader gets stuck, there are plenty of books on the topic they could research to turn things around. Everything will be fine!

So if we’re going to address culture more intentionally, the first step is to assess where you stand today. How’s your culture? Put in elementary terms – is it good or bad? And if you don’t know how to answer that question, then here’s a couple of suggestions of how to start:

Can you describe it? If asked to put the culture existent at your work/on your team, could you verbalize it to someone else? As mentioned previously, culture is sometimes hard to describe, but the good ones shine brightly. The good ones can easily be described with specific reasons why it’s a strong culture. “We’ve got a culture where everyone is valued for their opinion, people are respectfully challenged on their ideas, and everyone on the team feels included in major decisions.” That would be a good one! But what you’ll find out is the mediocre cultures (or worse) are harder and harder to describe. The specifics are lacking and they’ll sound more general. “I like it here. Everyone is nice.” If you’re getting something along those lines, it might be time to address the culture more seriously than it’s been addressed to this point.

Who owns it? I hope the obvious answer here is “everyone” owns it. The team owns it. All employees own the culture in your workplace. But you should be able to confidently answer who owns it because if you can’t, then you know where to start! I’ve always told new leaders they own the culture on their team. If it’s great and everyone loves coming to work every day, then they get to take credit for creating that type of environment. But if it’s the opposite and everyone dreads coming in on Monday, they also have to take ownership of those feelings as well. That’s on the leader to turn things around. And you can quickly assess where your culture stands by acknowledging if everyone is bought in to be an owner or whether or not you’ve got some bad eggs who don’t want the responsibility.

Those are a few ideas to get you started at assessing your team culture. Remember – don’t leave it up to chance! Take ownership and be intentional! Now if you’ll excuse me, I know who owns the culture in my house and apparently they are hungry, thirsty and tired all at the same time. I better go help! Until next time!

Whether it’s generational issues or leadership, Matt Havens will uncomplicate the complex and leave your audience laughing hysterically at how simple business solutions can be. His keynotes, “Stop Acting Your Age! An Entertaining Keynote to Help You Avoid Generational Warfare” and “You’re Not an Acronym – A Practical Approach To Leadership” have quickly become a must-have for any event where audiences want to learn something new while laughing at the same time. You’ll soon learn why one of Matt’s clients has called him “both the funniest and most informative speaker I have ever heard in my life.”

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