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Consider your Culture

150 150 Matthew Doig

Since I have been writing these articles, I have often mentioned the “Culture” word in connection with contemporary management issues. So much is determined by the culture of an organisation, and asking ourselves honest questions about our workplace culture is very important.

Broadly speaking Organisational Culture refers to the values, beliefs and principles shared by members of an organisation. Different industries display varying cultures which develop over time due to the nature of the work being carried out. You would, for example, expect a Timber Harvesting company to have a different culture to a Child Care Centre! In both cases however the unique culture will have a powerful impact on what it is like to work there and the way results are achieved.

The nature of the business you are involved in will attract certain sorts of people and dealing with the challenges and opportunities of the operational environment will be reflected in the culture that develops. As well as the operating environment of the business, its leadership is also a powerful indicator of the kind of culture it will display.  Recent allegations of bullying behaviour in some large companies appear to have taken place amidst a management mind set which if not openly encouraging this, at least condoned it via the attitude of some senior staff. Unfortunately, this attitude will permeate down into the rest of the organisation and become part of “the way things are done here”

Most staff would be quick to tell you about the kinds of things which result from a positive workplace culture. These can include:

  • A fun and interesting workplace where people look forward to coming to work and know that the company is keen to keep them engaged.
  • A result driven workplace which gives staff a clear and achievable direction
  • A workplace where staff care about each other and their concern is backed up by the attitude of management,
  • A sense of confidence that the personal growth of staff is important to the organisation.

Conversely, negative, or what some people call a toxic culture is characterized by things like:

  • Staff being afraid to speak up when they have concerns (even if they feel that something illegal is happening)
  • An obvious lack of trust both between staff members and management
  • Limited communication between work areas (what is often referred to as a “silo mentality”
  • A feeling amongst staff that their efforts will go unrecognized and rewarded.

This is obviously quite an extreme comparison and different workplaces may display some of these features and yet outwardly still appear to be functional and effective. The key question we need to ask ourselves is what sort of culture do we have and by extension, endorse. Corporate history is full of examples of new leadership tackling a toxic culture head on and driving positive change.  Take some time to consider this simple checklist and ask yourself how well your organisation:

  • Ensures staff feel involved and valued in what’s going on
  • Responds to the development needs of staff
  • Encourages feedback and enables staff to speak their mind
  • Creates a place that has a fun and inventive side to it.

Matthew Doig

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