The subject of workplace culture gets a lot of attention these days. Its importance in the life of a business has seemed to increase in the wake of the Great Resignation and the culture-related reasons why millions of people have left their jobs.
Adding fuel to the fire are some misconceptions companies have about workplace culture that are harming their employees’ experience, said Jennifer T. Long,, a Certified Master Coach and ForbesBooks author of “Own Up!: How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama.”
“For starters, many companies have the mistaken belief that a good culture just happens, and that having a mission statement and set of core values will set the culture in motion,” Long said. “But that belief is how toxic cultures grow.
“A strong, unified and productive work culture takes time and buy-in from every level of the organization. It requires attention as a high priority every day because it sets the tone of the company – how individuals consistently behave, interact and work – and ultimately that culture is how the outside world views them. A great culture shines brightly and is reflected in interactions with customers.”
Long says these are some of the common misconceptions companies and their leaders have about their work culture:
• Culture happens outside of ourselves. In other words, Long said, some company leaders think culture is something a company “is in,” rather than “who we are.” She calls organizational culture “a soup of human nature — behaviors, beliefs, rituals, communication, values, geography and structure, just to name a few. All of these things will flavor the soup.
“However, the base of this soup is very much about who runs the place. Not just leaders at the top, but managers in the middle who are powerful stewards of your culture. Every day, in meetings and conversations, these leaders have the great responsibility to be good examples and teach others what a positive culture is.”
A culture founded on fear produces quick results. Long says most employees don’t respond well to fear imposed by their leaders to achieve results. Yet fear-based cultures are common, she said.
“Fear destroys confidence and takes a toll on mental health,” she said. “That kind of culture is filled with anxiety. Mistakes are punished and employees are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation or losing one’s job. This environment prevents the company from leaping forward because too many employees walk on eggshells and are less likely to take risks or think outside the box.”
• Culture is mainly about fun. A good culture is built on a foundation of core values, but too often, Long said, company leaders think their culture is strong because they provide discounted gym memberships, free food and happy hours.
“Those perks are nice, but a healthy work culture focuses on creating a sense of belonging, teamwork, empowering employees and listening to them when they speak up about concerns,” Long said.
• It’s a waste of time to celebrate employees. Many people who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation. But employers often shy away from celebrating employee wins because they feel it’s useless, Long said. But doing so, she adds, encourages them to keep producing great work.
“The simple act of showing appreciation to your workers goes a long way toward building a great culture and a highly-successful company,” Long said. “Employees respond to positive reinforcement. It’s been shown time and again: companies that recognize their employees experience increased productivity, less employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction.”
“Creating an excellent work culture takes a lot of work,” Long said. “Just look at how many people left their jobs in the past couple of years, and now a lot of companies and their leaders should realize how much work they still have to do in this critical area.”
About Jennifer T. Long
Jennifer T. Long (www.jennifertlong.com) is a Certified Master Coach and the ForbesBooks author of “Own Up!: How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama.” Also a Master Trainer, Long is the CEO of Management Possible, a leadership development company providing coaching for leaders and managers across various disciplines. She hosts the Organizational Transformation Kung Fu podcast with Sandi Verrecchia at www.otkungfu.com. Along with her nearly four decades working with leaders, Long spent 10 years as a theater director, an experience that helped inform her methodology – elevating the idea that conversation and relationships are the prime movers of impact and culture.