Think about the best job you have ever had. As you think about it, what comes to mind? What about it made it the best?
Was it the people or your team?
Was it that you felt heard, that your voice mattered, and it was respected and appreciated?
Was it the growth you attained from the job, and the way the organization invested in you and helped you develop?
Was it the work itself, which was interesting and challenging?
Or, were there other factors that made it come to mind as the best job you ever had?
The chances are good that what made it the best job for you was related to the workplace culture, more so than the content of the work.
Business consultant, Peter Drucker, is often cited for his succinct statement on workplace culture: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." I interpret this to mean that our best ideas and plans cannot be effective without a healthy workplace culture, and poor culture thwarts strategy and operational success. Research shows that people leave jobs for reasons related to culture far more than due to the work itself. Likewise, what many people find affirming and sustainable about their work is because of the culture.
What do I mean by workplace culture? It seems so obvious, but I often find it to be a term thrown around without any specifics. I think of workplace culture as the sum total of what each person says and does each day in the workplace (in-person or virtually). It is not only the mission, values and goals of an organization but also how they are actually lived in our work world each day. This means that we all contribute to our workplace culture in many ways each working day, by making the environment more trusting, safe, and effective, or conversely, by weakening or even polluting it each day. During each encounter with colleagues (or patients, for those in healthcare), or during each meeting, or when answering questions or concerns of others, we can build trust and appreciation for each other, or we can make others feel there is a price to pay when they speak up. All of these interactions collectively create the workplace culture.
The definition of workplace culture I like is: The shared values and beliefs of an organization that are manifested through the communication, behaviors and actions of leaders and all employees (or the sum total of what each person says and does each day in the workplace).
What are components that make up workplace culture?
collegiality, community, peer support
trust and psychological safety with respect for voice
learning-focused and adaptive environment; investment in development of individuals and teams
fairness and equity
values alignment and meaning
Every component of workplace culture matters, and there are tangible steps individuals and organizations can take to enhance each.
What component(s) are most important to you?
What do you think your organization does well to nurture its culture?
Which of these would you like to learn more about?
When I dissect the parts, two of them stand out to me as directly connected to all the other parts: communication and leadership. How an organization communicates with its employees, teams, and patients or clients, and how they in turn communicate with each other, is foundational and contributes to how we experience them. Additionally, while culture is not the sole responsibility of leadership, leaders have an out-sized impact on culture, with tremendous opportunities to grow, support, and nourish it, and equal opportunities to weaken or underinvest in it, whether consciously or not. The articles below from researchers at the Mayo Clinic highlight how impactful leaders and leadership skills are to satisfaction and burnout:
Recognizing the essential factors of workplace culture and committing to understanding them, and making sustainable changes to nurture and enhance them, are vital to changing the reality of the environment, especially now, as we live with the impacts of the pandemic, with new and amplified challenges for employees and leaders and dramatic turnover in the work force. My work is now focused on supporting teams and individuals, especially individual leaders, to grow their skills and impact real change. I invite you to share your thoughts on workplace culture with me. I plan to write more about the component parts of culture and would like to tailor my writing to what interests you most. Please hit "reply" and tell me what you'd like to learn more about in relation to workplace culture and leadership. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and ideas, and I welcome your suggestions for future newsletters.
Sending my best,