Heading to work in the morning can often feel like a Herculean task. Today, especially being a Monday was no exception. I needed to stop by the gas station to fill up my tank, as it was running on empty. However, the road to the gas station was blocked, and the traffic light stubbornly stayed on red. All I needed was for the person whose care was stationed in front of the gas station entrance to let me in, but she adamantly refused. It was clear she was running late for work, but with the traffic at a standstill, allowing me to slip into the gas station wouldn’t have cost her much. Nonetheless, she refused and effectively barricaded the way.
To cut a long story short, I eventually made it into the gas station. But upon leaving, I found myself in the same predicament. I practically begged another driver to let me through the intersection since there was no way for him to proceed. Instead of understanding, he responded with curses and anger, proceeding to block the road. What struck me was that these individuals were all on their way to work, perhaps even holding positions of leadership and responsibility within their organizations.
How can we hope to establish the perfect workplace culture when our day begins with such intense emotions? How can we hold a Monday culture reinforcement meeting when we’ve already experienced frustration before even setting foot in the office? Is the solution to leave the frustration and traffic-related stress at the organization’s gate and switch to our workplace persona for the rest of the day? How long can this façade be maintained before it inevitably crumbles into eruption?
It has become evident that discussions about workplace culture goes beyond catchy acronyms and lyrical-sounding phrases like one consulting company tried to sell to us at our company’s retreat ( we spent like 3 hours trying to find the best acronym, needless to say the phrase didn’t go past the retreat grounds). Now whilst that approach may not be wrong in the long run, creating a robust organizational culture that will stick and become a way of life is a scientific and methodical process that requires intentionality and systemic thinking.
So, the question arises: How can organizations insulate their employees in a way that allows them to maintain and consciously live out the workplace culture, even amidst the chaos of the outside world?
Our country is a peculiar one when it comes to implementing workplace culture because our personal biases and nuances tend to show up. People tend to solve problems based on their moods and what they know, not based on what’s best for the organization. So its important that we pay attention to how we see and define culture. At SiSa, the culture transformation practice I run, we define culture as “the behavior that brings the vision to life, the behavior that breathes life into your vision. We do not have the space and time to discuss this in-depth, so stay tuned for our next write-up. But this definition helps reduce the influence of personal biases and hones in on the needs of the organization itself.
So back to our initial question; what can we do to insulate our teams and employees from the chaos rage and frustration that plagues them in a way that consciously lives out the workplace culture? First BE HUMAN….it almost feels like we lack the capacity to care deeply for one another, how do we then expect people to care for the treasure of the business…anyway, let’s get back to the crux of the matter before we digress: To insulate your team, begin with the following:
- Clear Communication of Values: Obvious as this may sound, clearly communicating the core of the organization, the vision, and the mission and ensuring that your people CLEARLY understand it is the sure foundation required for the desired culture.
- Strong Leadership and Role Modeling: Leadership should embody the desired culture in their actions and decisions Your leadership style and the ability to embody the desired behavior sets the tone for the entire organization.
- Employee Engagement: Please let’s desist from making decisions concerning employees without the employees in question. Actively engaging employees in discussions about the culture and involving them in decision-making processes makes employees feel the burden of ownership, they are more likely to uphold the culture.
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs): Whilst at it, offer EAPs that reflect and at least solve the needs you have identified from your people. Provide resources to help your employees deal effectively with personal or external challenges e.g counseling services, financial planning, and wellness support.
- Cultural Consistency: Your culture must be consistent across the board, you can’t be seen to be speaking from two sides of your mouth. Ensure that the workplace culture is consistent across all levels and departments, if you have to solve problems solve by leveraging the lens of your values and culture, if you need to correct serve or deal with, don’t do it outside the lens of your values and the core of your culture. Inconsistencies can weaken your culture or cause confusion.
- Open Channels of Communication:Maintain open channels of communication so that employees can voice their concerns, seek support, and provide feedback about the culture and their working conditions.
“I’d love to hear from you. If you’re an employee and you have concerns about inconsistencies in your workplace culture or feel that HR isn’t providing enough support, please send us a DM or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m eager to launch a sensitization and educational initiative about HR practices and workplace culture, and your insights might be featured here. If you’re an employer and you are uncertain about how to establish your culture or perhaps you haven’t prioritized it, please feel free to reach out via email as well.”