“To make customers happy, we have to make sure our employees are happy first.”
– Zappos President/CEO Tony Hsieh
Studies have shown that when employees feel positive about their work environment and culture, they not only have a better attitude about their organization, but they actually work harder, faster and more efficiently.
For example, I got my first real job when I turned 15 (back in the prehistoric time), at a local family restaurant as a kitchen worker. There were three primary bosses back then, and depending on which one was managing the restaurant, the entire culture and feel of the place was radically different.
Boss A was demanding, disrespectful and seemed to enjoy barking orders. Boss B was complacent, nonthreatening and just stood there while others worked. Boss C was friendly, positive and asked for your feedback. The point of this is that we all enjoyed and even looked forward to working when Boss C was in charge, but if it was Boss A or Boss B, you knew it was going to be a long shift.
In doing my research, I ran across an article about a company that is continually spotlighted for their A+ organizational culture, Zappos. Here are Zappos’ ten core values regarding culture:
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and a little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationships with communication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble
What my early experience working at the restaurant taught me was that if I was ever in a managerial/leadership role, I wanted to make sure people not only enjoyed their company environment, but they also worked hard and contributed to the overall success. I also learned how important it is that bosses take time to relate to their staff, have open communication with them, and give them permission to have some fun along the way.
Think of yourself. How do you respond to someone who is a workplace bully or only approaches you when there is something negative to say versus someone who values your opinion and offers encouragement? While most of us have a strong work ethic, it’s a fact that companies retain quality employees longer, improve overall effectiveness, and increase their profits when the organizational culture is a positive one.
So, what are some action items you can begin right away to improve your company culture? Here are some suggestions. For additional ideas, feel free to check out the Suggested Resources section below.
- Show respect. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO, a mid-level manager or on the lowest rung of the organizational ladder. Showing respect consistently and regardless of position can turn into a two-way street of mutual respect very quickly and goes a long way in shortening the gaps between or within teams.
- Encourage feedback, then do something with it. It’s critical to solicit suggestions from staff, but it’s just as important to make sure you really listen to them and if it makes sense to enact procedural changes based on that feedback. Then, by all means, go ahead and implement them. This way, employees begin to realize that when you ask for their opinion, you really mean it and people start to become empowered and invested in the company.
- Give credit and acknowledgment. If there is a situation where an employee comes up with an idea that benefits the team, thank them and ensure that others know where it originated. Private and public acknowledgment is critical to people feeling valued and appreciated. This can also be done on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.
- Have fun. It’s okay to let loose once in awhile and show your employees you can be goofy and joke around (when appropriate). Try not to take things too personally. This helps humanize you and can make people feel more emotionally safe around you.
- Don’t be a bully. Keep in mind the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Extreme moodiness, defensiveness and anger management issues need to be kept in check. If you need to vent, do so outside of work in a private setting. If you’re going through some tough times and it’s negatively affecting how you act and behave at work, another option is to speak to a counselor or coach.
One of the services we offer through Empathia is called Culture1st. Since we are dedicated to improving workplace culture, we understand it can dramatically impact individual behaviors that in turn shape organizational success. This benefit assesses aspects of a company culture along seven primary dimensions, identifies targeted areas for culture-enhancing initiatives, delivers outreach-based services, and measures the impact of these efforts. If you’re interested in learning more, please go here.
What are your thoughts? Do you have other suggestions or personal stories? Please feel free to ask questions or share your experiences below.
- 9 Ideas to Improve Your Company Culture
- How to Change Your Company Culture: 12 High-Impact Ideas
- Measure and Mold: Creating a Workplace Culture that Promotes Organizational Success
- The Weight of the Elephant in the Room: Measuring Workplace Culture
Jeremy joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 2007 as Manager, Client Care Services, then became an Account Manager/Sales Consultant in 2012. He is also a certified wellness and tobacco cessation coach. Jeremy has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Prior to joining Empathia, he spent 14 years in the EAP industry in a variety of roles with another behavioral healthcare organization. Jeremy enjoys reading, photography, music, and spending time with his wife and daughters.