When it comes to workplace culture, one would assume it consists of “how things are done” in a particular workplace. But this is quite a broad description, and it really only scratches the surface. Workplace culture can also fall under the definition of the office layout. It can also include how people behave, style of dress, the language and the interpersonal styles of staff. Here, we outline how to understand, contribute and invest in workplace culture, as well as how to prioritise high values.
Understanding your Colleague’s Belief System
We have already learned how to create a culture of workplace learning. Observable aspects of culture can be influenced by people’s values and beliefs about why and how things are done. This can include the assumptions that drive their choices about what they think and do. In successful workplaces, we can discuss worker’s values and beliefs openly, in a safe and comfortable environment. This enables colleagues to better understand why they behave the way they do. This can provide a foundation for individuals to make adjustments to their approach, for the benefit of an improved workplace.
It is important to understand that not everyone is of the same opinion and belief system as each other. To work in a safe and harmonious workplace, these beliefs must be respected or at least, mutually agree to disagree.
Aligning and Prioritising High Values
In an ideal workplace, the values of the organisation align with each and every worker in the business. Sometimes however, this isn’t always the case. Adjustments to management responsibilities, and team dynamics at the most senior level, are important when respectful interaction prevails.
Values are important because they guide our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. If you continuously compromise your values in your decision-making, the detriments to your own morale are undeniable. Recognising, understanding, and staying loyal to your values is therefore one of the most important efforts any human being can take. It is equally as important when it comes to the workplace.
Adapting to Cultural Changes
Ultimately culture comes from within people. Mandating behavioral change without understanding the underlying values, beliefs and assumptions which influence workplace culture is a high-risk approach to cultural change because at best the effect is usually short-lived. In order to effect sustainable change, leaders and managers need to seek an understanding of the factors which influence the shared values, beliefs and assumptions which develop over time in workplaces.
The influencing factors include:
- management and leadership styles
- organisation structure
- control systems
- communication processes
- ‘organisational folklore’ (the stories which develop in workplaces and often take on ‘a life of their own’)
Whilst the introduction of a new policy or a workshop on correct behaviors might seem an attractive expedient approach to managing change, however, ‘surface’ approaches are not enough. They should be accompanied by in-depth exploration of what lies ‘beneath the surface’. Organisational sustainability depends on it.
In order to understand workplace culture and prioritise high values, there are certain aspects which we need to look at and consider carefully. These include:
- individual Behaviour
- team dynamics
- your relationship with team members
- interactions between your team and other teams/departments
- your team’s performance track record
- people’s approach to conflict resolution
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