Positive corporate culture starts with leadership.

How would you describe your organization’s culture? Is it energetic? Competitive? Supportive? Aloof? If you’re not sure, take a moment to consider things like the company mission and vision, how your colleagues interact with each other, the circumstances under which employees are praised and disciplined, and the physical work environment around you. All of these factors contribute to corporate culture.

When aligned to positive objectives, these factors can foster a healthy and pleasant workplace. Conversely, toxic goals and values can very easily corrupt organizational culture. If you’ve been watching the news, you’re well aware of how certain companies have become infamous for allowing ugly cultures to metastasize. Employees are speaking out about feeling alienated and even threatened by their coworkers, and although these stories may seem extreme, they serve as powerful warnings of how horribly things can go wrong when leadership doesn’t set a good example.

Why it’s leadership’s responsibility

A lot of finger-pointing happens in situations like those, but true accountability lies with leadership. Whether they realize it or not, managers set the tone for their employees to follow by being examples of expected behavior. A manager who tolerates rudeness or apathy perpetuates negativity either by exhibiting the behaviors themselves, or by doing nothing to stop it.

Leadership must also effectively communicate organization rules to employees on an ongoing basis. It’s not enough to give new hires a handbook and expect them to act accordingly; they need to be provided with constant, tangible reminders of what is accepted in the culture and what isn’t. Otherwise, things can — and do — devolve very quickly.

Shining examples of healthy workplace culture

Despite all the horror stories hitting the news, there are many more companies that have developed thriving, positive cultures. Regardless of company size, industry, or location they all have one thing in common: solid leadership. Think about some of the most beloved brands, from Pixar and Virgin Group to Patagonia and Zappos. Each of these organizations is led by individuals who consistently uphold positive values like stewardship, transparency, and compassion. As a result, not only do they produce exceptional products and services, but their employees are genuinely glad to work for them. Studies have proven that people who feel fulfilled and appreciated at work tend to be healthier and happier overall. They’re also more productive and creative at work, which boosts the company bottom line.

How you can improve your organization’s culture

While culture certainly can’t be forced, there are ways you can steer it in the right direction:

  • Allow employees to participate in shaping the culture.
  • Embrace ideas that make working for your company more enjoyable.
  • Hire people who appreciate similar, wholesome values.
  • Show zero tolerance for destructive behavior that undermines the culture.
  • Reward employees for demonstrating a commitment to the organization mission and vision.
  • Have regular discussions with employees at all levels to see how they define the culture, and what they think of it.
  • Personally model the attitudes and behavior you wish to see in your staff.

It’s important to note that employees are far more likely to participate in the culture if they aren’t distracted by personal or professional problems. Health issues, relationship troubles, financial stressors, and so forth can impede an employee’s’ ability to thrive at work. Fortunately, our online library of resources contains tools your employees can use to address these life issues. Book a free demo today to learn more.


Also published on Medium.