Organizational culture breeds certain positive or negative behaviors that contribute to either happiness or satisfaction, or to misery and prolonged stress, leading to a decline in organizational health.
Who defines the culture?
Supposedly, the leaders.
Who is invited to operate in this defined culture?
Both leaders and employees.
I have worked in the organizations with cultures that cultivated job satisfaction and innovation. The leaders, colleagues, and environment equally contributed to the positive experience, therefore, even with the surrounding pressures and stress, I loved waking up every morning to contribute every day.
Common behaviors in these great organizations
Everyone, from a CEO to an entry level employee, was clear on their responsibilities and accountability. Everyone was held to the highest standards.
Underperformers were dealt with and leaders had tools and skills for effective execution.
These organizations invested in the leadership and employee development.
Systems and processes supported progressive thinking and rewarded employees for the efforts and contributions.
They were honest and transparent in the way they ran business and communicated any progress or changes to the employees. They weren't afraid to tell the “bad news”, but did it with poise and expediency.
Employees were empowered to make improvements, share ideas, and were given timely and meaningful feedback. (I am not referring to just annual assessments, but “on the spot” feedback. If someone was caught doing a great job, then recognition was given right then and there.)
There was a spirit of camaraderie, sense of purpose, and a feeling of respect on all levels.
Leaders were great coaches. They took time to get to know the employees.
People who worked for the organizations with the culture of genuine care, picked up on the energy of support and trust, and were eagerly willing to contribute at the highest levels of performance.
Rick Wartzman, executive director of the Drucker Institute, wrote a great article in Forbes, which introduced me to Professor Paul Zak. Zak found that workers perform best when they’re in a “high-trust environment.” By looking at some 5,000 employees at about 50 companies, Zak and his team at the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies have found that those in high-trust situations are 19% more productive than those in low-trust workplaces.
Amy Arnsten, a professor of neurobiology and psychology at Yale, has pointed out that when people’s autonomy in the workplace is sharply curtailed, they feel as if they’ve lost control—and, in turn, their brains react as if they’re being threatened. That raises their level of stress, which often causes them to perform poorly.
A leader creates organizational culture, but often forgets that he or she doesn’t live in it alone. If employees are continuously stressed, they make a choice to leave or, worse yet, stay and negatively impact their own lives and organizational health.
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