What Exactly is Workplace Culture? The Unspoken Rules.

‘Workplace Culture’ or ‘Organisational Culture,’ is an allusive term. Namely because it signifies an invisible element within your organisation. Unlike physical or measurable systems, the culture of an organisation represents a multitude of behaviours, ideas, feelings and beliefs. These elements are harder to monitor/measure than physical elements. Which is why it is hard to see if your workplace culture is working as it should.  

faces on yellow balls

A good workplace culture is the impression of everything ‘fitting into place’. Or when everything and everyone feels like they belong. You can’t place your finger on it. But it ‘just feels right’. 

In interviews, the employer will often decide whether or not a potential employee will be a good ‘cultural fit’ within the group based on a multitude of factors. 

Why a ‘cultural fit’ is problematic

Describing the workplace culture is rarely done. Often the ethos and “bubbly and upbeat atmosphere” will be mentioned in its place. The reason for this is that when an interviewer is establishing whether or not a possible candidate would fit in, they are actually looking for someone who will reflect the current workplace. 

‘Not least because we are known and familiar to ourselves...
They feel familiar too, and safe. And those feelings of familiarity and
security make us like ourselves more because we aren’t anxious.
We belong.’ (Margaret Heffernan)

This is very much an unspoken practice. But whether we like it or not it is a prominent part of the interview process.

The problem with this is that we can often reject difference because we are too comfortable in our own little cloud. More often than not, this selection process is done instinctively rather than purposefully. As Heffernan realised upon hiring a fresh new team. She had ‘hoped to hire people who would challenge [her] and each other, and who would invest the entire project with intellectual richness and vigour. [She, however,] selected liberal-arts graduates who were all female, spoke several languages and had birthdays within the same week in June. In other words, they were all like [her]’

Twins in pink and blue

While these unspoken rules may be viewed as discriminatory, not only does the working environment shape a person, but the person equally shapes the working environment. Once hired, that individual will have a direct impact on those they work with. The company has to take this into consideration. Hiring someone with similarities, over the unknown, will always feel like the safer option.

What are the elements that will affect your workplace culture?

When we think of the word culture, we often associate it with race and/or religion. Of course, if you are from China you are going to bring a completely different set of knowledge/customs to the workplace, compared to a Scotsman. But employee race has very little to do with workplace culture as a whole.

multicultural toys

With every person comes their core beliefs, life experiences and their culture. Not to mention;

– The way they dress

– Sexual orientation

– The music they listen to

– The art they like

– The politics they support

– Attitudes

– How they act and interact with others

– What their personality is like

– Their mannerisms

– Values

– Habits, and so on

Everything that has gone into making a person the person they are will impact on those around them. It is the combination of all these varying factors that will, consequently, impact your staff/ colleagues working relationships. As well as their working process, level of enjoyment, productivity, and morale.

Happy girl with tattoos

Moulding a Culture

Not only can employees affect others around them, but those in higher management have a crucial role in influencing the culture of the workplace. Those with a greater level of autonomy are often able to shape how they want other colleagues to behave. They, have to a point, the ability to mould the culture of the workplace. 

If the boss, for instance, swears a lot each day. Others may start to emulate this. (As explored in our feature on belonging). This would change the whole dynamic of the workplace. This is why the phrase ‘role model’ gets thrown into every meeting, interview and CV. Employers want to hire those who will set a positive example for others.

Man Stretching

Culture can also be learnt within an organisation. By interacting with those around us, we form connections and understandings with one another. We adopt mannerisms, sayings and habits. 

The personality of an individual is perhaps one of the most contagious elements within a workplace. If your boss is miserable, it is harder to be upbeat and joyous around them. If the organisation hires predominantly introverted people, the atmosphere of the office may appear more insular. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on what sort of atmosphere works best for you and your team.

hands and feet on grass

Why is it important to get your working culture right from day one?

Once a certain atmosphere is created in an organisation it is hard to change it. If you want to change the culture, then you have to be able to change the behaviours of the employees, and altering a person’s behaviour is no easy task. If the right manners, understandings and practices are implemented from day one, however, you will create and develop an organisation that will blossom.

According to TruPath, 64% of employees do not feel that they have a strong work culture within their organisation. 

This is where we can help. Pansensic specialise in listening to, analysing, and understanding staff experience data.

We work with organisations from all over the world in a wide range of sectors. What they have in common is the understanding that the experiences of their customers, staff and stakeholders can provide game-changing insights. We don’t just summarise data but provide a real depth of insight that is more granular, more accurate and more actionable.

Contact the team, and see what Pansensic can do for you.

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