Given all the recent media coverage about ‘toxic cultures’ at large companies, what are some ways that individuals can positively shape company culture at their own organizations?
Here’s the good news: You have a tremendous amount of influence in shaping your company culture. But first, let’s define culture:
Culture is the collective values, norms and beliefs of your organization – also known as the “how things are done around here” and “what people do when nobody’s watching.”
It’s evident in the way people dress, the language they use, the shortcuts they take (or don’t take), the standards they uphold (or don’t uphold) and what behavior they reward (or avoid).
The number one way that people learn is through modeling – through watching others and paying attention – either consciously or subconsciously to their behaviors. In addition, the mirror neurons in our brains actually turn on and mirror the actions and behaviors we see around us.
Here are five ways to influence your culture:
Behave constructively, your actions send strong messages to others. Be positive, demonstrate a good attitude, build strong relationships with others, and be authentic and transparent about who you are and about what you value. As humans we pay attention to the slightest cues about each other – the way we smile, the way we walk from meeting to meeting, the eye contact we give.
Seek to influence systems, policies and practices. Share your ideas about policies that could be added or changed in order to support work-life integration. Give feedback to leaders when you see opportunities for them to enhance their support of work-life integration. Provide input and suggestions about practices that could be adopted or piloted at your organization.
Build communities and bridge networks. Make connections within your organization with people who share common interests, passions and challenges. When you come together with others, your influence on the culture is multiplied. In addition, connect people from within your company to external organizations with perspectives or ideas that enhance the culture.
Reach out to new employees to help them learn the culture. Help shape their experience of the organization and its norms.
Take the initiative and embrace your power. Don’t take a passive approach to your organization’s policies, practices and norms. Embrace the power you have to influence the culture and know that every choice you make is a contribution to the greater ethos of the organization.
About Tracy Brower: Tracy is a work environment sociologist, author, mother of two and Global Vice President of Workplace Vitality at Mars Drinks. She studies how humans affect their work-life and how it affects them back. Over her career, Tracy has had the opportunity to engage with many of the Fortune 500 companies.