We’ve all been there; work is draining, managers are infuriating, and we feel an overwhelming sense of negativity. We are so comfortable in our role, we quickly complain to colleagues or gossip about others on the team. And then we head out for happy hour and rail against our executive team and company for supporting bro-culture or not understanding the needs of the organization. It seems so harmless. But is it really?
At The Forem, it’s our strong belief that we need to stop complaining and start helping.
Contrary to popular belief, building a positive company culture isn’t as easy as adding a snack bar and foosball table to the office. It takes dedication from everyone at the company; from the intern to the CEO to the board. We are all responsible for building an inclusive, positive culture because our actions, no matter where we are on the ladder, impact those around us.
What Can You Do?
Interns & Entry Level Employees - Contribute! Do more than what’s expected; come in bright eyed and bushy tailed, because everyone is going to see you as a reminder of who they once were. At this point in your career, your attitude will make or break your upward mobility. For many at this level, expect work to be tedious. But instead of waiting it out until you can complain at happy hour, soak up everything you can from those around you. Then take what you’re learning and apply it! If you see solutions to organizational challenges, offer to help on the solution. For example, as a new hire, if you interviewed with only men or felt interview questions were biased, set up 20 minutes with your HR lead and explain your experience. Point out where you think you can help attract a more diverse applicant base. Being a new hire means you have a unique perspective others in the organization don’t have, but many still value.
Managers - Managers carry a lot of responsibility for upholding positive company culture within their team, and influence how others manage theirs. Most managers have a bigger impact than they realize. Let’s think about the type of tasks managers are responsible for:
Who is promoted
Who has a strong review
Who is hired & the profile requested for open positions
Who is fired and the approach
How much each team member is paid
Team culture and collaboration
Managers can ensure, at the very least for their team, they only promote and compensate team members who have a positive work ethic and collaboration.
Managers also have the responsibility of solving for toxic employees. As a manager, your reaction to toxic team members sets a precedent for the rest. When managers avoid giving feedback or handling toxic and negative members of the team, the behavior spreads and can poison a positive working environment.
Managers are also responsible for providing inclusive culture. Show care for the team by inquiring about their lives, leave room to share personal stories, encourage fun in your working day and make sure it’s inclusive of everyone’s interest - i.e. happy hours are not a great idea if your team has parents or non-drinkers who may not be able to or feel comfortable attending. Ensure all team members are heard and have visibility.
CEO - Ultimately, fostering a positive culture falls most heavily on the CEO shoulders. If culture is not prioritized by the CEO, it is extremely difficult for any other team member to uphold positive company values. For the CEO however, culture is also a key lever for productivity, revenue, & innovation. It’s not just the right thing to do, but also makes sound business sense.
There are countless ways to promote culture from the top down. To start, the Chief People Officer needs to report directly to the CEO. Positive culture and attitude should be part of your company’s values which means it’s measured and upheld in employee reviews.
In addition, CEOs need to create, to the very best of their ability, a flat and open organization, where feedback and solutions are welcome from all employees. Any director or manager that blocks feedback, should be reprimanded or removed.
Lastly, you need to talk about culture and positivity values in every single piece of communication: emails, all-hands meetings, you name it. There should always be ways to measure employee feedback through reviews, which then need to be reported out. Think of it as an employee NPS, and treat it the same as you would any ordinary NPS.
Clearly, It’s not the responsibility of one or few to make sure that your organization’s culture is positive from every direction - it’s the responsibility of everyone working in your organization. And if your company is currently lacking in the positivity department, it’s not too late to turn it around. Whether you hire a Chief Diversity, Culture, People, or Strategy Officer or you begin implementing transparency, you have the opportunity to make a change that will not only affect the culture, but improve performance.