Creating a Positive Workplace Culture

Culture is the environment that surrounds us all the time. A workplace culture is the shared values, belief systems, attitudes and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share. This is shaped by individual upbringing, social and cultural context. In a workplace, however, the leadership and the strategic organizational directions and management influence the workplace culture to a huge extent. A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.

Here are seven tips that can be used to build a work environment where the team can thrive:

1. Begin with gratitude.

It is a privilege, not a right, to work together. Begin each week with a 15-minute all-hands team meeting where the first item on the agenda is team kudos. Giving people a vehicle to express appreciation for one another in a public forum raises the morale of the entire group, establishes a positive tone for the week and helps people feel acknowledged and valued. Starting with gratitude in any professional situation sets the intention of appreciation, which will permeate throughout the organization.

2. Create a safe environment.

There is nothing more damaging than toxicity in a professional environment. It stifles new ideas and inhibits collaboration. Creating a safe work environment means eliminating negative personalities and respecting every idea--whether it's from an intern or a tenured senior team member. Lead with honesty, integrity and vulnerability to help your employees feel safe.

3. Don't leave your dirty dishes in the sink.

This metaphor essentially means, "Don't leave a mess for someone else to clean." There is nothing more frustrating than picking up a project where someone left off to find that files are missing, the work is a mess or someone saved a crucial document to their desktop moments before boarding a flight for a two-week vacation. Not leaving a mess is the functional interpretation, but the emotional definition is, "Respect everyone's time." If someone has to duplicate your efforts or take time away from their daily responsibilities to hunt for a missing document, you are basically saying you don't care about their time. Time is our most valuable currency. When we aren't respectful of our colleagues' time, we are contributing to a negative workplace environment.

4. There are only opportunities in business, not problems.

When emotions are high and stress levels skyrocket, even the smallest workplace issues can seem like towering boulders. I tell my team that what we're experiencing isn't a problem; it's an opportunity to reflect, analyze and evaluate so that next time--and there's always a next time--we'll do better. Making your team smile by bringing perspective to the situation can quickly lighten a very emotionally charged room.

5. Consistency is key.

There are so many new trends in company culture: flex hours, team building, open workspaces, unlimited paid time off, bringing pets to work--and the list goes on. It's easy to be tempted by what may seem like worthwhile workplace perks or try to replicate what competitors are offering. However, the same tactics don't work for every company. Although change can be healthy, disrupting a good thing can be detrimental and affect the cultural balance of your organization.

6. Encourage positive thinking.

Life is short. Why waste time on negative behaviours that don't align with your business' moral compass? Even when things seem to be spinning out of control or we didn't achieve the result we anticipated, positive thinking will eventually cultivate positive outcomes. Setting weekly, monthly and yearly positive intentions as a group will help to align your team and ensure that everyone is facing toward the same North Star.

7. Don't sacrifice the important for the urgent.

It's easy to punt team one-on-ones for an urgent client call or meeting, but that connection with your team is crucial to maintaining a positive workplace culture. As the leader, you are the cheerleader of the company and the glue that binds your organization together. Without regular connection to your people, the mission, vision and energy of the business can quickly dilute and degrade your cultural fibre. It's okay to reschedule; just don't let important conversations get replaced by urgent demands and deadlines.

Dependability, structure, clarity and meaningful work are all ingredients that, when combined, can culminate in a solid foundation for a positive workplace.

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