Most of us spend an enormous amount of time at work! Correct?

1st November 2018
By Clayton Coughlan
Most of us spend an enormous amount of time at work! Correct? one thing is evident, you are either creating or being exposed to the culture of your workplace.
What is workplace culture I hear you ask?

Most of us spend an enormous amount of time at work! Correct? one thing is evident, you are either creating or being exposed to the culture of your workplace.

What is workplace culture I hear you ask? There’s several definitions but the one I like best is, “That’s the way things are done around here.” This can range from formally defined and documented policies, procedures and processes to more subtle matters such as accepted “behaviour” and other norms that have become embedded in a workplace over time.

It has been said that workplace culture can be like an iceberg, there is the part that is above the surface for all the world to see and then the larger portion lies beneath the surface in the unwritten rules of engagement.
Workplace culture affects all workers, in public and private sectors big and small, and can be either positive or negative. Gruenter and Whittaker are famous for their statement on workplace culture, “The culture of any organisation is shaped by what behaviour the team leader is willing to tolerate.” How true is that? I have seen this way too many times.

In my company we refer to our leaders as “team leaders” as it is not about one individual. We are a team. A team leader can be a mixed bag. Team leaders can be influenced by personal matters, mind set, values, beliefs, skills set and their level of emotional intelligence, just like anyone else. The team leader or group of team leaders can have either a positive or a negative impact on the values of their workplace. Let me share a quick story of when I was an apprentice. I remember one my former employers. Both myself and the other team members would watch the boss get out of his ute each morning and we could tell by the way he shut the ute door and the way he walked onto the jobsite, what kind of day we were in for. Unfortunately for us, this guys was a highly volatile individual at times and would let outside influencing factors like his home life affect everyone at the workplace. A direct result of this was most of our days were spent treading on egg shells as we sanded, cut in and rolled. Nervousness was our close friend!

Is culture the sole responsibility of the team leader? Most certainly not from where I stand! Whilst the team leader can have a very dramatic impact on the workplace culture, the responsibility for the culture in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility, from a first year apprentice to management, everyone’s action and behaviour has an impact.

We have all seen the one guy or girl on site, there’s one in every workplace! You know the one, they walk around with a pot and brush in their hand trying to look busy maybe they are on their mobile alot. Everyone seems to know they don’t do much, but no one does anything about it. People around them begin to feel annoyed that they are having to carry all the work while this person seems to have an easy ride and worse still, they often occupy themselves with lighting fires in the yards of others in an attempt to avoid being analysed themselves. I can’t remember who made this statement but it was once said to me, “Only the guy who isn’t rowing, has time to rock the boat!”
If your workplace has a positive culture that’s fantastic, keep up the great work! Keep track of what is contributing to the good culture and do more of that. The little things done often are usually the biggest contributor to positive culture and outcomes.

As an employer, simply expressing gratitude is a gift that a lot struggle to master despite the fact that it takes just a few seconds to acknowledge your thankfulness to a team member or business partner. We are unfortunately too used to the assumption that people know how we feel and that’s how we justify our decision not to say these two powerful and humbling words.

Yet, it always helps to drop a line and simply thank somebody for the work they have done.¿That’s recognition to enforce the fact that the work done is appreciated and understood. In my team, we always make a point to say Thank You! To anyone who has done a great job, whether that’s around what their job description requires or something that goes above and beyond the call of duty. Say thank you. And say it often.

An example of how this will change culture in your business is, last Friday, I really need to leave work as I had to make my way to an awards night for Gary Wilson. I had a two hour drive just to make it home. We had packed up and were just about to leave site when I noticed we had completely missed one wall. This wall need to be done today! as the entire job was completed and we were not returning to site. Without hesitation, one of my team members Dave, told me to go and he would fix the wall, this is despite the fact it is 5pm on a Friday afternoon and Dave too had a two hour drive to get home. You know what I was saying as I was getting in my ute to leave. Thank You!

If your workplace, however, could do with a once over, it’s time to roll the sleeves up and get dirty, especially if you’re the team leader! If you’re not the team leader, find a way to let your team leader know how people feel about their workplace culture and encourage others to help bring about positive change. Life is too short to be anything but happy.

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