While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.
Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:
- High absenteeism
- Stress-related health conditions
- Reduced productivity
- Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
- Politics and internal conflicts
- High levels of dissatisfaction
These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:
- High staff turnover
- Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
- Low staff morale and team unity
- Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.
But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?
In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.
Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture
It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?
Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.
- A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture
While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.
A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?
- Open and Honest Communication
Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.
- Collaboration and Support
A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.
“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”
In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?
Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.
- Emphasis on environment, family and health
In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.
Take Home Message
There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.
If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.
We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to email@example.com and we’ll be happy to get involved.
The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.
In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!
Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.
To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.
- Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
- Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
- Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
- Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.
The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.
Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/
Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.
It’s the end of the year, and we are pushing to close off our tasks while feeling exhausted and ready for the summer break. It is at this time that the mundane roles of everyday life become challenging, stressful and even overwhelming. And while the phenomenon of “I need a holiday” is inevitable across individuals, teams and organisations there is still a way to end off the year on positive note.
The concept of gratitude is everywhere, from social media to books and T-shirts, we are in flux of gratitude quotes, paraphernalia and requests. And while we are seeing it everywhere, how much are we really experiencing it in our work and personal lives? Gratitude, when felt as a physical sensation, can produce feelings of well-being, social connectedness and thankfulness.
Now you may be thinking that this is just not possible at this point in the year and just the idea of adding more onto your and your employee’s metaphorical plates is just not feasible. However, the end of a busy year is the perfect time to celebrate, show gratitude for the actions of each individual in meeting this year’s goals and creating a culture of recognition and appreciation.
There are many benefits of expressing gratitude at work. Gratitude is “the perception of a positive personal outcome that is due to the actions of another person” (Emmons & Shelton, 2002). With this definition in mind it doesn’t take much to see the positive by products of expressing gratitude in the workplace. Firstly, due to the interpersonal nature of gratitude it will help build team communication and morale. Secondly, gratitude elicits a sense of commitment to “repay” the kindness offered, which translates into increased organisational trust and commitment.
Gratitude is simple, and at the end of the year when the mundane comes a mountain is the perfect time is begin expressing gratitude in your team. Here are 3 proven methods to begin cultivating gratitude at work, encouraging team building and job satisfaction:
During your year end function or at your final meeting, have everyone write down, three good things that happened at work in 2017. Ask people to share their list with the group. The process of reflecting positively, writing and sharing can be very powerful in shifting peoples perspectives away from the negatives of the year, and current moment, to an appreciative and optimistic attitude. You can also choose to display these notes somewhere in the office, reminding people of what they have to be grateful for.
There are two ways of doing this activity. First, you can ask each person to write a letter to someone in the company for whom they are grateful. Ask them to take the time to unpack why they are grateful to that person for their actions. The second way is a more superficial, team building exercise. Give each person a piece of paper, and ask them to each write something they are grateful for for each individual in the room, they must go to each person and write on their paper. They can fold the paper to keep it confidential and it can also be anonymous. Every person should receive and write a message of gratitude for each other individual in the room. This is great activity to elicit feelings of gratitude in a group, and can help to counter the individual conflicts which may have transpired over the year.
This may be in the form of secret Santa or adhoc. Allocate each individual in the team a person for whom they must do random acts of kindness. No one must know who their “angel” is and this “angel” can be creative in finding ways to anonymously support, gift and show kindness to their person. This is an effective method to encourage team participation, building a culture of consideration, sharing and support.
All three of the activities mentioned above have had proven benefits on team building and organisational commitment whilst boosting individual well-being. They are simple to execute, cost nothing at all and are sure to create a culture of celebration and appreciation especially when December is in the air. Have fun with it, and thank you for reading😊.
Written by Stephanie Diepering.
Corporate transformation often happens under pressure when a company is forced to make changes to survive economically. It seldom happens because it is strategically planned which means that often transformation is regarded as a defensive and negative process. In the 80s companies would realign and redesign themselves every five to seven years; since then the business world has evolved, which forces companies to transform every three years. Three years is a relatively short time span, especially if you take into consideration that a successful transformation process can take three to five years to roll out effectively. In that sense, organisations are in a continuous transformation and change cycle.
Organisations struggle to transform because they don’t invest in proper workplace intervention strategies (H2)
Statistics show that organisational transformation has a very low success rate of 40%, which raises the question of whether the hard work is worth the desired outcome. There are key factors that cause the low success rate but if companies apply these “common sense” tactics the success rate shoots up to 80%.
Setting clear and aspiring goals – The underlying reason for the transformation needs to be planned in detail, step by step with clear milestones, goals and deadlines. This will be a huge process that impacts on people, systems, processes, values, and clients and we are well aware that change comes with resistance, unless it has a well-developed and thought out plan.
Exercising strong, authentic leadership – Leaders need to get together and collectively agree on the transformation process. They should keep in mind the motto of “One for All” during this initial process. After this has been decided, leaders must play a critical role in openly communicating the transformation steps to their teams, not once but often. In order to get their teams to accept and see the benefits of the change, leaders need to inspire and provide support. There is no space for secrecy or withholding information. The role leaders play during the transformation process cannot be highlighted enough.
Creating a clearly articulated structure and framework – The changes need to flow and happen in logical sequence. Each stage can vary in its roll-out phase and some can take several months to re-align; when people and systems are involved the focus is on gradual but continuous change.
Maintaining high energy and proactive employee involvement – This is a common area that is overlooked and a core reason why organisational transformation fails. Change might lead to redesigning the culture, values and norms and people need to be supported to change their behaviour and attitudes. Leaders should inspire people to see the growth potential and the opportunities in an improved working environment.
Change is not linear – The transformation process is not a one-directional, but rather a circular parallel process. Everything should happen simultaneously which is the reason for the energy and zest needed.
Some people will find the process confusing, chaotic and unclear. This is normal and healthy if it’s in accordance with the detailed framework. There might be gaps between perception and experience, and leaders must effectively attend to these and re-align people.
Success comes from positive transformation and change. Changing under pressure is associated with crisis management and seldom leads to well thought through processes. Support your teams to see that the transformation will make good results great, and be sure to take your entire workforce along on the transformation journey.
Contact us for more information about organisational transformation and workplace intervention.
Nearly every company, team and individual crave better communication at their office. This is proven and is based on research, which says that 50% of employees want more communication from their superior. It’s sad as well as mind boggling to think that we all struggle with a skill that we learn at a very young age. As infants we make sounds to express our wants and needs. We continue to develop by learning words, sentences and building our vocabulary, but then we struggle to communicate with others. Why is that? Also, is the communication ratio related to work or does it span across other life domains? Yes, we can look at our background, our upbringing or our education, however that is only one side of the challenge. What about our own roadblocks that get in the way?
Two specific roadblocks that hinder us from really connecting and communicating with others are:
Commonly, while we are “listening” to someone talk, we also have our mind chatting away in the background. We are analysing and judging how the person is speaking, how they look, what they are wearing, what words they are using, how they are standing or sitting, and what the point of this conversation is, etc.
We are silently labelling and perhaps even critiquing the person.
This is not a constructive communication process because it stops us from listening to what the other person is actually saying.
Think about it and look at the next few conversations you have. Are you judging the other person?
We have this knee jerk reaction to jump in and solve the problem or give advice. Often our advice is not constructive and we offer it too quickly which results in the conversation shutting down. Nine times out of ten the person you’re talking to has thought about the same solution/advice that you are offering. Do we need to offer the solution for our own narcissistic pleasure of tricking our ego and feeling important? Alternatively, do we think that the person will think less of us if we don’t know the answer?
Again look at how often and quickly you interrupt to fix, solve and give advice.
I won’t discuss tips on how to improve or remove these roadblocks of communication because I’m certain you’ve read copious amounts on reflective listening, and mindful or reflective questioning.
What I do want to highlight is that we often moan about poor communication at our office, yet we seldom look at ourselves as a possible contributing factor. With the roadblock of judging and providing solutions, we are active participants in the problem. Start changing and managing your communication skills and watch how others follow.
Remember change starts within you!
Contact us for more information about improving your communication skills today.