To determine if our organization has a culture, we must first outline what culture consists of and what it actually looks like. I think many organizations believe that they have a strong culture, or may have had one at one time, but they have lost their moral compass due to inconsistencies in treatment, turning a blind eye to inequalities, and allowing unethical behaviors to establish the new standard of conduct with employees. Here is the definition I think best defines what Culture is made of…

“Culture noun - The culmination of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, behaviors, and actions.”

More aptly, culture is the thread that binds/holds all individuals together with a common set of values and hence actions. A solid culture is founded in good ethics such as respect, fairness, honesty, communication, consistency, and lack of bias. Employees can sense and embrace a sound culture because they are given the proper respect in the workplace, afforded the tools and training needed to do well in their jobs, and kept informed through solid communication to know and understand what the company stands for and believes in. With these foundations present, individuals can establish a plan for how they will contribute and where they are going to be in the future.

What does it mean to an employee if one place of work has a culture and another does not? On the surface, probably not that much. However, when certain codes of conduct or behaviors are not maintained, it can become noticeable over time what the outcomes or consequences are for not being included, liked, respected or “in on things.” Here are some examples of damaging and dangerous cultural environments.

Survival culture - you notice that people are quick to pass the buck/blame, cover their assets, and keep their head down, when trouble is brewing.

Hostile culture - when workplace behaviors such as aggression, anger, or even bullying are left unchecked and allowed to thrive, especially against certain races or genders.

Club culture - characterized by separation of various factions/departments in the organization and a lack of communication. When only some are privy to information and others are deemed less worthy or valued.

The finest organizations hold a Cultural philosophy that is founded in respectful treatment, inclusion, open communication, and yes, compassion for their contributors employees. These organizations understand that actions speak louder than words, but that listening is also an essential tool for a workplace with a solid culture.