The Dynamics of Office Culture

The Dynamics of Office Culture

Whenever I hear the word culture, it makes me think of fine arts, a working societal system, education, politics, and all the other things that make us what we are — human. According to dictionary.com, culture as such has several definitions, but I think that for our purposes we’ll use the one that explains culture as “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group”.

Culture manifests itself on many levels of our society, and it is present in all shapes and forms wherever we go. One of the most apparent and significant areas where culture is visible, and which should be regarded as important, is the place we spend the most time – the office.

Office culture is everything. It’s the way your meetings are held, the way people communicate with each other, the way the offices are equipped, even what the kitchen and the bathrooms look like. The quality of the working environment determines the quality of the experience that your subordinates have, which ultimately results in the quality of the job that everyone does. If people truly believe in and are inspired by the values a company stands for, they will not only deliver better results, they will also want to keep working there.

Define Your Culture.

First of all, think about whether your company’s culture is clearly defined or whether it’s just some vague concept floating in the air. Talk to your boss, to your colleagues and your employees, and define the core values.

What does the company stand for? What are the people like? What do we work towards? What are the key qualities that make us stand out? Do people like working here? If yes/no, why? Those are just some of the questions that you should be asking while determining what the culture is about.

Implement Your Culture.

Once the main points of your office’s culture have been established, don’t let them remain just words. If you want the cultural values to be taken seriously, you need them to be reflected in every aspect of the office life. This can again be achieved through a variety of ways, such as:

  • creating an environment that offers space for personal expression
  • creating an environment that allows people to fail and make mistakes without penalties
  • designing fun and relaxing break rooms and collaboration areas for people to get together
  • keeping people involved in the important decision making
  • making people feel appreciated and valued by acknowledging and exposing their success
  • scheduling an out-of-office team activity each month – sport, breakfast, drinks, anything that lets people loosen up

But of course, those examples only work in the context of a certain culture. You need to come up with ones that match the culture you want to achieve.

Cultural Communication Errors

Having a workplace culture does not always equal having a good workplace culture. There are some common errors that immediately tip off that the culture may not be exactly what you want it to be.

Not talking about the culture is a mistake that gives away that there’s, in fact, nothing at all or nothing nice to really talk about. The culture should be the first thing you try to sell someone the job on.

Bragging about the beanbag chairs and foosball is, on the other hand, also not a good thing to do. Having it at the office and seeing people actually using it is a great way to demonstrate culture. Explicitly talking about it and making it a reason why you’re cool is not cool.

Saying without Doing. If you pretend to be a relaxed, family-friendly company with emphasis on quality rather than quantity, but you or your boss are constantly stressed about numbers and hesitant about giving people a day off… You should probably re-think the whole idea and stop lying to yourselves.

And lastly: DO NOT WRITE THE COMPANY CULTURE ON THE WALLS. Even if you do it in bright colors and surround it with rainbows and glitter, this is not the way culture should be communicated with people, and it makes everyone think of working arrangements in political systems that your company should not want to be associated with.
Building or improving your office culture is not something that happens at the blink of an eye. It requires effort, thought and probably some loosening up, as well. But what is better than being able to build a working space that people actually look forward to getting back into?