5 characteristics of a positive workplace

March 14, 2018

Maybe you’re interviewing for a new job and wondering what the workplace environment is like. Maybe you’re new to an organization and wondering what you got yourself into. Or maybe you’ve been working at a company for several years and are looking around your office thinking, “Hmm…”

No matter what your situation, here are five characteristics of a positive workplace and the signs to look for:

The management team actively engages with employees. The leaders of the company don’t have “ivory tower” syndrome, where they’re secluded in their offices far away from employees. They actively engage in the day-to-day business, helping solve issues and understand opportunities.

They also seek input and feedback throughout the organization during strategic planning sessions. Unlike on the television show “Undercover Boss” – where no one seems to recognize the head of the company – in a workplace with a positive culture, most employees recognize and are familiar with all key leaders.

Employees are encouraged to try new things (and it’s OK to fail). A local example of this is Amazon’s culture of extreme tolerance for failure. As David Streitfeld wrote about CEO Jeff Bezos, “Unlike almost any other chief executive, Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has built his company to embrace risk, ignoring obvious moves and imagining what customers want next – even before they know it.”

This environment requires a culture where employees understand how their work is connected to the vision, mission and objectives of the company and where it’s OK to experiment and learn from failures. In this type of culture, most employees will tell you they feel like what they do matters; that their work is more than just a paycheck. There is also management commitment to more than just the financial goals of the company – there is commitment to social improvement and to using the company as a driving force for positive social impact.

Open communication is encouraged (and accepted). Seeking out different perspectives and points of view is common place. Teams work together to analyze all sides of issues, assign people to play devil’s advocate and speak out (respectfully) with opinions so everyone’s voice may be heard. Employees work together to solve problems (without finger-pointing).

Respect for co-workers runs rampant – gossip about others is considered unacceptable as employees speak directly to each other in open and honest communication. Employees are comfortable trusting and depending on each other. Ideas and information are shared, not hoarded.

Career development is encouraged (and supported). People managers are supportive and good at coaching. There is an attitude of flexibility and openness to change, encouraging employees to take on new challenges and develop skills in different areas of the business. Employees proactively create career development plans and managers serve as mentors and coaches. Employees use their vacation days and employee turnover is low.

The “vibes” of the organization “feel” good. Employees can be seen smiling and laughing throughout the office – sure, they’re working hard, but they’re also having fun with what they’re doing and they enjoy collaborating with their co-workers. Employees are friendly and helpful to each other. There are no cliques, no invisible politics, and no passive backstabbing.

Does this sound like your organization’s culture? If not, these are five characteristics all companies should strive to achieve.

~ Lisa Quast

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