Do you feel safe at work? Not just physically, but emotionally as well? How are topics like mental health and burnout treated? Do you feel safe to speak up and express your thoughts and opinions? Do people listen to enhance their understanding?
No matter your workplace situation, it’s necessary to ensure that mental well-being is secure, right alongside physical well-being. But how do you know your office supports cultural health? How do you create an environment in which everyone’s needs are recognized and met to the best of everyone’s abilities?
That’s the focus of today’s article. I’ll give you a few key questions that you can ask about where you work in order to determine its cultural health. I’ll also offer some tips for improving mental health at work across the board and questions you can consider about where you work in order to determine its cultural health as this affects your wellbeing.
What is Internal Culture?
Internal culture involves keeping your emotional state in the best possible position while at work, particularly based on the office’s culture. It means taking active steps to help yourself (and possibly others, if appropriate) decompress, de-stress, and check in with what coping mechanisms help you feel your best.
Your internal culture is just that: internal. You can actively get to know yourself in order to help yourself thrive. However, there are many external factors that can affect your internal culture as well.
For instance, at work, you are often exposed to the same or similar people and situations each day. If you feel like your work is valued and like you and others are accepted as they are, while also being encouraged to grow, your internal culture is potentially in great shape.
This isn’t always the case, though. In life, situations aren’t typically that black and white. That’s why it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions when considering your own, unique case:
1. Do people talk about one another behind their backs?
If your office is riddled with gossip, you may find that there’s both a distinct lack of respect for others, as well as insecurities that run deeply within your office’s workplace culture.
People may feel that their work isn’t valued and want to put others down to make themselves feel better. It may also be a nasty habit that people have fallen into, and they’re left feeling unsure about how else to connect with their colleagues.
Whatever the reason may be, persistent gossip is rarely the sign of a flourishing workplace.
2. Does anyone feel like their creativity is stifled?
Individuals are too worried about their ideas being outright rejected. Performance anxiety runs rampant throughout the office. If people are so worried about being judged and ultimately treated poorly for how they think, they won’t feel like they’re able to talk about them.
This can create a lot of stress for employees. If people are too afraid to make mistakes, the company will never grow, and the people will be left feeling anxious and unfulfilled in their work.
3. Is anyone made to feel guilty for certain actions or behaviors?
Everybody makes mistakes, but in offices with poor cultural health, mistakes are something to be pointed to over and over again. If you have a bad day at work, it’s used to judge you for the rest of your time there. People are often so scared to make mistakes, it actually hinders their productivity and creativity.
Mistakes are great to learn from, but not to be held over your head. When mistakes are used to manipulate you, it is a clear indicator of a toxic work environment.
4. Do people show up late, or otherwise exhibit low morale?
When individuals repeatedly come in late, leave early, and avoid finishing assignments, this shows that engagement within the office and the work that they do has dropped significantly.
This could be due to feelings of inadequacy or even futility (for example, “I can’t do anything right anyway, so why try?” or even “why bother if I am going to be criticized regardless of what I do?”).
Preferential treatment in particular can be a real problem in this particular area. If people are getting away with poor behavior, this lowers the quality of the company and upper management in everyone’s eyes.
5. Is anyone stuck in the past?
While it’s necessary to learn from the past, living in it is not a healthy practice. People at work may be stuck on their past shortcomings or feel like their hard work won’t be recognized this time because it never has been before. However, it’s important to keep this thinking in check.
Individuals would best be served to live in the present if they want to be supportive team members and productive employees.
6. Is there a lot of planning, but barely any execution?
It’s important to plan carefully before making big moves in business, but does your office plan to the exclusion of any actual production? When is the planning good enough to move into action?
If your company has a significant fear of failure or feeling of never being good enough, this is a problem. There should be a sense of pride and confidence within the work that everyone does. And while there may be a few mistakes along the way, they have to be able to trust that action will get them where they need to be.
7. Are any inappropriate behaviors rationalized or explained away?
Sometimes, individuals are quick to point their fingers at others and yet not be able to take criticisms when it involves themselves.
If people aren’t able to take ownership of their behaviors, this is a problem. Accountability is a huge part of working as part of a team. Without it, integrity can all but disappear.
Fostering a Healthy Work Environment
There are no perfect remedies for every workplace situation. However, here are a few tips that you can implement, or talk to your co-workers about implementing, as you work toward improved cultural health:
- Take the time to actively talk about mental health and cultural health at work. Offer interactive workshops and training in order to educate and keep everyone on the same page.
- Hold people accountable for their words and actions. Make sure any expectations that are set are clear and manageable. It may be helpful to have a list posted for employees to refer to.
- When holding brainstorming sessions, avoid the urge to shoot down ideas. Make it clear that anyone’s thoughts are welcome.
- When someone has an accomplishment or does something well, tell them. Get others involved as well.
- Try to have some fun. Bring in donuts for the whole office. Have a Halloween costume party. Make an effort to get others to positively engage with one another.
Just like cultural health doesn’t diminish overnight, it also can’t be rebuilt overnight. It takes time, hard work, intentional practices, and effort from everyone to create a healthier work culture.
If you’re wondering about your own office’s cultural toxicity levels, take my assessment to get a more accurate picture of where it may fall.
If you’re interested in gaining some more insight into how to improve your own internal culture at work, schedule a meeting with me. I can walk you through some exercises and open the door for more effective communication moving forward.