Whether you recognise them or not, all businesses will have their own individual workplace culture.
These types of environments directly impact how employees act and how companies run. And this goes for both positive cultures as well as questionable ones.
As an employer, you need to ensure any culture found within your business is fair and reasonable.
If they aren’t, employees might raise discrimination claims against you. And these types of claims can result in attending hearings, paying compensation, and suffering business damages.
In this guide, we’ll look at what workplace culture is, why they’re important, and how to build positive environments in your business.
What is workplace culture?
Workplace culture is a shared principle or tradition found in work environments.
Most work cultures derive from attitudes, behaviours, and core values–and can cause both encouraging and detrimental influences. An example might be a culture of speaking only Gaelic and English during work; or sticking to a health and safety dress code.
These practices can be found documented in the company handbook or policies. But most of the time they are shared through behaviours from the employees themselves.
Every company should create a positive work environment that enables employees to work safely and comfortably.
Ireland’s laws on workplace cultures
There is no specific law on managing a workplace culture in Ireland. However, it does fall under certain legislations and regulations.
Under the Employment Equality Act 2015, all employees are protected from discrimination at work. The law states an employer cannot discriminate against nine protected characteristics. These are:
- Family status.
- Marital status.
- Members of the Traveller community.
- Sexual orientation.
A workplace culture or practice cannot directly or indirectly discriminate against an employee. When poor cultures allow inappropriate dialogue or ‘banter’, the results can be hard to recover from.
If someone believes they’ve suffered from unfair treatment, they may raise their grievance to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
During tribunal hearings, you could be questioned and prosecuted if courts believe your work practices are unlawful.
Once a guilty verdict is passed, you could be forced to pay compensation. And on top of financial penalties, your business could face damages to production, revenue, and reputation.
One of the most common illnesses employees suffer from relates to poor mental health. These are generally seen through conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.
When a workplace culture or practice ignores the importance of mental health, it doesn’t lead to a good outcome.
Employers must be fully aware of mental health triggers which may derive from workplace cultures. And you need to be proactive in eliminating any toxic culture or practice which directly impacts one’s health.
This is especially important if a health condition is legally recognised as a disability. If an employee’s disability is affected or worsened by workplace culture, it could lead to several legal claims. All companies have a legal duty to provide reasonable accommodations which allow less-abled employees to work in a sufficient and positive culture.
Bullying and harassment
Bullying and harassment are age-old problems which are still prevalent in the workplace.
They both sit under discrimination and have similar negative impacts if mishandled. Whether these acts were intentional or not, employers are still held accountable.
As a business, ensure all bullying and harassment complaints and handled accordingly. You can achieve this by following disciplinary procedures and policies.
And apply reasonable steps to reduce negative behaviours and practices. If not, you could end up facing claims of unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal.
Why is it important to build a positive work culture?
Every employer will try to implement their company’s core values and principles. Whatever they are, the main aim, in the end, is all about creating a positive workplace culture.
Here are some shared reasons why work cultures are important:
Workplace cultures protect work wellbeing
One of the most important factors to protect is staff wellbeing. Ensuring your staff are healthy and content isn’t just beneficial for themselves–it aids the welfare of your company, too.
When your workplace culture helps encourage employees’ wellbeing, they’ll feel valued and perform to the best of their abilities.
As an employer, you have a legal obligation to protect their physical and mental wellbeing within reason. So, you can easily start by promoting a healthy and stable work-life balance.
Workplace cultures boost engagement and motivation
It’s so important to build a work environment which boosts employee engagement and motivation.
This type of company culture or principle allows employees to feel valued and respected. And company growth is guaranteed through greater levels of performance and achievement.
And when your business runs through engaged employees, the end results are beneficial for both sides.
Workplace cultures help build a company’s reputation
As companies are ever-growing and adapting, one thing that needs protection is reputation.
We collectively understand how important brand identity and status are. These are things you cannot control or grow. Reputation is built on the experiences and opinions of others, like contractors and customers.
But ultimately, it falls on the workforce. When employees have a positive feeling or experience whilst working for you, it creates a positive picture of your work environments. But on the opposite side, if they have a negative experience, it’s not easy to contain confidentiality.
Workplace cultures enable accountability
Healthy cultures and environments help enable accountability. But this shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing.
Accountability allows employees to feel confident in owning both their achievements, as well as their errors. This level of independent thinking enables them to solve problems and learn from their mistakes.
Accountability also helps promote teamwork. This is because it allows employees to comfortably recognise collective business success and failure.
Workplace cultures improve employee turnover
Without a workforce, there’s no production or revenue. So, you need a workplace culture where employees feel so valuable, that they’ll appreciate the work-life balance and won’t consider leaving.
Having stronger cultures will help improve employee turnover, which is so beneficial in the long run. It’ll save you time, money, and effort–and in the end, you’ve collated the most valuable workforce possible.
What is found in a healthy workplace culture?
Some of the most common factors found in a healthy workplace culture include:
As an employer, you should express a culture where employees feel valued within the company. Treating everyone with fairness helps people feel respected and motivated.
Favouritism or biased attitudes toward certain workers can cause friction at work. That’s because it leads to resentment and distrust. In the end, it causes dissatisfaction and division during an employee’s work life.
You need to prevent toxic traits and different personalities within your work environments. Show equality between all employees–and make decisions based on honest conduct and performance.
People work better when they’re praised for their work. It’s more than about stroking egos. Create a positive work culture that recognises achievements.
When employees go beyond their remit or work particularly harder, praise their efforts. You should always reward good work when it’s done. Little moves like this can encourage employee engagement–helping them to feel empowered.
Avoid criticising employees who haven’t reached their targets or are performing lower than normal. Instead, have a talk with them to find out how you can help them work better.
A company culture which all employers should practice is effective communication. This is something that’s vital for both business and employee growth.
Build a workplace where employees feel comfortable talking about their ideas, opinions, and issues.
And when teamwork is involved, communication helps improve productivity and strengthens confidence in those around them.
Soon, your company will be known for its employment relations. And this level of effective communication will attract ‘top-talent’ job candidates and more business clients.
What is found in toxic workplace culture?
Some of the most common factors found in a toxic workplace culture include:
Presenteeism is the practice of working beyond one’s contractual terms or means. This is commonly seen when employees bring work home and complete it outside of contracted hours or on holidays. For an employer, this might look like dedication but, in reality, it’s a very unhealthy work habit.
These cultures derive from several factors. A leadership team manager might push for completion within unreasonable time frames. Or employees work more because they might feel the need to over-achieve.
In the end, presenteeism is considered as an unsafe and unhealthy work practice. And it can cause effects to the quality of your production, as well as overall staff wellbeing.
Imposter syndrome is when employees feel they don’t deserve or belong in their job role. They may think twice about taking risks or decisions due to a fear of failure.
Most of the time, employees are selected for job roles with thought. They were chosen because they were competent, trained, or had certain accomplishments. Yet, when an employee suffers from imposter syndrome, it’s hard to convince them otherwise.
When you have a workplace culture of neglecting your employees’ wellbeing, it affects everyone. Holding back on praise, reward, or recognition can even further escalate their condition.
Burnout is the end-result of excessive mental and physical strains. This can come from heavy workloads, long hours, and stressful environments. Employees can suffer from one type of strain or a number of them all at once.
Burnout is not technically considered a medical illness, but it can exasperate several health issues. Like, workplace stress, insomnia, depression, and high blood pressure.
Expecting employees to work through these types of cultures is both unethical and potentially borderline immoral.
How to create a positive workplace culture within your business
All employers need to be proactive in building a positive culture in your workplace.
It’s so important to ensure everyone within your workforce understands and appreciates equality and cohesive attitudes. Here are some methods to help create a positive workplace culture:
Create transparent policies
All company policies must outline what behaviour and conduct is acceptable in the workplace. And more importantly, what isn’t allowed.
So, create policies which outline any principles or practices in your workplace culture. Make sure these guidelines are acknowledged and available to all employees.
These rules should cover all forms of behaviours and expectations–from your dress code to performance management. And it shouldn’t stop there; these factors play on things like promotions, payments, and entitlements too.
Once these are documented, your employees will gain a solid understanding of equality and fairness at work.
Encourage collaboration and cohesion
As an employer, one of your top priorities is to build a secure workplace for your staff. The best way to do this is by encouraging collaboration and cohesion.
Your work culture needs to promote diversity and inclusion. Employees will feel respected and valued, and this will enhance work quality and motivation.
If you neglect this, it could result in creating a toxic environment (which is hard to contain or eliminate for good).
Build strong employee work relations
When employee relations are strong, the business excels to the highest levels.
Businesses strive when they share the same values and aspirations. But this is only achievable through strong workplace relations.
Employee relations are achieved through a work culture which promotes things, like team morale and open communication. This sort of culture or practice is guaranteed to boost workplace relations–between colleagues and overall departments.
Reward employees when it’s due
It’s so important to show appreciation and praise for good work–so reward your employees when it’s due. This can be done in so many ways–from providing new employees with recognition programs to giving bonuses to long-term employees.
When employees are rewarded for their efforts, they clearly get to see their value within the company culture. And after this, they might feel even more encouraged to perform. So, it’s a win-win for both parties.
Regulate cliques and subgroups
It’s great if some workers find friendship groups or work buddies who they can work cohesively with.
But when work cultures create disruption or hostile environments, you need to intervene. Regulate cliques and subgroups and ensure they don’t collectively cause friction during work projects.
But act accordingly: if a group has shown great cohesion and output, you can regulate them less. As long as they act in accordance with your rules and don’t end up isolating others, encourage workplace cohesion.
Get expert advice on creating positive workplace cultures with Peninsula
As an employer, you have a legal and moral duty to build a positive workplace culture.
From your company’s mission to your internal procedures–your culture cannot be unfavourable towards any employee.
If any worker feels they were treated unfairly because of a work practice or rule, they could decide to leave your business. Here, you could end up facing employment hearings and reputational damage.
Peninsula offers expert advice on creating a positive workplace culture. Our HR services understand employment rights and performance management–helping you grow a happier and safer workspace.
We also offer 24/7 HR advice that’s available 365 days a year. Get in contact with multi-lingual and fully trained counsellors who are ready to help.
Want to find out more? Book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants. Contact 0844 891 0353