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3 Qualities of a Positive Work Culture

What are some of the key attributes of a good work culture? Here we discuss 3 characteristics companies have that make them places people want to work.

Is your company a place people want to work? Is everyone engaged? Do people share ideas and work well together? 

A work culture that attracts and retains employees is a major business asset. With the right culture, employees love coming to work and contributing. They are invested in each other and the business and want the company to succeed. At MacklinConnection, we have worked with companies who turned their whole business around by shifting their focus to creating a better work environment for everyone.

But what does a positive work culture look like?

Here, we discuss 3 qualities that create a company culture people are proud to be a part of:

  • Trust,
  • Celebrating Authenticity, and
  • Caring about others.

Characteristics of a Positive Workplace Culture

Kara Large: What qualities does a good work environment tend to have?

Deb Dendy: For me, a good workplace is about how I trust others, and how they trust me. We trust each other to make and meet our commitments. We trust each other to take care of each other. We hold each other accountable in a good way - not to blame, but to lift people up.

It's also about caring for others. Do I care about others? Do they care about me? Have they demonstrated that they care about what I care about - because sometimes that can be different.

And then good work culture also allows me to be myself. I can go to work, and I can be authentically me. I don't have to be someone different, or pretend like I'm someone different. I can just go and be myself. That frees me up to be creative and innovate, because I'm not having to remember who I’m supposed to be. I can just be me.

Positive Workplace Cultures Create an Environment of Trust

Kara Large: Trust was one of the first characteristics you mentioned. How does a company establish trust within its work culture? Where does it come from?

Deb Dendy: One of the first words that came to mind was transparency. There's no hidden agendas. There's no doubting you behind your back. People can rely on each other. And there's a sense of true teamwork instead of an underlying cutthroat, competitive atmosphere. 

How does it show up for you when you're in an environment where you can trust others?

Kara Large: It feels safe. It feels like you are able to share ideas and collaborate.

I've been in a workplace where you couldn't trust your coworkers. You couldn't share information. You couldn't ask for help. In the back of your mind you were thinking, "Well, this person just wants to get ahead. They might actually not give me straightforward information because they want to look good." And this then inhibits communication and creativity. No one is being open with each other so that limits the exchange of ideas.

But in a work culture where trust is prioritized, you can go to others for help and actually work together. When you go to someone for advice you know they are coming from a genuine place of wanting to help. You're not scared that this person is going to give you misinformation so they can look better. 

I think creating trust in a workplace comes down to leadership. If the leaders of a company are open and trust the employees, then I think it's more difficult for other people within the company to have competitive, disingenuous exchanges with each other.

Deb Dendy: This has me thinking about a bunch of people working in a cube farm, or at desks, that don't help each other. There's a bunch of individual contributors working on something where only their knowledge is used. How short-sighted is this? I can't imagine you would come up with the best outcome if it's just one person working on something. Compare that to a creative group of people actually coming up with the best solution.

Kara Large: And trust is the foundation. If you trust the people that you're working with, and you trust that leadership trusts you, then you're more willing to just throw ideas out there and try new things. If there's an environment of distrust, you're scared to share ideas because you don't know how it's going to be received. But when everyone trusts each other, you're more open to engage with other people, and that's where all the magic happens in a company.

The Importance of a Work Culture that Invites Authenticity

Deb Dendy: What does being authentic at work look like?

Kara Large: I can just show up and be myself. I don't have to be a different version of me. I don't have to be the more polished version of me. I can just show up, and if I'm feeling like a mess, I can say I'm feeling like a mess today, and I don't have to hide it. I have not experienced that until I started working with MacklinConnection.

In every other job, there was a different Kara that would have to show up. I think there was this idea that you're a different person at work than you are at home. Or you have to be a different person at work in order to succeed, or for people to like you or respect you.

It's so draining to have to be another version of yourself. It's almost like telling a lie. If you tell a lie you have to remember what story you told to someone in order to keep it straight. And then you use all of this mental energy to keep track. It's the same thing to me. It's almost like a version of lying. 

But when you're able to be authentic at work, you can focus all of your mental energy on what you're there to do. You're able to be more creative. You can share more ideas because you're not also thinking, "Wait! Who do I have to be now?" You can just be you. You don't even have to think about that. So it frees you to be the best version of yourself.

Deb Dendy: This makes me think about believing in yourself and believing in others. When you believe in yourself, you don't have to hide who you are.

I still remember being 9 months pregnant with my first child. She was 10 days overdue, so I was in the office until it was time to go. I remember how I had to act tough. I worked in a very male-dominated field, so I had to act like I was tough, But I was exhausted. I had to act like I was someone different. And they had no idea what I was going through, because they were all men.

I didn't feel like I was able to say, "Wow! I'm really tired today, and my ankles are pretty big. I'm going to put my feet up." 

And this makes me think about work life balance, too. When how you show up at work is different from the rest of your life, I can see why you would have to balance the two. 

How do you feel when you're not being yourself?

Kara Large: I feel tension. It can show up as physical tension, or it can be emotional tension. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I just feel tired.

There's a performance aspect to not being yourself. I'm playing one version of me at work. Then, at home, you can slowly start to feel like yourself again. 

Benefits of Creating a Work Culture of Authenticity

Kara Large: When you get to be yourself at work, how do you show up differently compared to when you have to mask who you are?

Deb Dendy: I can be free to share my ideas and share them in a way that's not about being right. People value me, and they value my ideas. There's a creativity that shows up when you're able to give all of yourself.

Kara Large: So if companies create an environment where people can be themselves, it leads to more engagement. There are more ideas being thrown around, more creativity, and therefore more solutions.

If you encourage a space where people feel free to just be themselves, and they don't have to pretend to be someone else, then that naturally allows for an exchange of ideas that might not be occurring otherwise.

Positive Work Cultures Emphasize Caring About People 

Kara Large: If you care about people, you trust them. You believe in them. You want them to be themselves. You care about what they care about, not what the "perfect" version of them is supposed to care about. And people can feel that. So they show up differently. They are more willing to give their best. They are more engaged.

Deb Dendy: Have you worked in an environment where you felt like people really cared about each other? And what did that look like?

Kara Large: The job that immediately came to mind is a law firm I worked at. My boss was a really good guy. He was the managing partner of the firm, and most of the employees had been with him for years. He took the time to get to know everybody. He knew all about my family. He was like that with everyone. It didn't matter if he had one employee or a 100 employees. He was going to want to know them.

And then that translated to other people caring about each other. Because he took the time to get to know me, it made me think, "This is how it is here. Let me get to know this person I'm running to in the break room." 

We would have holiday gatherings, and it wasn't a mandatory thing where you have to go. Everyone was so excited. We loved gathering together because we cared about each other. 

It was sad for me to leave. I only left because I was going to law school, and everyone encouraged me to do it. They cared about my best interests. I remember being so scared to tell my boss. But he said, "What help do you need? How can I help you? What support can I give you?"  

Because people cared about each other, we had great communication. We had trust.

At work, you spend so much time together, and it's weird to me that there are environments where people don't care about each other. That seems miserable. That's not a life that I want.

Deb Dendy: I think about how much it means for me to show up every day with a real sense of care for my coworkers. And what that also helps us achieve together. If we all care about each other that means we can have disagreements, too. We're coming from a position of care rather than a position of "I'm right." And this frees you to create something good together.

Creating a Positive Work Culture Leads to Success

Deb Dendy: This is making me think about how companies can notice if the work culture needs to change. People are not engaging in conversations and at meetings. People are just there to hold a seat. Or, being on zoom calls, they turn off their camera. So that they can really just hide.

Is that what you want in your business? You know that you're not going to get the best out of people in that environment. Employees are just showing up and going through the motions.

Kara Large: At some point, no is contributing anything of value. And eventually it seems like you would reach a stalemate where things are just trudging along. But you're not really growing as a company.

But when you create a workplace culture where people trust others, are free to be themselves, and there is genuine care for others present, people show up differently. They give their best. They collaborate. They share ideas. They come up with new, innovative solutions. And this allows your company to thrive.

And there have been so many studies to support that a positive work culture is paramount to a company's success

Do you feel like your company is a place people actually want to work? If not, we are here to help you. Whether you are already in a leadership role, or looking to influence a more positive environment in your workplace, we are here to help you create a work environment everyone wants to be a part of.

You can Schedule A Consultation with one of our executive business coaches to learn more about how we can work with your company.