Cultivating a Comfortable Office Culture

on February 17, 2012 at 8:00 AM

They say the clothes make the man, but could the clothes make … the office?
What about team building exercises? Or lunch outings? Or open door policies?

How do you define culture at your office?

This question might sound open-ended and the answer might seem elusive, but it is perhaps one of the most important any manager or employee can ask.

Office culture affects almost every aspect of an organization — from relations between employees and management to purchasing decisions. Ultimately, it makes or breaks an organization, which is why understanding it is so crucial.

Ken Boxer, CEO of Strategic Partners, Inc., recently posed a question about office culture on GovLoop, seeking member perspectives and providing his own ideas.

While many respondents agreed that cultivating a positive office culture can create value for citizens and colleagues alike, office culture should evolve naturally. A strict set of guidelines could in fact create negative office culture and stifle staff.

One human resources specialist suggested collecting and sharing multiple points of view from employees.

“My own organization does not have a defined culture, but is an amalgamation of separate cultures. I have to say that I envy Zappos, which has a solid culture built on [the] 10 Zappos Family Core Values. They publish a ‘Culture Book’ each year, which is full of quotes from employees about how they live these core values. Truly inspiring!”

Joseph Porcelli, Director of GovDelivery and GovLoop Engagement Services, said that fostering positive office culture doesn’t have to be complicated. One of the core practices he has implemented is “Weekly Rituals,” which involves having lunch with co-workers he doesn’t see on a daily basis.

There is, of course, always more to learn about office culture. Candace Riddle, a standards manager at the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, said she’s currently doing research on the topic, “I want to discover how the culture of the individuals within an organization affects the ability to build capabilities overall.”

No matter what the culture is in your office, it is important to remember that it is something that can be changed through focused attention by managers and employees alike.

About the author: Dorothy Ramienski Amatucci is a GovLoop Graduate Fellow and a Graduate Student in the Communications, Culture and Technology program at Georgetown University.