Got a stormy workplace? Or is it all blue skies and butterflies? How employees feel about their workplace is measured by asking about both morale and job satisfaction. Morale is more about how we feel about things that affect what we do and often involves many conscious and sub-conscious emotions. Job satisfaction is more about liking what we do in terms of the responsibilities and job description. You can love being a circus clown but really hate your boss and having to share space with monkeys.
All this here-and-now stuff is called the workplace “climate.” Which must not be confused with organizational “culture,” that slippery, jelly-like substance which some use to describe a company’s way of doing things and why, old traditions, plus values and what’s rewarded and punished. Of course with culture we have what’s on the wall poster and in the snappy employee brochures and what actually goes on. My definition of organizational culture is what employees can get away with.
So how does a culture link to the everyday workplace climate? Well, it’s all about “whether systems.”
In the natural everyday climate, whether it rains or shines depends on many factors coming together to impact your day. Same thing with the workplace climate. As you gaze to the left and see my little drawing, you’ll notice how connected things are that ultimately impact how you feel at work.
It starts with that bubbling stew of culture which is basically how things have always been done and why. Corporate culture dictates how your organizational structure looks. Lots of “whether” conditions here. The org chart, who reports to whom, how power is shared and controlled, and how many levels of order and decision-making exist all depend on whether the culture is uptight and controlling, easy flowing and curious, fearful or courageous.
You can’t have a corporate structure and org chart without giving the thing life. Just like you can’t have a human body with only a skeleton and no respiratory, digestive, and neural systems. Corporate systems include how communication, authority, responsibility, and accountability flow. Even more “whether” conditions here! Whether leaders and managers etc. are skilled and trained with the emotional and technical tools to share, listen, and envision. Whether there is teamwork and conflict management and whether or not respect and ethical behavior are part of the way things are done. And whether communication is two-way and whether or not adaptability trumps bullheadedness.
Which bring us to the workplace climate. Whether or not job satisfaction, morale, and other right-now indicators are sparkling or sour; whether employees are anxious to get started or can’t wait to flee; and whether the systems and processes are actually helping or hindering. All which result in workplace actions and whether or not it is what customers, clients, and others expect and support, and whether or not they are effective at achieving a company’s purpose.
Well, you’ve heard about the perils of climate change (talking about environmental weather conditions). There’s also a giant need for a workplace climate change in many places. But whether or not that happens is based on many things. Whether or not senior executives admit to the reality; whether or not employees are guided carefully through change; and whether or not leaders are willing to lift their gaze above the immediate moment, put aside egos, and agree that changing a climate may well require changing both systems and structures–which may mean questioning the culture.