Who’s Responsible for Establishing Workplace Culture?

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When we set out to build Speakfully, one of our key objectives was to provide clarity for those facing situations rife with uncertainty, namely, workers experiencing mistreatment and those seeking to create better workplaces.

Through its suite of support, documentation, and reporting tools, Speakfully seeks to preemptively answer questions these individuals might have.

“What I’m experiencing feels inappropriate, but is it outright harassment?”

“How do I address being mistreated once I am ready to take action?”

“Are there underlying issues at play with our corporate culture that enable mistreatment?”

Questions like these are accounted for via support resources and the UX of the platform. But one larger, more philosophical question remains, that’s tougher to address via in-app experience:

“Whose responsibility is it to foster a safe, welcoming, and supportive workplace culture?”

This isn’t a rhetorical or trick question. There’s really an answer! And the answer is—perhaps unsurprisingly—everyone! It truly takes a village to cultivate a working environment in which every person feels cared for, safe, and able to be their full selves.

How Leadership Can Chip In

When you think of structural issues within an organization, who are you likely to attribute the most blame? Probably those at the top, right? It’s completely reasonable to assume that many workplace cultural issues begin with leadership, just like it’s completely reasonable to give credit to those same higher-ups when things are going well.

With that in mind, in order to get all employees on board with organizational cultural initiatives, it has to come from the top down, beginning with C-level employees. If these leadership figures aren’t trying to promote and contribute on an ongoing basis to a positive workplace culture, no one else in the organization will either.

Not to say a trickle down of enthusiasm from executives to mid-level leaders guarantees a healthy, happy workplace, but it’s certainly a requisite for one. Leaders who disavow and proactively work to stymie toxicity at work are essential, both by drawing firm lines in the sand, and by setting the tone for the rest of the team. And when mid-level managers live by the same beliefs as C-levelers who are committed to eliminating mistreatment, that’s a large portion of the full equation in place.

How HR Can Chip In

The people in a conventional workplace whose stated responsibilities most likely, and most explicitly include the handling of mistreatment allegations are those in HR. So naturally, they shoulder a substantial burden when we are addressing our earlier question: “Whose responsibility is it to foster a safe, welcoming, and supportive workplace culture?”

HR staffers play their part in countless ways, but by continuously encouraging employees to speak up, fostering transparent and open conversations about mistreatment in the workplace, and by holding people accountable and taking action when needed, they fill a unique role in this process. They take the edict from company leaders, and serve as catalysts, bringing the vision to life.

How the Rest of Us Can Chip In

But what about those non-HR, non-executive employees? Surely they’re at least partially responsible for workplace culture as well, right? Right. 

Their role in workplace culture is just as important as the CEO’s. They can play their part by working with HR, management, and C-level employees in their efforts to improve workplace culture. 

Employees can actively build more positive workplaces simply by being open to organizational initiatives around transparency, or by using and giving consistent feedback on tools provided to them. 

To make lasting, positive change in the realm of workplace culture, all involved parties have to be involved and work together.

Employees who feel their managers aren’t doing enough should pressure leadership to do more. Executives should take it upon themselves to motivate staff to actively participate in culture-boosting initiatives. And HR needs to make sure all parties are working together and not in opposition to one another.

It’s a delicate balance to strike. But it’s absolutely imperative for organizations to do so!