What is workplace culture?

It’s important to define what we mean when we talk about workplace culture. But it’s not easy to pin down. Is it a set of values? Behaviors? Attitudes? Or customs and traditions? Well, it turns out it’s all these and more.

Forbes describes workplace culture as, “the environment that surrounds us all the time.” The jobs website Indeed says it’s a “collection of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment.”

“the way we do things around here”

Perhaps the simplest explanation comes from celebrated US management guru Marvin Bower, who describes it as “the way we do things around here.”

However we define it, workplace culture can be tricky to measure in any tangible way. It’s how it feels to be at work rather than a set of written rules. Every organization has its personality and atmosphere – and that’s not something easy to engineer.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Peter Drucker, the renowned management consultant, and writer said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And in the wake of unprecedented changes to working life, organizations are waking up to the fact that you can have the greatest strategy and the best people in the world, but it doesn’t matter if your culture isn’t right. Culture is the very air you breathe. If it’s toxic, your organization dies.

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