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Workplace culture – myths vs reality

April 10, 2019

By Mary Corrado, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Culture tends to be an often-misunderstood concept, yet it is one of the most crucial elements of organizational success. An article I read recently on outlines some common myths around culture.

Some of my favorites from the article include:

There is a right and wrong type of culture.
Cultures vary by the nature of the business.  For example, Zappos is known for it’s fun and caring culture, but that might not be effective in another organization that has a more competitive nature among its employees (for example, sales).  However, there are certain qualities that are detrimental to any culture, such as negative or untrustworthy environments.  Even in a competitive environment those qualities will reduce morale and have a negative effect.  Lack of praise will also create a negative workplace and reduce morale.

Culture is only about pay and perks.
This is probably the biggest myth surrounding workplace culture.  You can have the best pay and perks around, but if the work environment is miserable you will lose talent.  Workplace culture is the way things get done in the organization and should align with the organization’s core beliefs and purpose.  In today’s competitive environment, talent can almost always find the same pay and even perks, but it’s the workplace culture that will set one workplace apart from the next.

Open offices encourage collaboration.
I actually know of several organizations that transitioned to an open environment, and collaboration was reduced.  Employees felt they were disrupting everyone around them if they needed to speak to someone.  It created an increase in email as a communication tool.  A recent study published by Royal Society Publishing stated that employees spent 72% less time interacting and spent more time emailing each other in an open office environment.  Open office environments have been shown to increase stress and absenteeism.  It’s best to be sure to have a combination of open and private workspaces.

A great workplace equals happy employees, no conflicts, and few mistakes.
This one is so important to make sure leadership understands.  Without conflict and differing opinions, an organization or department cannot grow.  Mistakes are also crucial…if you are not making mistakes then you are likely not challenging yourself or your team.  It’s important to try new things and learn from those ideas that don’t pan out.

Culture costs more than it pays.
Studies have found that 40% of employees state they benefit when their own goals are in step with their company’s goals.  A small investment in talent development can produce a strong ROI in productivity and performance.

What are some common myths you’ve heard about culture?  Please share them with me at

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