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Is Your Organizational Culture Working Against Employee Engagement?

Date Published

Apr 19, 2017
5 minute read

“Organizational culture” and “employee engagement” are big buzzwords. Today’s organizations spend a total of $720 million each year studying employee engagement and countless hours nurturing their ideal culture, because research has shown us that both culture and engagement are critical for increasing productivity and retaining the best employees.

However, best intentions do not always end up generating positive outcomes. What happens when efforts to build a peak performance culture and grow employee engagement resist and repel one another rather than working together? The benefits built by an engaged workforce begin to slip away, and your leadership may not even realize what’s happening until it’s too late.

The following questions will help you recognize – and resolve – an organizational culture that stifles employee engagement.


Do your employees have a sense of autonomy?

An organizational culture that leaves employees little freedom to act or own their work can contribute to decreased levels of engagement and satisfaction. Employees who feel that they are trusted, capable, and free to make important decisions about their efforts and their time are more likely to be happy and productive.

Managers should be comfortable delegating responsibilities to their direct reports. Managing every decision is a drain on management’s time and does little to empower employees or encouraging personal growth. In order to foster a sense of authority, equip employees to do their jobs without bureaucratic backlogs and allow them to take ownership of projects, deadlines, and budgets. These smaller changes can contribute to a culture that makes individuals feel valued and trusted in the workplace.


Does your workplace feel safe?

If employees feel unsafe at work, their loyalty and engagement will suffer. But safety can take many forms, and it’s important to note that employees aren’t only affected by physical safety or harassment issues, but also by job insecurity and mercurial/poor management. An organizational culture that disregards safety-related employee concerns and emotions, regardless of their source, is an unpleasant working environment for everyone involved.

If a sincere evaluation of your organizational culture reveals a lax attitude toward employee safety, it’s time to take action. One way to increase safety in the workplace is to task a team of employees from every level with creating a plan to address issues. Leadership, especially, must be responsive and reassuring; acknowledge the error and communicate steps they plan to take to resolve any issues.


Can employees communicate freely with each other and with business leaders?

An organizational culture can emphasize productivity to the point that communication becomes stifled. While leadership may frown on employees who spend their day chatting at the water cooler, creativity and workplace satisfaction depend on giving employees time and space to engage with each other. In addition, employees need the freedom to communicate their ideas, feedback, and concerns with leadership without feeling judged or dismissed.

If a serious look at your organizational culture reveals a silent, empty break room and an employee base that hesitates to communicate honestly with leaders, something needs to change. Hold open-ended meetings that encourage employee feedback. Implement an anonymous suggestion box – and take the suggestions you receive seriously. Incorporate social time into the workday so that employees know they won’t be punished for off-topic conversation.


Do all of your employees have room to grow?

Bored, stagnant employees are disengaged employees. An organizational culture that lacks room for advancement may inadvertently lead to a decrease in employee retention and satisfaction.

Make sure that your organization emphasizes growth and development. Employee engagement doesn’t require a lateral career path for every individual, but it does require leadership to communicate ways in which employees can evolve in their roles. Financial incentives, leadership training, promotions from within, and additional responsibilities are all means of increasing engagement and developing a stronger workforce.


Did the questions above yield some difficult answers for your organizational culture? Subscribe to our newsletter for more tips to increase employee engagement within your organization, or contact us directly for support.