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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Markgraf

How Managers Can Build a Robust Workplace Culture, One Communication at a Time

Updated: May 31, 2023

Workplace culture is much more than free snacks and foosball tables. At its very core, culture starts and ends with the way we communicate with each other.

People communicating around a table

Language is the building block of culture. It influences our thoughts and feelings. Consider this: Many languages divide nouns into masculine and feminine genders. The German word for bridge is feminine, while the Spanish word is masculine. When native German speakers are asked to describe bridges, they use words like beautiful and elegant. Spanish speakers use more masculine descriptions like dangerous, long, or sturdy.

If something as simple as noun genders influences how a person perceives a bridge, imagine how your words will affect your workplace culture! We must be strategic about communicating with employees to create a flourishing environment.

1. Be Positive

Take a minute to reflect on the way you talk about other people, whether it is other employees or clients. Have you found the positive about them, or have you been negative? Your tone sets the example. I have worked with companies where the leader consistently complained about "problem" clients with everyone in the office. They put down former employees as lackluster and lazy. That same person wondered why the office had so much negativity.

People gossiping about a coworker

Employees took their cue from this leader and mimicked their way of speaking. The norm became finding fault in others. It created a culture where people started to wonder what was said about them behind their backs.

The environment was not healthy and needed to change immediately. We openly discussed the problem as a staff and agreed they could change the office norms by working together.

Everyone brainstormed ways to change and came up with two strategies. The first was to employ a gesture when someone started to be negative. The second was to implement the Negativity Jar. Everyone agreed to put money in the jar if someone called out their negativity. Working together, they will slowly change the culture in their workplace.

2. Overcommunicate

My husband's first boss had a mantra that he used so often that my husband still repeats it 30 years later: Communication, communication, communication. Modern workers face an onslaught of information daily, and discerning the important from the unimportant

can be difficult. Overcommunication is essential in today's workplace. Why?

communication with a bullhorn

Repetition helps cement ideas in employees' brains. Deliver that repetition using different methods, like verbally and in email. People retain information in different ways. By employing several delivery methods, you will have a better chance of meeting everyone's needs.

Overcommunication is not a reason to verbally vomit all the information you know. Instead, focus on just two or three critical things employees need to know to do their job. Reinforce those main points several times in several ways. Good communication is not time-bound. You may find that you need to repeat information for months. This is a part of human learning and a great way to keep everyone moving in the right direction.

3. Start with WHY

Gone are the days when employees unthinkingly followed the directives of their leaders. Gone are the days of staying at one company over a lifetime of work. Today's workers must use more critical thinking skills than their predecessors. Businesses that require continuous improvement need innovative and creative employees. To do this, we must encourage people to ask, "Why?" As leaders, we also have to be ready to explain why.

Employees want a vision of how their input moves the company ahead. They need more than the directive to run a report to motivate them. You can engage them by telling them how that report will be used to make crucial decisions. Explaining the why will take more time, but the rewards of increased engagement and innovation are worth it. You are signaling your respect for the employee and that you value them.

Communication is the foundation of culture. Be positive. Overcommunicate. Start with WHY.

What will you do today to be more intentional about your employee communications?

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