An organization’s culture can sometimes be the difference between life and death. More than 4,500 job-related fatalities occurred in the US (OSHA) in the 2013-14 calendar year. This means that, on an average day, twelve people went to work but did not return home to their families at the end of the day.
In our experience, the underlying culture of a business is a significant causal factor in employee safety. Culture, in this sense, is “the way we do things around here”—“the way we approach our work and treat each other.”1
“If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.” – John Mackey, Whole Foods Market
There are many individuals who got up this morning unhappy with their current job or position in life. It could be they had great expectations after finishing college, or they decided their previous career was not well-suited for them. Some even went back to school to get an advanced degree, just to find out the degree would not be a cure-all for their disenchantment. Whatever the case may be, there is no shortage of employees who are unhappy with their jobs. According to Gallup, over 70% of workers are unhappy with their place of employment.1 One big cause: Organizational culture.
Given that organization development consultants are fundamentally agents of change, it’s no surprise that many of the questions they ask us about our culture and climate surveys focus on levers for change. Most recently, an attendee at the 1st Annual Ultimate Culture Conference submitted a note card asking, in reference to the Organizational Effectiveness Inventory® (OEI) and my presentation on How Culture Really Works, “If you were to focus on one category of causal factors (structures, systems, etc.), which would you choose?”
The book I am writing1 is the result of an unpredictable journey in healthcare and my complete respect and admiration for the caregivers in healthcare organizations in the United States. I believe every organization has the capacity and potential to create a work environment that is purposeful, fulfilling, constructive, and fun. Yes, fun! It’s not strategy; not finance; not technology. It is organizational culture that trumps everything else in healthcare.
Are the numerous and varying reactions to Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld’s New York Times article on Amazon’s culture really just about Amazon and its culture? Or is the real debate about whether it is acceptable—or even desirable—to create, drive, and reinforce norms and expectations for Aggressive/Defensive behavior in organizations? Based on thousands of blog posts and comments, I believe it is the latter.