Company Culture – Leadership or Everyone?

28 January, 2020

Everyone wants their workplace to be somewhere they enjoy going to. But who should decide what makes up the company culture and who is responsible when it goes awry? The boss? The team? Both?

Company culture is essential inside and outside your business. A positive, productive company culture means people want to join your company, work hard while they’re there and stay a decent amount of time. On the other hand, a bad company culture can make you famous for the wrong reasons. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy tee-heeing at 1-star reviews on Glassdoor?

So, who should decide what the culture of a company is going to be? Should it be the founder, the CEO or the leadership team? Or, should culture come from the bottom up, from the employees at the coalface?

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but we believe that if the leaders encourage their employees to create a culture that is right for everybody, everybody wins!


Top-Down Culture


When you first think about it, it does seem pretty reasonable that the leadership gets to create the company environment. After all, they were probably there first. They know the company inside and out, its strengths, weaknesses and goals. Leaders have a better idea of what will drive high performance, as well as what is not practical at all.

On the other hand, most leadership teams are not as diverse as they should be, so they’ll take a traditional approach when it may be better to be creative with your culture. There may also be a big age gap between the leadership and the rest of the team, so what they might think will improve company culture may end up ruining it.


Bottom-Up Culture


So, how about getting the employees to create the company culture? This sounds sensible as well, as it’s these people that have to come to work every day. In an ideal world, employees will collaborate and create a culture where everyone looks forward to going into the office; a safe, open environment that works for everyone.

However, it may not work like this in practice. There are always people in teams who like to take over. They shout louder to get what they want and complain more when they don’t. It’s difficult to please everyone. Plus, when you put inexperienced people in charge, it could get out of hand. I’ve seen many companies that have a drinks trolley at 4 pm on a Friday, but no one’s putting Jagerbombs on there!


The Middle Way


Call us fence-sitters if you like, but we think that a good leader who genuinely cares about workplace culture and employee wellbeing will give their team a say. They will help their employees and encourage them to build a culture that works. But, they will stop it descending into anarchy.

Here’s how you can help your team to create a strong company culture:

  • Get your team to help with hiring – To make sure you only hire people that will fit in well, get your employees to help at every stage of the hiring process, from writing the job spec, to interviewing, to final selection.
  • Have a communal area for breaks – Culture can’t flourish if everyone is at their desks all day. Create a break area and let the team help design it. It will be somewhere they can talk, let off steam and bond. Plus, everyone loves a ping pong table!
  • Spend time out of the office – You don’t have to have regular company outings, although your team will love it if you do. Many companies have charity days where their staff help good causes in the local area. It promotes team bonding and reinforces your company’s values.

You should also have a comprehensive programme for employee wellbeing. Work can be tough and different people handle pressure in different ways. If employees need help, have something in place for them. It shows you care.

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