Building a Positive Workplace Culture: Why It Matters

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Your Next Five Moves" by Patrick Bet-David. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How would you describe your company’s culture? How well do employees know—and embrace—the company’s values?

Once you’ve hired the right people and incentivized them to stay, building a positive workplace culture is your next step. This is the view of Patrick Bet-David, who argues that culture is critical because employees must identify with the company and its values if they’re going to put in their best effort.

Read more to learn about the importance of shaping your company’s culture.

Building a Positive Workplace Culture

In his book, Bet-David lists culture as the third step of creating a winning team, after hiring and retaining employees. However, others see establishing a strong culture as preceding the successful retention of employees. This is because, when employees feel like they’re part of a culture and community, they’re more likely to stay.

According to Bet-David, building a positive workplace culture can be done by creating a set of company principles (for instance, honesty and diversity) and acting on them (for example, by leading CEO Q&A sessions and establishing a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee). Behaving in accordance with your principles lends you credibility in your team’s eyes.

(Shortform note: In How Will You Measure Your Life?, Clayton M. Christensen agrees with Bet-David that it’s critical to enforce your cultural values. If you don’t, the values and methods employees currently use will become the culture. If those values and methods are undesirable [or even illegal], then you’ve lost control of the culture and possibly the company.)

Additionally, encourage constructive honesty by communicating your expectations and whether employees are meeting them, writes Bet-David. Tell your team to create healthy conflict by challenging each other to improve based on the company’s principles.

(Shortform note: Kim Scott’s concept of radical candor is arguably a more nuanced look at Bet-David’s constructive honesty, which Scott applies mostly to supervisor-employee relationships. Scott breaks radical candor into two components: showing care for the employee and showing a willingness to have difficult conversations that improve their work. When it comes to inter-employee relationships, Scott believes employees should practice radical candor in a healthy debate culture. By teaching your subordinates to demonstrate care and honesty toward each other during debate, you encourage them to improve each other’s ideas without draining anyone’s emotional energy.)

Building a Positive Workplace Culture: Why It Matters

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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