Straight talk and trust are the tonics for post-pandemic work: building and shaping desired workplace culture

Posted on June 2nd, 2021 by Gil Sawford

The pandemic has taught us that we need to be in the community. Just as we recognise it takes a village to raise a child, we now appreciate we need close engagement with our workplace community, in its various contexts, to be fully effective and for each of us to truly belong.

As we emerge from the pandemic and work our way through the challenges posed by toxic workplaces, many individuals, professional or workplace groups, teams and organisations deserve and probably need a tonic.

People benefit from belonging to and participating in social groups that confirm their sense of self-worth, security, and trust in others.

Research has shown when people build and sustain trust with colleagues and communicate openly, collaboratively, and supportively, they experience a boost to their resilience, their level of engagement, to the quality of their relationships and to their well-being.  Moreover, their job satisfaction and performance are enhanced.

These benefits, for both individuals and organisations, organically emerge as workgroups set aside a few minutes at their regular meetings to reflect on how things are going in achieving their ideal workplace, sharing confidently, openly, and honestly about how they are working together and what they can do to improve things.

In this safe, trust-based environment everyone is encouraged and supported to bring all of themselves – to give of their best selves, skills, passions, experience, insights, wisdom, sense of humour and fun – to the workplace and to support their colleagues.

New staff quickly get to know, get connected with, strike relationships and positive communications with their colleagues and vice versa.  They contribute quickly and openly to the workplace, feel listened to, respected, valued and heard.

Individuals feel good about themselves – proud to be part of an effective, respected, collaborating, high performing team.  This positive mood is catching – it spreads like a virus!  The group feels good and positive about itself.

This is the tonic.

These dynamics work together to generate something like a steady drip-feed of positive energy – like adrenaline – into the workplace.

If you could see a list of active ingredients on the label of this tonic, you would see concepts like empowered self-regulating group processes, reflective conversation, straight-talk, authentic behaviour and voicing – the very ingredients found in high performing teams.

Regardless of how long organisations and their workers operate under current workplace pressures, those businesses, teams, professional cohorts, or workgroups that focus on the workgroup and its members’ relationships will have a process for continuously recharging the resilience, well-being and sustainability batteries of both individuals and workgroups.

Social relationships at work play a fundamental role for individuals, workgroups, and organisations in nurturing their health, well-being, and effectiveness.

Corumbene Care chief executive Damien Jacobs is a leading operator in the aged care sector whose organisation has embraced and implemented the Building and Shaping Desired Workplace Culture approach. He comments on its effectiveness:

Getting the breadth and depth of experiences in a 24/7 business is never easy – we recognised this was required to ensure the outcome was going to have a long-term positive impact.  By adding ‘toolbox’ meetings to our existing communications, team, and departmental meetings, we were able to get the results we were after.  This took time, but with a common goal, this was achieved with the Building and Shaping Desired Workplace Culture approach.

“What we learned through this approach is what we did not have – that we cannot now do without.  The tools and permission to shape our behaviours and how to perpetuate them.

“This project has given us all permission to highlight and celebrate stories of where behaviours have aligned with our core values.   Another initiative was to provide staff with vouchers that they could share with anyone that reflected these values through their behaviours.  This was a simple process, to support acknowledgement at the source, at the time.  The gift cards identified which value was being celebrated and could be redeemed at many of our local coffee shops.

“Through this approach, everyone is given permission to highlight what is consistent with our values, but equally, to call out those behaviours which are not.  The conversations on the latter are generally at a level outside performance management, but just as powerful.”

These community-building practices also lay the foundations for effectively managing future waves of change for the emerging workplace, with its inevitable challenges, for creating and bringing to life an organisation’s desired future.

This article was written for, and published in, The Mercury on 1 May 2021.

The authors are Graham Gourlay, Gil Sawford, and Damien Jacobs. Graham Gourlay consults and researches in the field of Organisational Development, Gil Sawford is a Business and Management Consultant with WLF and Damien Jacobs is the CEO of Corumbene Care.

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Straight talk and trust are the tonics for post-pandemic work: building and shaping desired workplace culture

time to read: about 3 min