CUL­TURE CLASH

WORK­ING WITH NEG­A­TIVE, MA­NIP­U­LA­TIVE, SELF-AB­SORBED AND MIS­TAK­ENLY SU­PE­RIOR TYPES HEAVY ON BITCHY, PITHY COM­MEN­TARY? MAKE CHANGES, AND FAST, BE­CAUSE A TOXIC WORKPLACE COSTS NOT ONLY MIL­LIONS, BUT THE BEST EM­PLOY­EES.

GQ (Australia) - - INC. -

Apos­i­tive of­fice at­mos­phere is about more than the odd af­ter-work drinks. Those things are fun, don’t get us wrong, but com­pany cul­ture is help­ing or hurt­ing your bot­tom line more than most re­alise. If an of­fice is rife with gos­sip and neg­a­tiv­ity, it may lead to high staff turnover, in­creased ab­sen­teeism and loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity. A Har­vard Busi­ness School re­port even claims keep­ing on a ‘toxic’ em­ployee can cost the av­er­age busi­ness more than $20,000 per year – due to loss of co-work­ers who de­cide they can’t tol­er­ate the en­vi­ron­ment of neg­a­tiv­ity. Yet pos­i­tive cul­tures can have the op­po­site ef­fect. The London School of Economics found mea­sures taken to im­prove em­ployee health and well-be­ing im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity with an an­nual re­turn on in­vest­ment of more than nine to one per dol­lar in­vested. A strong workplace cul­ture will in­crease in­no­va­tion and sales and lower staff ab­sen­teeism and turnover. So, it’s of­fi­cial – hap­pi­ness is good for busi­ness. Just ask US on­line fash­ion store Zap­pos. Its CEO, Tony Hsieh, thinks it’s so im­por­tant he’s cre­ated 10 core val­ues: 1. De­liver wow through ser­vice. 2. Em­brace and drive change. 3. Cre­ate fun and a lit­tle weird­ness. 4. Be ad­ven­tur­ous, cre­ative and open­minded. 5. Pur­sue growth and learn­ing. 6. Build open and hon­est re­la­tion­ships with com­mu­ni­ca­tion. 7. Build a pos­i­tive team and fam­ily spirit. 8. Do more with less. 9. Be pas­sion­ate and de­ter­mined. 10. Be hum­ble. Be hum­ble, weird, ad­ven­tur­ous and open­minded. Not bad for what is, re­al­is­ti­cally, a gi­ant shoe seller. And since the com­pany was sold to Ama­zon in 2009 for $1.6bn, workplace cul­ture has ex­ec­u­tives tak­ing no­tice. Still, pos­i­tiv­ity isn’t some­thing that can be bought with a Christ­mas bonus. A 2014 Gallup poll said staff re­spond bet­ter to gen­eral workplace well­be­ing than ma­te­rial ben­e­fits, and the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia found a 31 per cent in­crease in em­ployee pro­duc­tiv­ity when man­agers pro­vided en­cour­age­ment. “Re­search in neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and neu­ro­sciences shows peo­ple func­tion at their most pro­duc­tive, most cre­ative and make the best de­ci­sions when they feel psy­cho­log­i­cally safe,” says Michelle Bi­hary, founder of train­ing out­fit Workplace Re­silience Aus­tralia. And the best way to cre­ate that sense of safety? “Staff, em­ploy­ees and man­agers alike treat­ing each other with kind­ness and re­spect.” So, be­fore you in­stall a workplace gym or ping-pong ta­ble, try in­vest­ing in small things such as recog­ni­tion and gen­uine thanks. Aside from cre­at­ing an en­joy­able workplace, it pro­duces a rip­ple ef­fect – like any other at­ti­tude, pos­i­tiv­ity is con­ta­gious.

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