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Workplace Culture - An insight into how you belong . Rosie Ilett Active Member, Managers in Partnership Claire Pullar, National Officer, Managers in Partnership. What is workplace culture?.

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Workplace Culture - An insight into how youbelong

Rosie Ilett

Active Member,

Managers in Partnership

Claire Pullar,

National Officer,

Managers in Partnership


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What is workplace culture?

  • Culture in the work place is a term that refers to the mores, customs, and norms which characterise the interactions of members of a particular work group.

  • It will define expectations of dress code, methods of communication, taking of breaks, coffee at the desk, taking of annual leave and other leave e.g. parental or carer.

  • Much is formally prescribed in policies and procedures but a significant amount develops through the synergy of individuals and contexts.

  • If the majority of employees follow an unwritten but clear method of behaviour it can cause unease when one or a few employees do not. They do not fit with the behaviour expected and will bear the brunt of this perception.


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Why is it worth noting?

  • Directly impacts on employee motivation, staff turn over, health of employees, reputation, ability to innovate new ideas, and has a huge impact on the organisation’s productivity.

  • A workplace’s culture represents the way that an organisation operates. This includes how it treats employees, clients/partners and will expose risk areas.

  • This will establish whether is is a desirable place to work or to do business with.

  • Organisations have official and unofficial perceptions of one another and workplace culture is one of numerous factors taken into account.


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How can workplace culture affect health and wellbeing of staff?

  • The health and wellbeing of individual employees will affect workplace culture because a negative mental state and possible absence or performance issues are likely to impact not only an individual but their wider working group.

  • The culture within an organisation will impact on employees health and their colleagues, stakeholders, family, friends.

  • A healthy and supportive culture will impact positively on areas of employee life, including outside the working environment, leading to an improvement in their overall wellbeing.


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Positive staff?

  • Positive workplace culture is represented by a “can do” attitude to work which is essential for successful business and continuous improvement.

  • A positive workplace culture ensures a proactive and productive workforce by consisting of well motivated employees that value the organisation and are willing to go the extra mile.

  • These organisations will find recruitment and partnerships with other organisations easier to achieve as they are viewed as favourable and with motivated staff.


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Strong commitment and effective engagement with the workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Employees need to know what the rules are – what policies and procedures exist and what structures are in place.

  • Work needs to be a friendly non-hostile environment, not an environment where negativity and resentment develops – including from management.

  • An open, inclusive, and constructive workplace provides opportunities for employees to develop in their roles, network and support one another and build loyalty to the organisation and its vision.

  • Communication needs to be open and where this breaks down, to be mediated in a non blaming manner.

  • Encourage understanding and where behaviour has been of concern agree steps and expectations.


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How can this be achieved? workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Inspirational and Trusted Leadership

  • Reward and Recognition

  • An Open minded Culture

  • Office Workers - A Simple Exchange

  • Collaboration on a Common Goal

  • Encourage Development

  • A Changing Environment


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Negative workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • A negative workplace culture takes a defensive approach to work and has little interest moving forward - resulting in obstacles to achieving objectives.

  • Decisions will often be made without full staff awareness and little involvement.

  • Communications are likely to be controlled and partial, leaving people feeling that they are not included.

  • The organisation may have gone through restructuring or major change that has not been appropriately managed or resolved.

  • Often negative workplace cultures have a high turnover of staff as they try to escape unpleasant environments.


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When things get even more negative…. workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Collective behaviours embody negativity and lack of collective approach.

  • Organisational culture can become skewed.

  • For example, through bullying, harassment and mobbing.


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Unpleasant environments – bullying 1 workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF) definition :

    persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.

  • Commonly associated with abuse of power typically by line manager or supervisor over subordinate staff. However, other power relationships may lead to bullying by colleagues or a group who may target one individual.

  • Less commonly managers may find themselves bullied by subordinate staff who use the threat of higher powers or formal procedures to make unreasonable demands.


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Unpleasant environments – bullying 2 workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • The forms that bullying take can replicate those for harassment.

  • Include: undermining individual’s professional ability in front of other staff by comments on quality of work; undue and persistent criticism; removing responsibilities and taking credit for work achieved; creating extra work or disrupting an employee’s ability to work by over-evaluation; setting impossible deadlines and withholding information; isolating staff by treating them as non-existent and preventing them accessing opportunities.

  • The impact on the individual, and not the intention of the perpetrator, determines whether bullying has occurred.


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Unpleasant Environments - Harassment workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Institute of Personnel and Development definition:

    unwanted behaviour which a person finds intimidating, upsetting, embarrassing, humiliating or offensive

  • Harassment tends to be directed on account of specific characteristics - for example: race or ethnic origin; gender or sexual orientation; trade union/professional organisation membership (or non-membership); disability; ex-offender status; age; AIDS/HIV; health; physical characteristics; personal beliefs.

  • Forms range from the use of offensive language to extreme violence. In whatever form, it is unwanted, unwelcome and unpleasant. It may include: physical contact; jokes; offensive language; gossip or slander; posters or graffiti; isolation or non-cooperation; coercion for sexual favours; intrusion by pestering,spying and stalking.


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Unpleasant Environments - Mobbing workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • The term is borrowed from ornithology

  • Dr Heinz Leymann, in the 1980s, defined human mobbing as "an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker" usually without appropriate cause.

  • Prof Westhues discerns four stages in the mobbing process:

    1 A period of social isolation - no one talks to you, but they talk about you2 Petty harassment and hassle3 The "critical incident" - you do something indictable, while the spotlight is on you - miss a class, misuse office equipment: "Aha! Just as we thought". 4 Adjudication. The authorities are alerted. Another academic lynching.


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Characteristics of Mobbing - 1 workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • The principle characteristic - conduct by a group of employees, which if done by an individual would be seen as "picking-on" or bullying.

  • Conduct can be deliberate and consciously co-ordinated, but as likely to develop more or less spontaneously without a conscious plan, but as result of a barely conscious "copycat" atmosphere.

  • Often insidious, difficult to detect, harder to prevent once discovered and potentially incurable.

  • Is usually triggered as the mobbee is perceived as a threat – either to an individual who then instigates the mobbing behaviour and encourages others to participate or by a group who by consensus commence the mobbing behaviour and encourage others to participate.


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Characteristics of Mobbing - 2 workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • The normal result is that an employee suffers deteriorating health, consequent loss of performance and eventual dismissal or resignation.

  • The key element in mobbing, different from the usual types of constructive dismissal, is that the conduct is by other employees and not the employer.

  • "Corporate bullying", which shares many of the features described in this article, is of conduct by the employer and can be regarded as an established form of constructive dismissal.


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Mobbing – descriptions of witnessed behaviour workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • As things escalate, there may be round robins or "confidential" deputations to higher authority. Usually they will concentrate on poor collegiality and teamwork. In extreme cases the victim can be mobbed into exiting the employing organisation.

  • Mobbing is difficult to respond to because there is typically no single, or identifiable, perpetrator.

  • The victim is, typically, at bay - surrounded by a pack.

  • The complaint ("he/she is not doing his/her job, as we are/does not belong as we do") is, ostensibly, respectable. The mobbee is not being picked on. Legitimate grievance is being aired – democratically.

  • The word mobbing is preferred to bullying in continental Europe and in those situations where a target is selected and bullied (mobbed) by a group of people rather than by one individual


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Impact on the mobbee workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Exit from employer.

  • Loss of self esteem, self efficacy, self confidence as unable to identify exactly what has been experienced or how then to respond and deal with it.

  • Mental health compromised – often a period of suicidal ideation.

  • Not fit to participate within national workforce.

  • Can take two years for recovery to begin.

  • Personal relationships suffer due to health needs and unexpected financial restrictions.


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Impact on the organisation workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Needs to replace employee.

  • Has destructive culture accepted and defined as appropriate method of pressuring those who are unwelcome to leave.

  • Empowered mobbers who will utilise the same behaviour again.

  • Risk of challenge and tribunal if mobbee a member of an organisation that will represent him/her.


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Mobbing v bullying v harassment workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • Do you recognise what has been described as mobbing ?

  • Is this different to bullying or harassment?

  • Would this be useful to recognise within the workplace?

  • How did our mini exploration exercise make you feel?


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References workforce can promote culture for the better.

  • What is Work-Place “Culture” and Why Do I Care – Money Instructor.com

  • mobbing in the workplace by Roderick Ramage, solicitor, www.law-office.co.uk

  • Partnership Information Network – Dignity at Work pdf 0043088

  • What is mobbing – Bully online

  • Workplace culture – Investors in People 2008

  • Not strictly for the birds – The Guardian 2006 (education)

  • Researchers on mobbing/recommended authors

  • Dr. Heinz Leymann

  • Prof Westhues


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