Definition of Workplace Culture

by Van Thompson - Updated September 26, 2017
Smiling businesswomen talking and working together

Workplace culture -- sometimes called organizational culture -- affects everything from how much your employees like their jobs to how likely they are to timely complete tasks. All of the subjective elements of how you run your business are a part of office culture, and choosing people whose skills and personalities complement your workplace culture can help your business thrive.

Social Environment

The social styles and skills of your employees heavily affect your office environment. Some offices embrace an environment in which co-workers are friends who joke with one another and are invested in each other's lives. Other offices are more distant and professional, and many offices fall somewhere in between. Attitudes toward other workers are also a product of office culture. An office that does not embrace diversity, for example, might be more likely to have employees who bully or ostracize its only minority employee.

Approach to Management

There are dozens of management styles, and each style can affect workplace culture. A business owner who rules by fear may lead managers to adopt the same style, resulting in anxious and anti-social employees who are terrified of trying new things. Managers who encourage creativity may promote a more experimental environment. The degree to which a manager controls her employees' time may also affect how quickly and whether projects are completed.

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Physical Environment

The physical environment of an office can affect everything from employee morale to social interactions. An environment in which most people hang photos of family members and keep their doors open may be more informal and friendly than a sparse environment decorated only with electronics. An open floor plan could encourage employees to socialize more, while employees who have offices may be more inclined to talk to people whose offices are closest to their own.

Communication Styles

Although every worker adopts her own unique communication styles, some communication styles are more prevalent at each workplace than others. One workplace might embrace a direct, staccato style. Another might encourage workers to invest in one another's personal lives and make small talk throughout the day. A boss's approach to giving feedback and directions also affects communication style. Bosses who are highly critical, for example, may foster a workplace that communicates failures more readily than successes.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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