What is Culture?

Culture can be defined as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

Such as

  1. the arts
  2. the humanities
  3. intellectual achievement
  4. intellectual activity - including the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
  5. civilization
  6. society
  7. way of life
  8. lifestyle
  9. customs
  10. traditions
  11. heritage
  12. habits
  13. values

Taken specifically into the workplace - culture is about habits, behaviours , ways of doing things and traditions. The phrase that puts it all together being, "the way we do things over here".

Values, ideas, social behaviour is about culture - the accepted habits and ethics of the workplace. 

This makes culture an important indicator and drive for success or failure in the workplace. With the right culture, people feel safe and can contribute and work together beautifully and with the wrong culture people feel unsafe and begin to work against the company subconsciously.

So what makes cultures good or bad?

Good cultures are inclusive and respectful of differences. They are mature in the way that they function, as they encourage no juvenile bad behaviours such as bullying and harassment with a focus on safety and respect for all. Safety here means trust. Trust in the fact that all and any wrongdoing will be dealt with - whether reported by the person affected or another. Safety means an openness to truth and a strong response against behaviours that can sabotage that safety. This means behaviours such as bullying and harassment or discrimination are strongly discouraged and disciplinary measures taken and be seen to be taken. 

One of the measures of culture is how we treat vulnerability. 

Good cultures will respect people's vulnerabilities and ensure that privacy is maintained and there is  no exploitation of vulnerabilities . Bad cultures feed on fears and undermine and frustrate people based on their vulnerabilities to ensure that they feel unsafe and fearful at work.     

Another measure of culture is assertiveness.

How assertive do you feel you can be in your workplace?

Psychology Today defines assertiveness as a social skill that relies heavily on effective communication while simultaneously respecting the thoughts and wishes of others. People who are assertive clearly and respectfully communicate their wants, needs, positions, and boundaries to others. Do you feel that you could assertively ask those who push your boundaries to stop without fearing repercussions.

Can culture be measured?

Culture is famous for being an intangible. This means that it cannot be fully seen or measured, but aspects of culture such as the kind of behaviours witnessed at work, work engagement, surveys around specific values and work disengagement can be measured.

Surveys around behaviour allowing people to input examples of what they feel is negative behaviour should be at the fore of all measurements. This is simply because negative behaviours breed bad culture and measuring it gives a better overview of culture in the distinct setting of the office. 

Key Measures

  • Behavioural surveys
  • Value questionnaires
  • Culture questionnaires
  • Absenteeism and leavers data.

Cultures form like habits - a series of unchallenged behaviours continue in the workplace over time until they become the norm. The higher rewarding, the behaviour - the faster the take up into culture if left unchallenged. Culture is in essence tradition and passes down through experience of how it is accepted in the organisation over time. This means to tackle culture, unsafe behaviours need to be tackled from where they start as early and regularly as possible. 


How do we tackle it?

We assess the culture of the company using several indicators

  1. Behavioural indicators 
  2. Value indicators
  3. Absenteeism and retention indicators

Behavioural Indicators

Behavioural indicators include indicators for a range of unhealthy behaviours found in the workplace. To assess this, a formal though anonymous survey is used to track the regularity and presence of these behaviours in the departments or sections of the workplace. For this to be effective -

it is carried out over a period of 1 to 2 years at regular (quarterly) intervals.

Value Indicators

Value indicators give an overview of how company values affect the relationships between people at work and the company and its workers.

This too is carried out through a formal but anonymous survey.

Absenteeism and retention indicators 

These link behavioural indicators to complaints and absences as well as leavers to give an insight to how the culture of the company affects employee engagement and retention rates.


For more information or assistance with your culture assessments or measurement of culture - contact ebere@incillation.com


Assessing and measuring Culture...