For our family, we would never accept a culture of drudgery and pain. Yet in our workplace culture, it’s practically a given that only about 15-20 hours will be productive, because on Mondays workers are dragging their feet, and on Fridays they’re mentally on vacation. Why do we see work as a necessary evil, but home as our reward? Why can’t the two concepts be integrated?
Companies and leaders sometimes accept negative workplace culture as normal. It’s debilitating to the human spirit, and creates a breeding ground for discontent, boredom, back biting, and complaining.
There’s a better way. Ethical, authentic leaders can turn their company cultures around by treating the company as an extended family. Employees want and crave this sense of belonging, loyalty, and passion. They want to have fun, healthy relationships at work. They want to feel supported, understood, and fulfilled in what they’re doing. Employees want to be part of a group that cares about them!
Here are 10 strategies that can turn a negative culture around using a novel “family” approach.
Reinforce The Idea Of Family
Regard employees as family members. Incorporate the language of family into work dialogue. When leadership begins to distance itself from the term employee and use the word family, energy changes within companies. Family members don’t “write up” other family members; they support and nurture when they can. Family doesn’t “fire” other family members without just cause. Discipline within the family is constructive, not punitive.
Keep Your Workplace Family Healthy
Parents care about their kids’ health and well-being. Why don’t companies feel the same way about their employees? Create opportunities for employees to eat well and exercise frequently. Provide facilities, and offer incentives for them to stay healthy. Make sure laughter, play, adequate rest, and friendship are part of your physically and emotionally healthful workplace environment.
Fix Up Your “House”
Employees have suffered long enough in concrete structures that give them a poor opinion of themselves and the company. Change up the cubicles and workplace to encourage comfort, companionship, and creative interactions. Design spaces that allow plenty of dialogue, even nonwork dialogue, among your team members.
Help Them Thrive
Employees don’t need to be “managed.” They desire opportunity, training, development, and the support of leadership. Just as you might introduce opportunities to children to see where their interests and talents lie–via sports, cultural enrichment, or travel–leaders can support the growth of their employees by providing mentoring, teaching, and encouragement in their area of specialty and even across disciplines.
Lead From A Shared-Oversight Model
A free-wheeling environment doesn’t work in a company any more than it does in a family. Be a boss, but set up a management model using shared decisions and authority from the top, one that offers clear rules and guidelines, with well-articulated consequences as well as rewards. In a healthy family environment, discipline and nurturing go hand-in-hand.
Schedule Family-Like Discussions
In families, there is usually conversation over dinner or breakfast with parents. At work, this could be coffee hour or a “lunch-in”–a time for group members to spend time with the leadership team members. Kids crave attention from their parents and learn from talking to them. Parents also learn from their kids. The same is true of employees and managers.
Create A Support Network
In families, it’s often the older sibling, an aunt, or a grandparent who steps in to offer support. At work, leaders can provide a similar support structure with mentors or a mentor group for newer employees. This mentor relationship is important for support, friendship, and learning.
Connect In A Familial Way
Healthy families find ways of connecting, even in times of duress and poor performance. Change venues for delivering difficult messages or having personal communication. These conversations could be dealt with outside walking the grounds, rather than behind closed doors. Interviews could even be performed while walking in a nearby park, where all parties would be less nervous and more spontaneous.
Offer Competitive Play
People from big families often remember family sports competitions or Monopoly games fondly. Competition is important to group dynamics. When we play–particularly when we exercise while playing and having fun–our problem-solving abilities increase dramatically, as does our emotional health. Try a company trivia night or softball team.
Don’t Separate Home Life And Work Life
We bring home-based concerns into work and work issues home with us. It’s possible to create a work environment that enables these two worlds to exist harmoniously. Companies can offer life-balance solutions–pets in the workplace where possible, childcare options, job sharing, or parental-leave options. Cut the workweek or allow one day per week of telecommuting–and watch productivity soar.
The concept of “family” alchemizes the company, transforming it into a caring group of family members working for a common good in a supportive environment. Make the leap from traditional company norms, a life of sterile cubicles, 8-hour shifts, and an unproductive business environment. Do so by introducing changes slowly, from the ground up rather than top down. Let employees feel heard and empowered to create. Provide them the authority and tools to make it happen.
Read more: Finding Success in a Family Business