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Flipping a Toxic Work Culture Series: Identifying your Organization's Culture

In prior posts, CPR recommended the importance of identifying your organization's culture. The posts noted that the organization's culture is likened to your organization's personality. For a small business owner, this may signify that the organization functions the way the founder and or current CEO functions. So yes, it begins with the type of leader you are. As a reminder, a toxic leader fosters toxicity. Conversely, a transformational leader fosters a more creative and positive work environment. Now that we have reviewed the basics, this series aims to lead you and your organization to create a cohesive, high-performance team. Let's first get into the nuts and bolts of Organization Culture (OC).

Today, there are many models to OC; CPR's post focuses on the Father of OC Edgar Schein. Dr. Edgar Henry Schein was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management with specialties in organization management. Edgar Schein states, "Organizations do not adopt a culture in a single day. Instead, it is formed in due course of time as the employees go through various changes, adapt to the external environment, and solve problems. They gain from their past experiences and start practicing them every day, thus forming the culture of the workplace. The new employees also strive hard to adjust to the new culture and enjoy a stress-free life."

Schein proposed that three levels exist within an organization, where the OC takes form and is most visible; they are (1) Artifacts, (2) Espoused Beliefs and Values, and (3) Assumptions. Believe it or not, whether you are virtual or operate within a brick-and-mortar, your style, colors, and dress code are all signals categorized under artifacts. Similarly, your mission, vision, and value statement are typically given to a new employee and transmit what Edgar Schein defines as your espoused values. Lastly, the assumptions and beliefs held by you and your employees are driven by their perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. While OC has different levels when working with larger organizations, such as subculture and micro-culture, CPR focuses on the organizational culture within small businesses. The below model illustrates the degree of visibility for each level.

Schein defines Artifacts as tangible, overt, or verbally identifiable elements in any organization. Architecture, furniture, dress code, and office jokes exemplify organizational artifacts. Artifacts are the visible elements in a culture, and a visitor can easily detect them. Now that we have a better understanding of the first element, Artifacts. Do you know what your OC conveys to a potential customer, contractor, surveyor, investor, collaborator, or visitor? If not, the below exercise will assist with your organization assessment. In the exercise below, you can easily make changes as a small business owner if you identify a negative cultural flag.


This series requires self-reflection on the part of the leader. From the definition of the artifact element stated above, what message does your organization convey? During your zoom meetings, do you have your logo in the background? In your business office, do you have the slogan visible? Is your office furniture leather, wood, glass, or crates? As the leader, do you have a sign on your office door that reads, do not disturb? Do you have a typewriter in your office? Do you depend exclusively on a typewriter to communicate information? Are your files in place, or do you have a chaotic file room? Do you have tons of paper, or do you have a scanning system to archive files? Since CoVID, telecommuting has become one of the new norms. Are your employees working from home allowed to attend meetings in their jammies?

While this blog can only touch the surface, as a leader CPR's one-on-one coaching is available where you can conduct a deep dive into the world of organization management. For now, take your time to respond to the questions above, document your responses, reflect on them and ask why your responses are positive or negative. This might be the key to opening the door of the unknown. Stay tuned.

Warm Regards,


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