3 Ways Workplace Culture Affects Employee Engagement

By Emily Bissel

The culture around us affects everything we do. On a larger scale, it influences the foods we eat, the languages we speak, and the way we interact with each other. On a smaller scale, the culture of our workplace impacts our engagement, happiness and overall well-being.


What is workplace culture?

Even though culture is all around us, even at work, it means different things to different people. Forbes defines workplace culture as, “The shared values, belief systems, attitudes, and the set of assumptions that people in a workplace share.”

OK, so how do we know if ours is good or bad?


🤗 The good

A good, or positive, work culture is one that prioritizes the well-being of employees, offers support at all levels within the organization, and has policies in place that encourage respect, trust, empathy and support.

Imagine starting work by checking in with your colleagues to ask how they are doing and offering compassion, kindness and support when they need it. Now, imagine having a manager who prioritizes trust, respect, care and gratitude. That’s a positive work culture.


😬 The bad and the ugly

A bad, or toxic (yikes), work culture is one that contains dysfunctional behavior, drama, poor communication, micromanagement, power struggles and low morale. It does not prioritize employee well-being at all.

Think of “tough-boss” Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and the toxicity she engulfed her team in. No one should be suddenly stricken with panic after voicing the ‘wrong’ opinion in a meeting or feel that guilty tangle of nerves as you realize you’re in competition with a close colleague for something or other.


😭 The struggle is real

There is a saying, “people don’t quit jobs, they quit poor company culture.”

Employees want to feel connected to their colleagues and to the organization's mission and core values. Simply put, employees want a positive work culture. And it’s clear organizational leaders want that as well. In fact, Deloitte discovered that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a positive workplace culture is important to business success. 

But, with the current mass layoffs, rollback of remote and flexible work, and increase in burnout and stress, employee engagement is taking a dip.

According to Gallup, the number of actively engaged employees has dropped to 32%, and 17% of workers are actively disengaged. Gallup also found that 40% of U.S. workers reported that their job has had a negative impact on their mental health, which was linked to an extra $47.6 billion in losses due to absenteeism.

For all types of organizations, employee engagement is not as easy as pie. But, the crust that holds it all together is: workplace culture.

Three ways workplace culture affects employee engagement


1. Psychological safety

Dr. Amy Edmondson, a professor at Harvard Business School, uses the term ”psychological safety” and defines it as “a climate in which people are comfortable being themselves.”

A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged. They can take risks and experiment. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution. Now, juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel afraid to speak up or share a new idea. It’s hard to imagine these workers can even allow themselves to be engaged at work.

Let’s look at Google and the internal study they did on psychological safety.

Google found that teams with high rates of psychological safety were better than other teams at implementing diverse ideas and driving high performance. They were also more likely to stay with the company. Claps for employee retention! 👏


2. Happiness

Across generations, workers are feeling more empowered to find happiness at work, and for good reasons. Harvard Business Review found that:

  • Happier employees are more engaged. And engaged employees show increased productivity as well as a lower rate of absenteeism.
  • A healthy work environment matters. A positive work culture encourages employee friendships, improves personal well-being, and ultimately benefits your bottom line. It expands employee resources and skills through improved work relationships, which increases worker creativity and problem-solving abilities.
  • Happy employees are less stressed. High stress leads to a number of emotional and physiological problems that can result in higher employee absenteeism. Having happy employees means that more of them show up for work, which prevents your work culture from depreciating.


3. Purpose

People are asking themselves questions like: What makes me happy and whole? What truly fulfills me? Why am I giving away so much of myself for little return?

Gartner found that employees are seeking a higher purpose at work. 65% said that they are rethinking the place that work should have in their life, and 56% said they want to contribute more to society than just their current job. IBM also discovered that there is a growing interest in employees wanting to apply and accept jobs from sustainable companies that align with their core values.

This is not surprising. Human beings have an innate desire to have a higher purpose in life without being limited to the purpose of earning a monthly salary or working for an organization that doesn’t align with their values.

Given all of this, ensuring employees are meaningfully connected to their work, their team and their company’s purpose is a key way to keep them engaged.



Ready to engage in meaningful conversations that will lead to a more positive workplace culture? Let’s chat about joining Team Membership.


Tags: Workplace, Employee Engagement, Well-Being

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