Stop monkeying around; beanbags are not the answer.

I’ve always been a huge movie buff, ever since the TV was used as a rainy weekend babysitter in our house growing up, and as I grew up in the UK, this meant we were baby sat by the TV a lot.

It was on such a drizzly Saturday afternoon recently that I defaulted to this approach with my own kids by sitting them down to (selfishly) watching an old school sci-fi classic.  A movie with arguably the best twist ending ever, Planet of the Apes (1968)

I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen it, but it triggered a conversation in our house, which ended with the discovery that there is/was a proposed Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast of America to balance the Statue of Liberty found on the East coast.

Being the inquisitive person (geek) I am, this concept intrigued me and I read a little more about the idea and then how I think this applies to some of the issues we’re seeing in business, in particular when we talk about creating the perfect workplace culture.  (Stick with me, it’ll make sense I promise)

Many businesses here in Auckland are making dramatic changes by increasing the freedoms available to employees at work; be they flexible hours, casual clothing policies or beanbag breakout areas, all in the pursuit of a ‘better’ workplace culture, which will (hopefully) stimulate; collaboration between departments, product innovation and ultimately unlock revenue growth.

The anecdotal evidence I have suggests that in many cases, these ‘Google’ type changes have uplifted and disrupted people in equal measure, but have not brought about a better working culture in business.

Why?

After reading about the reason behind the proposed ‘Statue of Responsibility’, I believe it’s because something is missing to balance out the influx of beanbags into the CBD.

The psychologist and Holocaust survivor Victor E. Frankl (who was the first to envision a ‘Statue of Responsibility’) talks of responsibility being the positive counter to Freedom (represented by the Statue of Liberty), without which Freedom is merely an arbitrary action lacking any clear purpose.

This brings me nicely onto purpose in the workplace (Simon Sinek would be proud).

Without purpose and meaning at work, we will not be content with where we are and what we do and it is this which results in a poor workplace culture, irrespective of the number of beanbags in the office.

To be content, all of us as human beings must feel a sense of achievement and to achieve, we must set or be set a goal.

Which is why; we save money, run marathons or collect stamps.  A sense of achievement obtained through setting ourselves a goal.

Now, when it comes to financial growth, it is the role of business leaders to set goals and it is your responsibility as employees to take the appropriate actions to achieve them.

The same it is when it comes to workplace culture.

Businesses have generally set a clear goal on what they want in regards to a positive workplace culture; better team communication, increased interdepartmental collaboration and individual ownership, so it is now over to you to take responsibility to build that positive environment for yourself.

How?

1) Control your role – Take ownership of what you do every day, don’t be afraid to make decisions and if you make a mistake, fix it, put in a process to ensure it doesn’t happen again and most importantly, communicate it with those that need to know.  If that’s not enough for the business you’re in, then you’re in the wrong business.

2) Be ‘that’ guy – Always smile and say “Good Morning” to your colleagues as you walk into the office.  If you’re looking to others to kick start your day, you’ll be waiting a long time, instead get on with it and kick start your own.  After a while you’ll see that your colleagues just needed someone to show them the way.

3) Social Club 101 – If you want an office environment where people head to the local bar on a Friday afternoon for a couple of cold beers (but currently all quietly disappear to join the traffic on State Highway 1), then be the one to organise it.  Make sending out a weekly invite a habit; accept that initial numbers will be low, but persevere, because positive changes do not happen overnight.

4) Break down walls – This one could be scary for some of you, but what if one day you took an interest in something someone was doing in another department in your business.  You could start it by saying something along the lines of “I’ve walked past this way for weeks and have no idea what you guys do” or “Apologies for disturbing you, but what does this whiteboard diagram mean?”  It doesn’t really matter what you say, what matters is that you connect to others in your business.

5) Stamp your mark – Don’t be afraid to be you and not your role at work.  You’re a person, not a corporate imposter and as we all know, people connect with people, not roles.  Stop behaving in the way you think your role should behave and instead be you, because that’s who was hired.

Culture comes from people not beanbags.

Your personal changes alone probably won’t lead to a positive workplace culture, but much like a statue, they symbolise to others your passion to create a positive workplace culture and they can act as a beacon of inspiration to others who want the same thing as you.

As always, if you like what you read, pat me on the back and reinforce my insecurities by liking or sharing this article.

If you want to read more totally amazing, thought provoking and dare I say it, life altering articles from this most humble of authors, feel free to click here.

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