Don’t be a culture killer



3 best practice tips for managers


Monitoring and maintaining your workplace culture is a key to mitigating organisational risk.


Workplace culture can be understood as the norms of your workplace – the ways things are done. This is reflected and reinforced by a range of factors such as organisational protocols, work design, branding, and the behaviours, communication patterns and underlying assumptions of the leadership and staff.


A robust work culture helps to protect employee wellbeing and drives staff engagement and performance. Conversely, if cracks begin to form and are not promptly addressed, the damages can be costly and the culture can become toxic. Low productivity, high staff turnover, work injuries, complaints and claims are a few examples of the potential fallout.


Read Toxic workplaces | This Working Life, ABC RN + listen to the podcast >

Read Poor performance or poor behaviour? | Best Practice, ABC RN + listen to the podcast >


Managers and supervisors play crucial role in the day-to-day maintenance of the culture, which requires an in-depth understanding of the organisational values and policies, managing the employee lifecycle, providing employees with training, and protecting employee mental health and wellbeing.


Practicing clear, regular communication sits at the core of a manager or supervisor being effective in their role. Here are three best practice tips for managers:


1. Set clear expectations


Workplace conflict can be caused by miscommunication, such as unclear roles and expectations, differences in values, goals or communication styles and conflicting priorities. Managers should set clear expectations from day one of employment, and follow up with regular check-ins to discuss achievements, areas for improvement, future objectives any feedback or concerns. The organisation’s process for reviewing performance should be outlined in your performance management policy.


2. Reinforce the organisational policies


Workplace policies and procedures help shape the work culture by outlining clear expectations and providing a consistent approach to managing workplace issues. Best practice for new employees is to induct them into your organisation and provide them with a copy of your workplace policies and procedures. But how often do you reinforce the rules?


Don’t assume that your staff remember or understand the organisational policies. It is important to provide opportunities for review, especially when changes or updates are implemented. Running a refresher training or info session is the best way to ensure that your staff are well informed.


Read The must-have policies for your workplace >


3. Respond promptly to feedback, concerns or complaints


Serious workplace issues such as claims of bullying, harassment or misconduct should always take urgent priority for a manager, from the moment you become aware of the alleged issue. Not only are you legally obliged to respond, your employees expect you to put their safety first and take their feedback seriously.


When investigating complaints and grievances, it is important to follow procedural fairness, which is this ethical, best practice way of handling workplace conflict. This process includes taking complaints seriously, responding in a timely manner, conducting a fair and confidential workplace investigation, following a communication plan to discuss the matter, giving the parties involved plenty of notice and time to prepare and respond, offering the parties the option to bring a support person, and providing a timeframe for any decisions or further action.


Before commencing a workplace investigation, management should consider who internally will conduct the investigation, whether they have the right skills and experience, and whether there are any internal bias which could affect the way the investigation is conducted. As an alternative, hiring an independent workplace investigator may be the most suitable option for some employers.


Read How to handle a grievance at work | Best Practice, ABC RN + listen to the podcast >


To gain insight on any red flags in the culture, some employers will engage an experienced HR advisor to facilitate a review of the cultural climate. This is a proactive process that helps shed light on the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours shared by the people in your workplace, and provides a safe outlet for them to reveal any tensions or concerns. With this information, employers can consider their options for improving the culture.


For more information and tailored support, please contact us today.