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Riding the Wave: How Everyone Contributes to Organizational Culture

Have you ever been at a baseball game where a small group of people in one section of the stadium decide to stand up and raise their arms while making a noise? This behaviour spreads to nearby people, who also stand up and raise their arms. The process continues in sequence around the stadium until the whole stadium has participated, creating a wave-like effect.

The psychology behind the wave is rooted in social influence and group behaviour. It is a form of social contagion where one person's behaviour influences the behaviour of others in the group. So why do people join this behaviour? Nobody told them that they needed to participate. They will not experience any negative consequences if they don't participate. So what's in it for them?

One explanation for the wave's popularity is that it creates a sense of unity and belonging among the fans. When people participate in the wave, they feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. This sense of belonging can be a powerful motivator for behaviour. Another explanation is that the wave creates a sense of excitement and energy in the stadium. The movement of the wave can build anticipation and excitement for the game, and this energy can be contagious, spreading to other fans and even the players on the field. Personally, I enjoy the visual effect that it creates, and I have a sense of obligation to participate so that, as a whole, we can all experience the phenomenon. I do not want to be the one that hinders the group or makes the experience fail.

Organizational culture has very much the same kind of influence and effect on its members. An organization's culture is shaped by the collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of its members. Therefore, everyone in an organization contributes to its culture, regardless of their position or role. Everyone is also responsible and needs to participate in shifting to a more positive and inclusive culture.

If your organization is experiencing a hard time remaining competitive, seeing high voluntary turnover, or experiencing higher than-normal negative feedback on employee surveys, you don't throw money at the problem; a culture shift may be what you need to get back your competitive edge. A culture shift can improve performance, increase innovation, attract and retain talent, help adapt to change or address a toxic or dysfunctional culture.

So you have decided to make a culture shift.

How do you get the organization to catch the wave?

Communicating a desire to make a culture shift to employees can be a delicate process. First, it involves acknowledging that the current culture may not be working and may require change. Here are some steps that can be taken to communicate a desire to make a culture shift effectively:

Start with leadership: The leadership of the organization must be fully committed to the culture shift. They should be the first to communicate the need for change, articulate the vision for the new culture, and lead by example.

Communicate clearly and openly: Leadership needs to be transparent about the need for change and clearly communicate its reasons. Use plain language and avoid jargon or technical terms that may be confusing.

Set clear expectations: Clearly articulate the new behaviours and attitudes expected in the new culture. Provide examples and training to help employees understand what is expected of them.

Involve employees: Involve all employees in the process of creating the new culture by seeking their input and feedback. It gives more opportunities to communicate, helps build buy-in and ownership of the new culture, and encourages innovation and new ideas.

Measure progress: Establish clear metrics and milestones to measure progress towards the new culture. Regularly communicate progress to employees and celebrate successes along the way.

Reinforce the new culture: Continuously reinforce the new culture through ongoing communication, recognition of desired behaviours, and alignment of systems and processes to support the new culture.


The leadership of an organization plays a critical role in shaping its culture. Leaders can set the tone for the organization by modelling desired behaviours, communicating values and goals, and providing guidance and support. So, what can leadership do to contribute to the development of organizational culture?

Mission and values: The mission and values of an organization can help establish a shared purpose and direction. When employees understand and share in the organization's mission and values, it can help create a sense of unity and purpose.

Workplace environment: The physical and social environment of the workplace can also shape organizational culture. Factors such as office layout, dress code, and social norms can impact the way employees interact with one another and their overall sense of belonging.

Communication: Effective communication can help build trust, collaboration, and a positive work environment. Communication should be clear, concise, and easily understood by all employees. Use plain language and avoid technical jargon or overly complex explanations. Be transparent about decisions, plans, and goals. Provide context and background information to help employees understand the "why" behind decisions and actions. Use a variety of communication channels to reach employees, such as email, social media, video conferencing, and in-person meetings, and communicate the same message often.

Work practices and policies: The policies and procedures of an organization, such as performance management, training and development, and reward systems, can shape how employees behave and interact with one another.

All Employees

So what can every employee, no matter their position in the organization, do to catch the wave and do their part?

Modelling behaviour: Employees can model behaviours that align with the desired organizational culture. This includes demonstrating the values and beliefs that the organization promotes. Seek out the values and goals of the organization and find how the company would like you to interpret them and demonstrate them in your daily activities.

Communication: How employees communicate with one another can significantly impact organizational culture. Positive and constructive communication can foster a positive work environment, whereas negative or unprofessional communication can damage the culture.

Collaborative problem-solving: When employees work together to solve problems, they can build a culture of teamwork, cooperation, and mutual support. These behaviours can help create a more positive and productive work environment.

Continuous learning: Employees can help encourage a positive and innovative work environment that embraces change and new ideas if they themselves foster a growth mindset. Continuously learning and developing new skills can help create a culture of growth and development.

Organizational culture is an essential element that can determine the success or failure of a company. The collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours of its members shape the organization's culture. Everyone in the organization, from the leadership down to every employee, has a role to play in contributing to a positive and inclusive culture. To make a culture shift, it is necessary to start with leadership, communicate clearly and openly, set clear expectations, involve employees, measure progress, and reinforce the new culture. Then, we can create a work environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and success by catching the wave and doing our part. Remember, everyone contributes to the culture, and we all have the power to make a difference.


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