Can Employees Change Culture Without Leaders On Board?

Think about your people. Each and every person on the team is a part of your company’s culture. Are they excited to come to work every day? Do they enjoy working with others on their team? Do they help each other out when needed? Are they passionate about seeing your company succeed? Have you ever used one their ideas? But most important, are they happy doing their job?

Leaders can’t just leave employees in the deep end—to sink or swim—thinking they should just be happy to have a job and expect them to be responsible for their own happiness. It’s the job of leaders and HR to set the the foundation for happiness. They need to provide tools people need, a leader and team that is easy to work with, a culture and vision people want to be a part of. People want to find meaning and purpose in their work. Only 2 percent of people say they work just to pay the bills! Leaders and HR also need to be aware of what’s going on in the workplace. But what if the boss simply doesn’t care about employee happiness—or your company’s culture?

Do you sit back and watch as your employees fly off—one after the other? Or can employees take charge and change the company’s culture on their own?

Here are some things you can encourage your people to do before taking that drastic last step:

1. Help out a coworker. You don’t have to wait for your manager’s permission to attempt bringing your team—or the company—together. What if you have a team that is difficult or departments that aren’t working well together? What if you decided “Today I’m going to help one of my coworkers out. I’ll go above and beyond or do a kind act that I by no means have to do.” What if that person you help then goes on to help another coworker? Just as negativity is contagious, so is happiness and thoughtfulness. Start today. Don’t wait. If you take the first step, most people will want to give back when they’ve been dealt a nice turn. Then, do it again and again. You can start with your own team. Then hopefully it will travel throughout departments until it permeates the entire company. Remember the butterfly-flaps-its-wings effect . . .

2. Be open to new ways of doing things. What if you stepped up and tried something new? This might mean you have to get out of your comfort zone. If you’ve noticed a particular problem, why not take it into your own hands to improve it? If you notice that the meetings you’re having are draining time, why not suggest to your leader that a stand-up meeting might help everyone out? If you’ve noticed that one of your coworkers is overworked, why not suggest a tool that could help? It’s not just up to leaders to find solutions to problems. Or improve process issues so it can help everyone feel happier about their work. And hey, if you’ve got your coworker’s back, they just might have yours next time.

3. Show positive results. Experimenting with new ideas might not always go as you hope. Others may resist. But if you have success, share it with your leader or manager. Show them the difference. Hopefully numbers and successes will be affected. Outline the data and show it. Most leaders will understand the value of better numbers or improved results from your efforts.

4. Share something you’ve learned. Maybe you learned about something you think could help your company or you read a book that inspired you. If you think it could help out your team, share it. Or better yet, suggest you read it an article or book as a team. And discuss solutions for your own team or company based on the suggestions. Or simply share an idea at a meeting that you think might help. Hopefully it will give others a better perspective, and they’ll all know you’re trying to help them and the team.

5. You don’t have to be the boss to recognize good work. Sometimes recognition from peers is just as powerful or maybe even more than if it came from the boss. If your boss isn’t the type to recognize and reward good work, then step in and do it. Recognition feels good, no matter who’s giving it. You know when you see good work and can tell (sometimes more than a manager) when a little lift is needed by your coworkers.

Of course, sometimes when people have tried everything they can to turn around a toxic situation, they must leave. And we all know how hard it is to lose (and have to replace) great people. So don’t let it get this far. Encourage your people to try out some of these simple tips—and try them yourself. Even one person can make a difference.

This is just a taste of what our upcoming webinar “How To Create a Happy and Productive Culture” will offer. Our own CEO Ben Peterson is teaming up with Officevibe’s co-founder Jeff Fermin to share their experience with other leaders and HR and discuss how to determine what makes employees happy, who is responsible for employee happiness and why having a happy and productive culture turns into long-term company success. Register now for this free webinar on July 17.

Photo by StefaniaVS/CC BY