September’s Coffee & Collaboration event was a return to virtual meetings after our two in-person events of the summer, but that certainly wasn’t a deterrent for the 11 new and familiar faces that joined the discussion. The topic of this month’s coffee chat was conscious culture and, more specifically, how workplace culture plays a role in both healthy and toxic work environments.
At the top of the meeting, C3MD President Liz Richardson shared a video about conscious culture, one of the four pillars of conscious capitalism. Along with the video, there were discussion questions meant to stir conversation (not that we ever have problems sharing our thoughts – respectfully, of course) and serve as a jumping-off point for a more guided discussion.
- Have we clearly articulated our company values?
- Do those values align with our purpose/business model?
- Do those values support a workplace full of love, joy, and meaning?
- Do we have hiring, promotion, and development practices in place that support conscious culture?
- Are we bringing our whole selves to work?
- How can we create an environment that cultivates feelings of belonging?
Almost immediately our group realized that creating a conscious culture is closely tied to prioritizing the identification and alignment of the organization’s core values. The language that is crafted to represent the mission and vision of the company needs also to align with the actions of the organization and the individuals that work there. Participant Sonia Chapin offered that when it comes to making decisions in the workplace, “It’s important to have a vision and mission but then it’s important to develop the values. If you can show that you’re exhibiting a value that’s important to the organization then you’ll be on the right path.”
When we moved on to the question, “Do those values support a workplace full of love, joy, and meaning?” participants took pause. Most agreed that those three words – love, joy, and meaning – don’t necessarily belong in a discussion about work. While it’s important to hold toxic individuals and behavior accountable in the workplace, words like “welcoming” and “supported” seemed more appropriate than “love” and “joy.”
Many of us in this discussion have or continue to struggle with “bringing our whole selves” to work, or “covering.”. One participant admitted that he’s struggled with “covering” for years, finding it particularly difficult to meld his personal self with his professional self in environments where it seemed like the leaders of the organization didn’t welcome transparency. Liz Richardson offered the insight that “covering” requires some employees to essentially have two jobs, “the job that they were hired to do and the other job of managing impressions.” She pointed out that if employees are hesitant to push back or raise points of conflict in meetings then that should be a red flag for leadership. “Conflict is healthy if it’s done well. If you have a healthy culture then you feel free to do that.”
Finally, when discussing what companies can do to cultivate belonging, we found that it isn’t always easy to measure engagement and support belonging. The truth is, belonging is fluid, a point made by member Danielle Marshall, who happens to be a Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) coach. “It shifts as people’s needs shift.” Companies can (and have often) tried to measure employee engagement through surveys but, as Danielle mentions, the data collected is only as good as the questions asked. Ultimately, if you don’t know how to appropriately analyze the data and/or utilize it for change, then how can it make a shift toward employees feeling valued?
We all agreed that to truly shift culture, companies need to listen and try to understand their employees and their needs. “I think there is an assumption that difference equals bad,” Danielle said. “Difference is what makes us wonderful. As leaders, it is our job to dive into what those differences are. It’s not a problem to solve. It’s how are we going to grow and thrive in this organization that makes us truly diverse. And it brings new skills and ideas to the table that were unseen before because they didn’t have a place to live.”
We couldn’t agree more! Thanks to everyone who attended.
Join us for our next virtual Coffee & Collaboration in September, where we’ll focus on Conscious Culture. Register here.