The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications

E071 - Positive Workplace Culture

James: This week we're going to be talking about what it means to have a positive workplace culture and in order to kind of get into that frame of mind. Joanna and I are both going to talk over this episode in the next episode about our experiences with both good and negative workplace cultures.

James: So Jo tell us a little bit about your experiences with some workplace cultures before you got to the church you're out now, your current role. I know that you had a number of different very interesting jobs and you definitely learned some things from those workplace cultures. So can you tell us a little about about a little bit about it?

Joanna: Yeah. Before I went into church work in communications and media for church I worked in high tech. I lived in Waterloo, Ontario which they call Silicon Valley North, there's probably a few other places who call themselves that but in Waterloo there's a huge tech hub it's originally where BlackBerry came from, the phone that nobody uses anymore. But at the time it was a huge huge company and IBM and Google and there's just tons of tech companies have their offices that come out of Waterloo. So I was involved in that kind of culture. The stereotype of tech companies I think when people think of them is like how Google feeds their employees all the time and there's all these sort of like quirky things that are involved in tech companies and some of that is actually quite true of my own experience. Like the first job I had coming out of University of my business communications degree. I worked at this company where they had the foosball tables and the pool tables and all the stuff in the lunchroom. But another thing they had which I haven't seen everywhere but this company had was they had beer on tap. So like in general in theory at any time like they had right like non-alcoholic drinks so they had fridges full of you know soda and juices and all this kind of stuff just free for the taking. But they also had a couple of beer taps that in theory at any time you could go and have a beer. But I think that's part of they built into the culture that you were a responsible adult. And so just because the beer was there didn't mean you were going to act inappropriately with alcohol because you have a job. And that's why you're actually there so that it was never a problem. On Fridays in the late afternoon people knew you could you'd go down and have a beer with other people in sort of the hangout room. And it was always just sort of viewed as like a nice perk of working there was that they were treating you like a grown up that you knew how to handle yourself with these kinds of things that were available to you. And even that was part of the culture not just the beer but actually they expected you to have a respectful relationship to it as part of your work. It was the kind of place where people were going around scooters all the time in the office place and had these parties a lot for us. A few times a year they'd bring in big known bands and do big concerts for us as a staff. There's a lot of fun. But that said in that same period of time in my life I worked for another tech company and it was the total opposite. I'm not naming any of these places because you know we don't need to go into what their names are but. This other company was really toxic. There was like a very performance based measurement on everyone's deliverables for the day. Right down to the day you had to like show all the metrics of what you performed. And people were quitting all the time. It was really hard to like hire new people or like they would get people who are really good at what they were doing but they were so good that they knew that they could leave that they had other options and so they were leaving all the time and going other places. It was just a really unhappy place to work at that time I only worked there part-time but if I'd worked there full-time I probably wouldn't have lasted as long as I did. I only had to be there a few days a week and everyone when they knew I didn't have to come in the next day would like they'd look up from their desk kind of longingly at me knowing that I didn't have to come in the next day but they did. And it was just a really negative culture. So not all high tech is the stereotype of the like scooters and games and fun stuff going on all the time.

James: So coming out of those experiences what are some really quick things that you can point to that you learned from both the positive and the negative?

Joanna: Yeah I think one of the number one things is that when you treat your employees like autonomous and respected adults it goes a long way like the culture of the one company was they had this alcohol available but nobody abused it. And then on the other hand they were wanting like detailed lists of everything you'd accomplish that day. That just like weighed on you and made you feel like you were constantly having someone breathe down your neck. And so this idea of the culture of having people who are free to make good choices on their own really was a good learner for me about how to build good culture. The second thing is like people want to have fun they want to have opportunities to build relationship with the other people they work with all day. And when the company can encourage that and encourage that kind of fun and freedom through whether that's through rewards like these kind of fun celebratory events that they would have for us or it was through just offering a space for us to hang out and enjoy a good lunch break it made a huge difference for us coming into work every day and being proud to work there and wanting to be part of it.