In recent years, I have seen a number of popular books try to describe what makes some workplaces more positive, great, or successful than others.
There is consensus that certain virtues must be present to become an “employer of choice” – a company where highly productive employees are steadfastly loyal and optimistic about the future.
These virtues are characteristics of the organization that are embedded in the corporate culture. They boost the reputation of the organization as employees share with outsiders that “this is a great place to work.”
4 organizational virtues that create an irresistible workplace:
1. Shared meaning and purpose
Great workplaces have an articulated goal or vision that energizes their employees and customers. Slogans and logos can provide some clues about the vision, but it’s the day-to-day practices that provide the real proof of its existence. Zappos is committed to “delivering happiness,” State Farm has established itself as “a good neighbor,” while Wegman’s philosophy puts “employees first, customers second.” These slogans all represent a commitment to serve others with excellence.
Are you focused on those you’re serving? Are your employees proud of the service they provide? Remind yourself of the overall purpose of your organization and make sure your employees know how they are contributing to your mission.
Employees are treated fairly in positive workplaces. Procedural justice means the decision process is transparent and fair, while distributive justice means the amount received is fair. But what makes procedures fair? First, there is consistency. Fair procedures guarantee that similar cases are treated the same. Second, those making the decisions must be seen as impartial and neutral; with the ability to reach a fair and accurate conclusion. Third, those directly affected by the decisions have a voice and representation in the process.
Positive workplaces provide autonomy. This means that employees have the freedom and flexibility to make their own work decisions. A comparison with good parenting may be helpful here. In contrast to either an authoritarian or permissive style of raising children, an authoritative style sets reasonable boundaries (with an explanation) and allows for some negotiation. This positive parenting style leads to children who are friendly, socially responsible, and self-reliant. Similarly, an authoritative leadership style leads to employees who are independent yet responsible.
Positive workplaces convey the message that everyone’s work is important. They treat their employees as individuals and not just a pair of hands. This means demonstrating concern not only for the workers but for their families as well. It means ensuring that people are placed in roles that are best suited to their strengths. It involves giving workers the freedom to be innovative without the fear of punishment for failure. It requires following through on commitments, promises, and contracts (even implied ones).
These 4 virtues provide what is positively good for human beings. The result is a positive climate, positive leadership, and positive impact. In practical terms, that means less absenteeism, turnover, and stress, along with higher productivity and engagement – good for your organization.
Baumrind, D. (1978). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology Monographs, 4, Part 2.
Park, N., & Peterson, C.M. (2003). Virtues and Organizations. In Positive Organizational Scholarship, K.S. Cameron, J.E. Dutton, & R.E. Quinn (Eds). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Peters, T.J. & Waterman, R.H. (1982). In search of excellence: Lessons from America’s best-run companies. New York: Warner Press.
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