Employee Behaviors and Your Workplace Environment Are Linked
Does your work environment promote the right behaviors? To answer this question, some argue that workplace cultures are created by the specific actions people take. Others argue that people change when their environmental circumstances change.
We believe that both are true and that people’s behavior and the environment in which they live and work are inextricably linked. In fact, employees tell us that behaviors and their work environment affect each other so profoundly that they cannot easily be separated.
Think of behavior as the “way” we conduct ourselves and think of the environment as the “context” in which the behavior occurs. For example, most people behave differently at a party with close friends than when on a job interview. This is a simple example of the environment shaping our behavior.
An Interesting Experiment on Work Environment
Our country’s distress at the opioid epidemic has fostered all kinds of innovative ways of trying to deal with this tragic situation. But here’s one that was new and interesting to us. Retailers in some of the hardest hit areas were at a loss as to how to prevent users from shooting up in their rest rooms, endangering themselves and others.
Turkey Hill Minit Markets, a 260-store chain based in Pennsylvania, changed the environment. They installed blue lights in their bathrooms. How does it work? The blue lights make it difficult for users to find their veins. They are forced to go elsewhere to shoot up.
And, like most environmental changes, it seems to be changing behaviors. In blue light stores, there are far fewer needles or overdoses. How can you learn from this experiment?
How We Define the Work Environment
Let’s start with how we define the work environment. We believe it is a leader’s job to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their people in a way that fits with the organization’s core values, behaviors and strategies. Does your work environment promote the right behaviors? Based upon this assumption, we have found that high performance environments have three attributes in common:
High performance environments provide crystal clear direction as to where people should focus. Everyone knows the actions that must be taken, the expected outcomes of those actions, and how success will be measured.
High performance environments use clear, credible and fair methods to consistently let teams and individuals know where they stand compared to performance standards in terms of Doing (generating desired results) and Being (achieving them in the right way).
High performance environments create motivation by providing compelling reasons for people to stay, strive to perform and commit to continuously improve.
The Bottom Line
While blue lights in the bathrooms may not be your ticket to improved performance, your work environment has a direct impact on employee behavior. Consider your work environment as not only the physical surroundings but the levels of clarity, transparency and meaning that help shape your culture. Then tweak and adjust so that the context in which your employees work supports the desired behaviors.
Does your work environment promote the right behaviors? To learn more, download The 3 Hidden Levels of a High Performance Culture
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