Workplace Environment and Culture are Different

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workplace environment

Workplace Environment and Culture are Different

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What is the culture of your organization? How would employees describe the workplace environment? An appealing environment doesn’t always signal an appealing culture.

Sometimes one or both are toxic.

When I speak with workplace leaders about culture, they often describe the environment.

We have an open floor plan, no one has an office.

Our break room has been remodeled, it is more friendly and more like a lounge, with televisions and Xbox.

We have loosened our dress code; people feel more relaxed that way.

In a general sense, these statements are more about environment than they are about culture. Culture can grow from an environment, but suggesting a remodeled break room is a description of your culture is a stretch.

Image of Culture

A remodeled break room that is more like a college recreation room or a hotel lobby doesn’t matter much when the rules (formal or informal) are so tight that the room isn’t used.

Sure, those who have successfully made it to the job interview can see the room and feel good, but the culture will decide how, when, and if the room meets the picture it paints.

Culture does have something to do with image. However, image is more about branding, culture is more about a feeling, a community.

Workplace Environment

Workplace pods instead of conference rooms sound inviting. Couch type furniture with coffee table style work space look appealing.

Only no one is there because it is presumed that you are goofing off when looking relaxed in that area.

The assumptions we make are, or can become, the culture. The furniture and fixtures are part of the environment.

Building a culture is about people, trust, and respect.

Building an environment is what you imagine based on what you see.


CASE IN POINT: The Fremont Star Lily is beautiful, the root looks like a garlic or an onion bulb, but you can’t eat it.

Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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