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Hospitality career tips

Creating and maintaining good workplace culture

It's easy to overlook, but negative workplace culture can be a business's undoing. Mike Walmsley explains how to identify, and repair, workplace culture.

Workplace culture is one of those things that seems like it can take care of itself, but anyone who's worked in a negative environment will tell you that a toxic workplace can spiral out of control quite quickly - and create all sorts of problems along the way. Luckily, positivity is just as contagious: good vibes beget good vibes.

In today's post, guest blogger Mike Walmsley is looking at how you can identify whether your workplace has a positive or negative culture, and how you can foster a positive environment to help your team and your business succeed.

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The off-hand quip that happy staff make happy customers is true, and encompasses so much more than the obvious. Ultimately, a company with a positive work culture will routinely outshine its competitors – and for good reason.

The question is, can a business with a good company culture be more profitable? The simple answer is, of course, yes! Anytime we work in a good business environment, the chance of success is much greater and, more importantly, so much more rewarding. To make sure we’re getting the most out of our business, we must commit to success and learn how to nurture and foster a good company culture at every opportunity.


What do we mean when we talk about company culture?

A business is a complex entity. Over time, it develops its own personality – one made up of a lot of different factors. These factors can include your clientele; your management structure; your business branding and marketing; and the company ethos around things like training and benefits. Over time, these things add up to your company culture.

Workplace culture is an aspect of your business you can, and should, have control and influence over. This means that if something’s not working, it’s completely within your power – and your team’s power – to change it!


In a fast-paced world and an even faster-paced hospitality industry, issues of social and emotional intelligence are becoming more and more relevant (essential, even) for building a successful business. You need to work together to cultivate an environment where the whole team can flourish and attain their own professional goals while helping you achieve yours.

A company’s culture needs to be geared toward mutual respect and understanding, where everyone feels confident that the workplace is safe and respectful.

How do we identify positive workplace culture?

Good company culture is one where all the components of the company attitudes, values and goals come together in a favorable way to support the growth and prosperity of the business, the team members, and the customers.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. When company culture becomes negative or toxic, these attributes frequently conspire to work against each other, creating a drag on the business that hinders profitability and growth. 

Let’s start by defining the culture of the business or team you manage. Here are five reflective questions to think about today; write down your responses to these for further review and reflection:

    • Am I part of a business with a positive or a negative company culture?
    • How do I know if it’s positive or negative? What are the indicators in my workplace?
    • In general terms, what image does the community at large have of my establishment?
    • What do the people within my establishment say about our business?
    • What effect does any of this have on issues like morale, profitability, productivity, service, reputation, and the business ethics of my establishment?
  7. Let’s take a closer look at the components you can use to evaluate and identify a positive business culture:
    • Productivity – good culture leads to a continuous improvement in performance at all levels.
    • Morale – positivity engenders pride, trust, loyalty, and ownership in employees when they talk about the business.
    • Occupational Health and Safety practices – safety levels improve when employees take personal responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace. Unhealthy (toxic) workplaces exhibit employees with higher sickness claims and higher absenteeism. Further, occupational studies have linked toxic work environments to heart health and the risk of cardiovascular disease. In other words, “My job makes me sick!”.
    • Efficiency – as communication and cooperation improve within the business, systems and procedures become more streamlined and less ambiguous.
    • Retention – in a good culture, employees feel valued and are more likely to stay with a thriving company where they know they can thrive professionally as well.
    • Retention, punctuality and attendance – an employee who feels happy at work is more likely to stay with the company, arrive on time, take less time off, and will be happier to work longer hours when needed.
    • Customer service – improved morale creates a better attitude amongst staff, which translates into more engaged customer service.
    • Workplace relations – a good culture increases cooperation between staff and management and leads to fewer grievances and disputes.
    • Initiative – a heightened sense of responsibility leads to employee-initiated improvements in operations.
    • Operating costs – employees who take responsibility for their jobs will actively seek savings and eliminate redundancies on the company’s behalf.

Did you know there's a strong correlation between happy staff and skilled staff? People who feel happy and confident at work are more likely to be self-motivated, seek out opportunities in the workplace, and contribute to a positive, sustainable culture.

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How do we create and improve positive workplace culture?

The first thing it's important to note, as we've said before, is that positive workplace culture starts from the first job interview! A candidate might be great for the job on paper, but do they fit into your company culture? Do they have a positive attitude, or might they spread negativity? Remember: attitude (good or bad) is infectious

Note observable interactions: how employees interact with one another, with management, with customers, and with suppliers. These are internal and external touch points and create moments of observable communication.

What is the predominant atmosphere or mood of your establishment? Is it quiet and solemn? Bright and cheery? Are people smiling? Do they stop for a quick chat or is it all business? Are employees constantly watching the clock and ducking outside for cigarette breaks?

You can glean information about your company culture from the outside, too. How do people talk about your establishment in the community, the local media or industry publications?

What have your observations revealed so far? Summarize them. Overall, do the results you have help you identify the culture in your establishment as positive, negative or indifferent? What specifically led you to your conclusions?


Address shortfalls with positive actions and influence

These could include:

    • Retention, punctuality and attendance – an employee who feels happy at work is more likely to stay with the company, arrive on time, take less time off, and will be happier to work longer hours when needed.
    • Weeding out bad apples. It sounds harsh but ineffective leaders or disgruntled employees should be removed from your establishment or re-assigned as soon as possible (trust me, you will be glad to have made the change and so will your other team members and customers!).
    • Improving communication between employees and management. Company social events are great icebreakers if done properly and allow people to relax and connect.
    • Encouraging and making feedback easy at all levels. You need engaged employees on your team and effective feedback is a good starting point. Be open to giving and receiving!
    • Hire and promote internally when appropriate. This creates countless benefits to all in your organization and demonstrates that hard work and perseverance reap rewards professionally.
    • Create opportunities with further education and professional development. Committed employees need your support as much as you need theirs. Helping with career development should be understood as a key benefit to all.


Having a recognizably positive company culture can make you a business, and an employer, of choice in your community. Positive energy attracts more positive energy and your establishment becomes known as the “place to go,” and the “place to work.” To use a much-maligned cliché, happy employees create satisfied customers.

Perhaps it’s over-used because it's true!


Mike Walmssley_blog Mike Walmsley is the author of '69 Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit'Stay tuned for the next book in the series, '101 More Tips For Better Food & Beverage Profit', coming out soon on Amazon!

Have a question? We’re always ready to talk.

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