And so, dear readers, we have arrived at the top level of the Sound Relationship Workplace: Create a Shared Culture.

Dr. Gottman refers to this level as Create Shared Meaning in the Sound Relationship House. When a couple establishes rituals of connection and actively seeks a deeper understanding of each other’s roles, goals, and symbols, they move from “Me” to “We” in their relationship. Dr. Gottman says that “every marriage is a cross-cultural experience” because each individual comes from a unique family system. According to William Doherty in The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties, partners establish a new culture when they come together, and the more intentional that culture is, the stronger the family ties become.

Similar to a family, organizations develop cultures that distinguish them from one another. For example, some work cultures are open systems where people are warm and friendly. This might be seen physically by an “open door” policy in the workplace. In such cultures, new employees feel comfortable within a short period on the job. Other work cultures are closed systems where employees are distant and “all business.”

John Coleman explains that notable variables associated with culture include the organization’s vision/purpose, values, practices, people, and physical space. Some cultures are process oriented (the “how”) while others are concerned with achieving goals/results (the “what”). There are those cultures that focus on their employees while others that focus on job outcome. In organizations that focus on their employees, personal issues are considered and individual welfare is important. According to Geerte Holfstede, organizational cultures can also be characterized by having “loose controls” versus “tight controls” on variables like budgets and meeting times. What is your organizational culture like?

Culture is observed and learned from one’s social environment. In the workplace, culture influences performance, whether measured by productivity, customer satisfaction, or stock price. Organizational psychologists and sociologists like Holfstede have studied work culture with the supposition that the “excellence” of a company is contained in the common ways in which its members have learned to think, feel, and act – a “soft” topic with bottom line consequences.

In work cultures that thrive, employees are guided by organizational values and understand what is expected of them. Defining and building a shared purpose – a key component of culture – becomes the glue that binds members of an organization together. As reported by the Harvard Business Review, a shared purpose in the workplace is multidimensional, practical, and dynamic, and positively impacts individual effort.

There is a reciprocal relationship between organizational culture and its people. Indeed, organizational culture can change based on internal and external factors. Hiring for cultural fit can be just as important as hiring for technical skills because someone’s personality can either promote or derail the values of an organization. Research has shown that applicants who were a cultural fit would accept a 7% lower salary, and departments with cultural alignment had 30% less turnover. People stay when they like their work culture, so bringing on the right “culture carriers” reinforces the existing culture of an organization.

How do you contribute to the culture of your organization? This question relates back to the entirety of the Sound Relationship Workplace. It is up to you to take the lessons taught by Dr. Gottman in the Sound Relationship House and integrate them into your everyday work life, making your workplace a space where relationships are valued and recognized for the impact that they have on the bottom line. Take time to Develop Colleague Maps, Provide Positive Feedback, Respond and Engage, understand that Perception Becomes Reality, Manage Conflict, and Facilitate Career Advancement to Create a Shared Culture. By doing so, your workplace will flourish and so will you in it.

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Create a Shared Culture
Karen Bridbord

Karen Bridbord, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and consultant in New York and New Jersey. She is a Certified Gottman Therapist who specializes in working with couples and organizations.