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Culture vs. Relationships?

Last week I asked a dozen HR professionals how they would describe organizational culture. Will you be surprised to hear that I got a dozen different answers? For some, it’s a set of rules and expectations; for others – an overall feeling; or a long list of specific items like psychological safety, DEI presence or a growth mindset attitude.

It appears everybody knows what organizational culture is until you ask to define it.

So, I asked myself: how are we supposed to build something if there is no unified, specific and deeply understood by everyone involved definition of what culture is?

One thing is clear – NO PEOPLE, NO CULTURE.

What is my take on that? Let’s stop spending time and energy on something elusive (like a culture) and focus on something much more tangible and meaningful - RELATIONSHIPS.

What is the relationship? It’s the way people treat each other. And if people within your company are given the opportunity to build and maintain healthy, supportive and stable relationships, the rest will follow.

Here are a few tips on how to build strong and positive relationships within your team:

✔ Create opportunities for team members to learn about each other on a personal level (within their comfort zone, of course). The more we know about each other, the better we can relate to and understand each other.

✔ Fair treatment is a must. Even the perceived unfairness can quickly destroy relationships that were based on years of working together.

✔ Remember the old saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”? In a more positive interpretation, when people have a common goal or desired outcome that benefits everybody, they find ways to work through differences and conflicts and come on the other side with a strong sense of trust and respect toward each other.

Should we ditch the idea of culture altogether and focus entirely on building solid relationships?

I haven’t decided yet what my standing is on it.


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