We’ve been blogging about workplace culture, the problems occurring within the workplace and how leaders can create a positive culture. Many employers are having difficulty maintaining and attracting staff as employees consider the workplace and the options they have. A recent article from MIT Sloan Management Review said the need for a change in workplace culture is now if organizations are going to survive. This week we look at a couple of workplace culture examples being reported and they impact both employers and employees.
Quality jobs contribute to a positive culture. When employees are considering their options, they’re looking at job quality. We’ve blogged before about the characteristics of a quality job. According to the Boston Federal Reserve, each individual worker may have their own idea what a quality job is based on the work they do, but, in general, a quality job is one that provides good wages and benefits. In other words, a person shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs or extended hours to help make ends meet. Workers need to have livable wages. Benefits need to include healthcare, savings plans and family medical leave. A quality job also includes a reliable schedule. That schedule needs to be one that allows workers opportunity to attend family events instead of having to work multiple shifts. The Boston Fed also says workers need to know they have job stability, the work environment is safe, they’re free from discrimination, and finally, they need to have a voice.
In another article from MIT Sloan Management Review they also provide information about workers and culture. The article found from other studies that employees decide whether they want to remain or leave a workplace based on the culture. A “top 10” list of what employees expect from the workplace culture was provided. The list included respect and support from leaders as the most important aspects of workplace culture. Workers also believe leaders who follow the organization’s value structure play a key role in creating a good place to work. Leaders who “walk the talk” or provide a positive example help not only the employees but the workplace overall. When there are toxic leaders, the entire organization suffers.
The examples of workplace culture come from two stories reported in the media this last week. Both stories demonstrate that need for change in workplace culture as MIT Sloan Management Review stressed. One report was about contract negotiations between IATSE(International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the other was about Blue Origin.
Not only does the story on the IATSE contract negotiations demonstrate what the Boston Fed said about quality jobs but show the effect of the lack of quality jobs on workplace culture and verifies what MIT Sloan Management Review said about the need for culture change. For the first time in their 128 year history, members of IATSE voted to give strike authorization to their negotiating team. IATSE represents the behind-the-scenes people in television, streaming, movie and live theater. These are the production assistants, camera people, hair stylists, make-up artists and others.
IATSE members were eager to get back to work after covid nearly shut down the entire entertainment industry. But once they returned, the entertainment industry was pressured to boost production because of pent-up demand by consumers.
Working conditions were not necessarily good before covid, but afterwards, it was worse for IATSE members which is why there was almost a unanimous vote for the strike authorization. One employee reported working almost a continuous 20 hours without a break. On Twitter, a video clip tells more stories from members. One member said she struggles to pay her bills while she sits in a Zoom meeting listening to other production people talk about their vacation homes. Other members told about themselves and their co-workers struggling to stay awake on the drive home after working a grueling pace which, of course, is a huge safety concern. They also told about addictions some members were having because of work demands or the family activities that were missed because of work schedules. All of these things are what the Boston Fed said contributes to job quality. Members said they love the work but change must happen just like MIT Sloan Review reported.
The story concerning Blue Origin is the next example with similar issues. A group of both current and former employees recently publicized an essay of their concerns about the organization. They recognized the same important cultural traits as the employees did in the “top 10” but at Blue Origin those traits are happening in a negative way and that’s why employees wrote the essay and said culture must change.
The employees stated at the beginning of their essay they believed in the organization’s mission and they had all wanted to be part of sending a rocket into space but their enthusiasm for Blue Origin waned. They wrote the Blue Origin culture mirrors the worst of society and leaders must be held accountable just as MIT Sloan Management Review had said was necessary.
According to the essay, some employees at Blue Origin were like some of the IATSE members because of the mental problems they faced due to the expectations that were placed on them. Employees feared retribution if they spoke up about certain issues. The CEO made it clear to one employee he did not want employees to have an opportunity to ask questions at company town halls. Executives were asked for lists of people that could possibly be causing disruption within the workplace and were encouraged to either talk to them or terminate their employment. The essay also said sexual harassment occurred often in the male dominated organization, safety concerns for the New Shephard rocket were dismissed, requests for additional resources or new hires were denied and environmental concerns were ignored.
Much of the concerns identified in the essay were also identified in an article from The Atlantic. The person responsible for communications at Blue Origin claimed to The Atlantic that safety was of utmost importance for the organization and employees had multiple ways to raise their concerns. The author of the article tried to contact employees who wrote the essay but some, including former employees, were afraid of retribution. Those that were willing speak told validated the safety concerns and the inability for employees to speak out.
Blue Origin tried to counter the essay by putting out a statement saying one of the former employees who wrote the essay was fired after she had been warned numerous times about remarks. The former employee said she had no idea what warnings they were talking about.
Not only does culture impact employees, it also hurts the organization and the customers. The Blue Origin story depicts it. People are currently buying tickets for a space ship trip that may not happen or has potential safety issues. The toxic culture occurring at Blue Origin is the culprit and major problems are happening. CNBC reported people familiar with the turnover problem at Blue Origin said the rate was about 20% despite Blue Origin saying it’s much lower. That 20% rate is extremely high for any organization and the people CNBC talked to attribute it to the CEO and the culture. The pressure on the organization is tremendous. Production problems occur as personnel replacements have to be updated on projects. CNBC reported that could take up to a year because of the technical nature of what the company is producing. This can increase costs and lower profit. In addition, safety issues could again be a concern as the right people may not be available and hazards can’t be identified. If there is a major accident, not only are people going to be killed but it could mean the end of the organization.
All of this from these two examples verifies the importance of leaders to look at workplace culture and make culture change NOW just as the article from MIT Sloan Management Review emphasized.
CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as
- The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
- The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
- Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
- Skinner Diesel Repair
- Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
- The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
- The State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE)
Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,