26 February 2009

Making It Work

Individualism vs. Collectivism
Defining Workplace Culture, Pt. 6
© Melissa Dylan

Apr 26, 2007
Do you value teamwork, or promote individuality?

(This is the sixth in a series of self-assessment articles on defining workplace culture. Click here to go to main article.)

A good mix of individuality and teamwork is imperative for most workplaces. But some function best with an emphasis on one or the other. Here are a few questions to help assess where your workplace stands.

This is another situation where there are no right or wrong answers—whatever works best for your business is acceptable. But with a clear idea of how your organization operates, you can attract people with a proclivity toward your atmosphere.

How much do your employees rely on one another? Is there a hierarchy of tasks to achieve a goal, and is each task assigned to a different person? Or is each employee self-sufficient? For instance, in a restaurant a busboy must clear and set the table before the hostess can seat the table before the waitress can take the order before the cook can make the meal, etc. In some restaurants the waitstaff does the bussing and seating themselves, making them largely self-reliant, with the exception of cooking. Is each waitperson responsible for their tables only? Or are they expected to keep an eye on all customers, regardless of designated “sections?”

Do they stick to assigned tasks? If Stella in marketing is swamped with a project, will Roger from IT lend a hand? Or will the rest of the team head home while Stella pulls an all-nighter? If there is a line out the front door, will the manager open a register and take orders? A true teamwork-oriented environment means the management team pitches in as well, taking on tables of their own when the restaurant is swamped, or grabbing a mop during a factory spill.

Is the staff encouraged to express themselves? Is there a specified sales pitch for all sales team members? Is the uniform inflexible, or more of a guideline? Really look at your policies and their implications. If you require 20 pieces of flare, is that really promoting individuality? Or giving your employees (and customers) a false sense of independence that is actually another thinly veiled regulation?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does your workplace value teamwork? Ten being everyone pitching in on every task with no assigned job titles, one being each person sticking to an area of expertise and focusing on their own list of duties.

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