What Is a Work Climate?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
A negative work environment can severely affect a worker's mental health.
A negative work environment can severely affect a worker's mental health.

A work climate is the workplace environment. Business climates affect how well company goals are being met because maximum efficiency, production and employee motivation are impossible when the work environment is poor. Effective workplace climates ensure that employees are clear about their purpose in the larger realm of the company and know exactly what is expected of them. In this way, companies can better function as a whole to meet their goals.

Unfocused supervision may lead to unmotivated employees.
Unfocused supervision may lead to unmotivated employees.

In a poor work climate such as one of ineffective communication and unfocused supervision, the productive goals can become unclear. Employees may lack interest or motivation which is likely to decrease productivity even further. Even if employees are still productive, it may be wasted if they are working on tasks that don’t fit into crucial company goals. In this way, a good climate is one that is supported and enhanced by effective management.

Providing employees with a safe, communicative work environment may help improve worker productivity.
Providing employees with a safe, communicative work environment may help improve worker productivity.

Business climates that work with employees to set and achieve clear goals can be very successful. This is one reason why performance management is so important in many companies today. Regular performance reviews can help motivate employees to keep improving as well as remind them exactly what tasks are expected of them within the work climate. Incentives such as raises, promotions and bonuses for jobs well done further motivate employees to continue their best efforts in the workplace.

A positive work climate can help make employees happy and less likely to look for work elsewhere.
A positive work climate can help make employees happy and less likely to look for work elsewhere.

Just as weather climates affect people who live in them, the same can be said about a work climate. Healthy, communicative work environments support an efficient work force that is ready to commit daily to its assigned tasks to keep the company running profitably. A poor work environment, on the other hand, doesn’t support a strong, motivated team environment.

Ultimately, positive work climates can drastically reduce employee turnover rates by retaining more employees. Healthy, happy employees are likely to stay in a company longer. High employee turnover rates can be damaging to a business because too much time and resources may be needed such as constantly hiring and training new staff. Employees in a positive workplace climate often go above and beyond their job description to help the company thrive.

What To Do If You Work in a Bad Work Climate

If you find yourself in an unhealthy work environment, you may feel powerless to change it. Despite factors that may be out of your control, there are still plenty of steps you can take to manage your situation.

1. Do Connect With Positive Colleagues

Seek out a colleague who shares similar viewpoints regarding your work climate. Be each other’s sounding board to offload grievances. Brainstorm ideas to improve workplace dynamics. When you need a reprieve from the negativity, collaborate with your co-worker on a work-related activity that will infuse joy into your day.

2. Don’t Engage in Toxic Behavior

It’s easy to get drawn into gossip and bad-mouthing, especially when it surrounds you. If a co-worker starts running the rumor mill or making disparaging remarks about a supervisor or colleague, give a neutral reply and steer the conversation in a different direction.

Conversely, you can model positive workplace behaviors such as communicating respectfully, resolving conflicts peacefully, and demonstrating a strong work ethic.

3. Do Establish Trust With Leadership

From micromanaging to ineffective communication, bosses are common culprits of negative work climates. You can avoid a contentious relationship with your supervisor by being proactive. Clarify their expectations about your role, provide periodic progress updates and follow through on all assignments.

Consistent high-quality work and a team player attitude will demonstrate what an asset you are to your company and allow you to establish trust with your boss. From there, you can seek allyship in eliminating workplace toxicity and promoting a more positive environment.

4. Do Confront Responsible Parties

Whether it’s your boss or a co-worker, you can effectively confront the individual at the center of your workplace drama. Before you approach someone, consider any potential risks that may follow a confrontation such as retaliation or disciplinary action. The nature of your grievance and the level of anticipated risk will determine your course of action.

If you are able to confront the person without an audience, plan your talking points in advance so you can convey your message with confidence and poise.

In a more severe situation, you may want to involve other colleagues, the human resources department or even your union representative if you’re in a unionized setting. Your goal is to take appropriate action before a situation intensifies.

5. Don’t Bring Stress Home With You

While it’s easier said than done, let your work problems stay at work. Venting from time to time can be helpful and cathartic but harping on the same topic can cause workplace negativity to seep into other areas of your life and adversely affect personal relationships.

6. Do Create an Exit Plan

Despite your best efforts, if your job situation becomes unbearable, it’s time to move on to a different setting. Spontaneously quitting is not feasible for most people due to financial obligations. You can, however, prepare a contingency plan well before you intend to leave. Spruce up your resume, tap into your professional network and initiate a job search. Resigning from your position will be that much easier if you have something else already lined up.

What Behaviors Are Considered Criteria for a Hostile Work Environment

Many people have experienced unpleasantness at their jobs, but a hostile work environment is a different ball game that comes with legal ramifications and is characterized by specific behaviors. Hostile work environment claims are substantiated using the following criteria:

  • The behavior must be discriminatory against a protected classification such as age, race, gender or disability.
  • The conduct must be pervasive and severe enough to significantly disrupt the employees’ work.
  • The employer had knowledge of the behaviors and failed to properly address and rectify the situation.

Behaviors that meet the following criteria include:

  • Sharing sexually explicit photos
  • Telling offensive jokes
  • Using racial slurs
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Acting in a threatening or intimidating manner

How to Create a Positive Work Environment

Managers and human resource professionals are responsible for promoting a healthy workplace culture and they need buy-in from employees to do this successfully. Here are five ways to create a positive work environment:

1. Clearly Communicate Goals

Employees should always know what is expected of them and how their work contributes to company goals.

2. Show Authentic Appreciation

Offer personalized praise that demonstrates sincerity.

3. Solicit Input and Feedback from Employees

Involve employees in decision-making and be open to their ideas.

4. Support Work-Life Balance

Avoid burnout by promoting flexibility and supporting wellness initiatives.

5. Implement a Zero-Tolerance Policy

Prioritize employees’ safety and comfort with a zero-tolerance policy against unethical and illegal conduct. 

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Discussion Comments

anon937581

I've been sexually harassed by my male supervisor and grabbed by the arm by my female supervisor all with in a year and in the same department! The results were I was told I was lying. There was a ton of favoritism to cover for these supervisors and I've been threatened with being fired by management and the company. It's so hard. I couldn't even defend myself or fight all because I reported these situations!

I still give 110 percent every day I work there, and nothing -- nothing -- happened to the supervisors. I still have to work with her! I faced so much retaliation from employees and from her! Everyone has broken the policies but me and I get dumped on!

Proxy414

@JavaGhoul

This is why I love working online at my own pace and time. I feel free to think for myself and find new things, and enjoy working and collaborating with various different people on a daily basis. The best work environment tends to be the most flexible and open.

JavaGhoul

The boss also sets the pace for the environment at work. If the boss is a crazy person who drives his workers like elk, then he will basically have a zoo. If the boss wants to see people do well and supports them, they will do well, having an environment where they can be creative and innovate new ideas and methods.

Renegade

If there are central core values and expectations which unite people and help them to feel a certain solidarity, then negative competition and jealousy are replaced by a broader feeling of positive competition with other companies and a desire to see others in your work do well. Doing well is commended, rather than being envied. This always makes for a better work climate.

Armas1313

If members of the company are thinking and acting as many parts of a unified whole, they are creating an effective work climate which is accomplishing its goals in an effective manner.

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    • A negative work environment can severely affect a worker's mental health.
      By: lichtmeister
      A negative work environment can severely affect a worker's mental health.
    • Unfocused supervision may lead to unmotivated employees.
      By: endostock
      Unfocused supervision may lead to unmotivated employees.
    • Providing employees with a safe, communicative work environment may help improve worker productivity.
      By: nyul
      Providing employees with a safe, communicative work environment may help improve worker productivity.
    • A positive work climate can help make employees happy and less likely to look for work elsewhere.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      A positive work climate can help make employees happy and less likely to look for work elsewhere.