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8 Ways to Change Culture Within Your Sphere of Influence

8 Ways to Change Culture Within Your Sphere of Influence

“Culture change happens at the intersection of curiosity and courage.” ~ Tim Kuppler

Changing organizational culture is tough. Culture is the way things are done, how people are treated, the values that are upheld, and the power structures that are maintained. Culture is so ingrained that it can be very difficult to even identify. It has been said that, “the longer you swim in a culture, the more invisible it becomes.” And yet, culture is the crux of an inclusive, equitable, and productive environment. It’s important to keep in mind that culture change happens slowly and incrementally, and to not get discouraged. Culture change is a transformative, system-wide process that takes a long-term commitment, and the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

[Related: The Culture Connection: Finding the Right Fit After a Career Break]

While you may not be in a position to change the culture of your entire organization, you do have the power to change the culture within your sphere of influence. Your sphere of influence is the people you work with, or are in a community with, in which your opinion holds some weight. Say, for example, you are a manager of a unit of 10 people within a large, hierarchical organization. You can set the tone for your unit. You can facilitate the creation of shared values and ways of being with your staff and live out those values daily. You can create a culture of inclusion, belonging, safety, and health by modeling vulnerability and humility, and by offering verbal affirmations and appreciations abundantly. You can set expectations for what is acceptable at work and what is not.

Here are 8 ways you can create a more positive, equitable, and inclusive culture within your organization or team:

1. Identify and name elements of all cultures at play. Think about how these elements contribute to a culture of power and oppression. Ask, “Who benefits, and who is harmed by this type of culture?”

2. Learn about what oppressive organizational cultures look like so you can name and begin to dismantle and positively influence them. Some examples are: White supremacy culture, patriarchal culture, and ablest culture.

3. Express positive affirmations frequently. Genuine statements of appreciation and acknowledging a job well done increases connectedness to an organization or team, as well as employee motivation and productivity. Saying to your colleague or supervisee, “Congratulations on a job well done!” and “I really appreciate that great idea you shared in the meeting today,” can go a long way.

4. Interrupt microagressions, slights that cause significant harm to individuals and organizations.

[Related: Want to Save Your Company From Scandal? Give the Gift of Culture]

5. Encourage authentic relationships. Get to know people as people, not just employees. Support staff in building genuine relationships with you and each another.

6. Understand that organizational culture impacts everyone. We all lose when we’re confined to rigid standards, put in binary boxes, and not able to be our authentic selves. We are complex beings, and our cultures need to reflect that. Imagine how liberating it would feel to just be.

7. Ensure that staff at all levels of the organization are at the table and have decision-making power.

8. Consider a consensus-based decision-making process to shift power dynamics. More voices at the table means more perspectives and inspires innovation.

Have you had success with changing culture? Please share how in the comments section below!


Allison Brill is a Public Health & Inclusion Specialist. As a public health professional, she is a champion of health equity, diversity and inclusion, and social justice.

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