Before I talk about what I think is an ideal work culture, let me first define what I think “work culture” is. When somebody asks me what I think is a work culture, I would answer: “it’s what makes a good team”.

By definition, work culture is “a collection of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment”. Well, I personally think it’s more than just the “atmosphere”, rather a system that is brought by the harmony of a few core principles.

I believe that work culture is a composite of trust, diversity and growth.

To talk about what is a “good” work culture, we sure need to understand what is “bad”.

I want to pose three possible scenarios of a working environment.

First scenario is when I would have someone on the team whether it’s a manager or a peer, that I would feel uncomfortable sharing a thought or asking a question.

Second scenario is when I would have every single one of teammates think, talk, and behave in almost identical manners.

Third scenario is when I feel like I am not learning anything anymore, not to be able to find motivations or energy to push myself further.

Does any of the scenarios above sound familiar? It seemed to me that most of the problems we encounter at workspace is some sort of a variation of one of the scenarios above that has to do with trust, diversity, and growth.

Let’s first talk about trust. Trusting someone can mean a lot of different things, but I would define trust as a “belief that I could share and talk just about anything”. Granted, it wouldn’t just be “anything” to be shared with, but to a degree that is not uncomfortable sharing to a friend. It could be a stress that you are dealing with a project, or perhaps a partnership you are having with another that has disturbed you on some manners. Whatever it is, if you are not able to share and ask for either an advice or even a sympathy with the people you are working with, that is your greatest trouble at your workspace. If you feel like you are not able to share or express because you feel like you already know what would the conversation lead to, perhaps something not desirable, then you need to go restore trust with the person. On the extreme, you should feel comfortable confronting with the person you are having troubles with through non violent communications to state the fact and express your emotions. Or in another example, you shouldn’t feel bad asking some “dumb” questions that you think you might get a bad impression for. Trust and thus transparency, is what I think is the most important in making of a work culture.

Diversity is something I consider to be an “amplifier” of a work culture, sometimes so critical that without diversity, there is no work culture. Suppose all of your teammates share very similar traits in both the mindset and communication. In this case, perhaps building the “trust” can be easy because once you set up trust with one and be considered as “one of us”, then perhaps you could easily build trust with others. However, in this case, the “trust” or your true “self” can sometimes be misleading because there is no other form of trust or (comfortable) self in the closed setting. For example, how would you feel about expressing thoughts or ideas that differ from the rest of your group? How would you feel if you feel like you are somewhat “different” than the others? You would likely to conform with the rest, follow the conventions / rules, and perhaps impose similar traits or behaviors to others. Without diversity, there is no other perspective or persona in a team, which inherently is unnatural because all people are different. Diversity is key to enlarging the capacity of trust, and therefore allowing for more perspective and acceptance towards all others, which is critical because all people are different selves.

Growth is yet another key principle in making of an ideal work culture. Suppose you have all the trust and diversity in your team setting. Would you always be happy and be fully satisfied? I believe the answer is no, because people inherently desire to grow and achieve. This is perhaps because of the society we are currently placed in. We are living in the world of capitalism and competition, where we are continuously evaluated and regarded in some sort of performances or merits. While this sense of accomplishment and self-esteem may vary by person, in many cases, we naturally want to do better in things and become better “selves”. “Growth” has been the largest motivation for us to keep going and push further, to make sense of ourselves and meanings of our lives. Nietzsche calls it the “will to power”, or the desire to perform when our “purpose” is not fully established. Therefore, we constantly need to feel that we are “growing” in parts, bettering ourselves. Growth is what keeps us motivated and makes us feel accomplished.

Hence, in the making of a “work culture”, we need to be mindful of these three core elements: trust, diversity, and growth. Perhaps we can picture these three in a three-dimensional panel, and think about how we can maximize the “goodness” of our work culture. With trust, we can freely share and express our thoughts, with diversity, we can accept differences and therefore our true-selves, and with growth, we can keep ourselves motivated.

Of course, I cannot say that this idea applies for all work culture in the world, as it is based on my own personal experiences and world I have seen. Yet, this is how it make sense in the world I live in, my definition of the “work culture”.