Thursday, March 20, 2008


I was talking to one of the VPs at work today about workplace “ethos” (“atmosphere” or “environment”). We were discussing what affects that “ethos” and we both reached the same conclusion. Ultimately whoever is in charge sets the tone. Every workplace has an “ethos” and those in charge set it.

He shared with me that he once worked for a company that had ownership/leadership who was paranoid and always thought someone was out to get him. The way he “thought” was the way he viewed the world. Because of his mindset he created a revolving door that would lose great people shortly after bringing them in.

His perception was that he couldn’t trust anyone, they were all out to get him, they all had their own agenda. It is sad, but his perception became his reality! No matter what people would say, he was always trying to read between the lines. After a while, the VP I was talking with left. To quote him, “No one can be productive in an environment like that, not for long anyway.”

I once worked for a woman who owned a small business that tremendous potential, however, every step forward was generally followed by three steps back, a tragic continuous cycle. One day she would come in ready to team up and take the world, the next she was looking for someone to blame on whatever was wrong with her, the business, a customer… You always knew what kind of day you would have by her demeanor during our morning kick off meetings. If there was desk slapping and an edgy tone you knew to brace yourself.

I remember one of my performance evaluations. I shined in every category and then it came down to the “additional comments.” She stated that she did not like the fact that I remained “calm” during crisis. She wanted me to get mad, cuss, and carry on… like she did. I looked squarely at her and said, “Just so I understand, you are reprimanding me for handling crisis in a calm manner?” To which she sat back and smugly said, “Yes.” Do I have say anything more about the “ethos” of that place?

Additionally, other staff members can also tap into the “ethos” of their workplace. Many factors can attribute to how a staff member affects the atmosphere they are in. Inner struggles and issues at home are generally at the root. Sometimes we are unaware that our personal business is wreaking havoc on everyone else! In a generally positive environment, a stinky attitude will be like a “purple elephant” in the room. It is uncomfortable for everyone. The aroma is apparent by all and the dissension will begin to rear its ugly head.

Now, when the “ethos” is already compromised because of issues we discussed previously a problematic staffer only makes a difficult situation worse and this usually results in the great ones running for the exit.

I believe that we all contribute to every “ethos” we encounter in either a positive or negative way. We have all walked into rooms before where the “ethos” was evident by observing how the employees connected with one another. Currently I work in a tremendous team environment. My boss listens to me and I fee valuable and appreciated so I am more than willing to go the extra mile. It wasn’t always that way. Before I came into the department I am in there was such a disgruntled attitude. So much has changed in a year. I look forward to going to work each day. On the other hand, I have walked into office for personal business and could immediately sense a feeling of dread among the employees. You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a place like that!

I wanted to share a little about “ethos” today because it was such a great conversation and got me thinking! How is the “ethos” you are currently in? How are you affecting your “ethos”?

Side Note…I am currently reading a book called “Mixed Ministry.” I will be doing a review after I finish reading it, it is a page turner! Anyway, one of the chapters has to do with “Ethos.” The chapter gives scenarios of how ethos affects and defines a work place. It is a great resource that I believe every leader, Bible College student, CEO, pastor, business owner, (fill in the blank)… should read.

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