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Well-being Won’t Fix a Poor Culture, But Culture Might Fix Well-being

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Focusing on well-being is a waste of time if your culture is a mess. Nobody wants to put their hand in the air and say 'Our culture needs work' because, with the word culture, we feel like it is an extension of us... so if it's not great, admitting that hits us hard emotionally.

But here's an interesting insight. Most managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs are completely unintentionally going to create a crappy culture without even realising it. Why? Because they have a ridiculous work ethic.

Newsflash 1 - that's why they end up in management, leadership, and entrepreneurial positions.

Newsflash 2 - There's NOTHING wrong with that BUT MOST people aren't that way... if they were, we'd have no teams because everyone would be creating, leading, and managing.

Generally, team members are wired differently from leaders and managers. The leaders' mentality is to aggressively pursue the vision they are so passionate about. The manager's position is to achieve great results through hard work. The team member also wants to pursue the vision and put in work, but they find satisfaction in teamwork, doing good work, learning, developing, and knowing they've influenced the strategy. The team member also cares about balance and spending time with their family. I'm not suggesting the leaders and managers don't care about these things, but typically they are less bothered by the balance piece and more driven by the results piece. So what happens in businesses and teams is leaders and managers create a culture that suits them: relentless hard work, tons of ideas, and rapid change.

When this goes unchecked, it can quickly trickle down into a culture of stress, overwhelm, and even resentment. The symptoms of this going on for too long will be poor health, sickness, absence, a culture where people don't confront each other, and high employee turnover. The mistake is to notice these symptoms and knee-jerk reactions with a well-being intervention. All you are doing here is treating a symptom, not the root cause.

The best thing a business can do to support the well-being of its people is to create an engaging culture. If your culture is engaging, people are energised by their work and build their self-esteem, which leads to a significantly increased chance of better health and well-being. If your culture is disengaging, people are drained by their work and their self-esteem is eroded, leading to a significantly increased chance of poor health and well-being.

Should you focus on well-being at work? Yes - absolutely, but only after or in line with working on your culture.


Mike Jones Better Happy Founder

Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.

He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'

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