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Culture Is…What Happens When Things Get Intense.

Culture Is…What Happens When Things Get Intense. 


Workplace culture can be hard to quantify and define (without modern measurement tools, of course). Everyone understands how vital a healthy corporate culture is for overall productivity and employee satisfaction, but we must see precisely what it is. There is one inevitable moment when our true culture gets revealed—when it all hits the fan, and we all start operating out of our survival instincts. How you and your team react when things get intense is one of the quickest ways to evaluate the overall health of your corporate culture. 


We will look at three aspects that brings out an organization’s real, default culture. How people react to failure, deal with conflict, and handle tight deadlines with heavy workloads. These are inevitable in any workplace environment, but how teams react under these pressures distinguishes healthy from unhealthy company cultures. 

How does your team deal with failure? 

You can quickly assess the health of your culture by assessing whether “failure” propels innovation and productivity or grinds everything to a halt. Innovation requires an environment of high trust and creative initiative. This will mean many experiments fail and many ideas are scrapped. Teams with a healthy culture know how to celebrate and learn from failure. There is a big difference between a failure to act and a failed experiment; the latter should always be observed. 

Teams that lack trust are likelier to abandon new ideas too quickly for fear that it won’t work out. When things fail, people might try to hide that fact and fumble forward without assessing concrete problems so that real change and productivity can follow. 

  • What kind of culture toward failure do you want for your organization? 
  •  How are your people currently dealing with failure? 
  •  Does your team’s trust in each other allow them to try new things and learn from failure?

How well does your team handle team conflict? 

Conflict is unavoidable. Poor communication, unclear work roles, differences in work ethic, cultural perspectives, and many other reasons create conflict regularly on any team. In times of stress, people will natur

ally fall back on the cultural foundation you’ve established within your environment. If psychological safety is a priority, and your people have high trust and generally like being around their coworkers, then conflict will be much easier to address without halting momentum. 


Of course, getting conflict management right is essential because unattended conflict can lead to burnout, distrust, and a loss of productivity. But creating a culture that engages well and quickly whenever frustration comes will strengthen every aspect of a healthy workplace culture. 


  • Do your people have a transparent process to follow when conflict arises, and do they follow that process? 
  • Even in conflict, do people still act like they are on the same team, pursuing the same mission? 
  • How might you define your work culture based solely on how people deal with conflict? 

How does your team handle tight deadlines? 

Another way our real culture shines through is how we hold up under pressure. Many of our workspaces are becoming faster-paced, with tighter deadlines and more projects. I have noticed that both stress and confidence are contagious in settings like this. 

Certain people can multiply stress on everyone around them. Maybe you know someone like that. It’s not even that they vocally complain, but how they hold their stress seems to emanate, increasing the stress level of the entire team. Others can keep working confidently even under extremely heavy loads; their encouraging attitude helps everyone stay productive and joyful.  

  • How do your people react to pressure? 
  • How do they treat each other during high-intensity moments? 
  • What can you do to model and encourage a healthy culture under pressure? 


The culture you help foster on your team will be one of the most significant factors in future productivity, innovation, and employee retention. You can use failure, conflict, and pressure moments to evaluate how strong your work culture is and what you can do to strengthen it. 

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