9 workplace culture quotes to inspire your team

by Georgia Parker | Sep 24, 2021

time icon 5 mins

Workplace culture quotes can help to inspire you and your team to keep your company’s core values at the heart of everything you do. The benefits of a positive workplace culture knows no bounds, which is why many businesses spend a lot of time and money on changing and improving their culture.

If you’re new to the process of changing workplace culture and inciting a positive shift in your teams’ mindset, we’re here to help. For this month’s blog, we took a different tack and rounded up 9 interesting quotes about company culture to stimulate your thinking and perhaps even begin a team discussion.

1. “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion.”

– Brian Chesky, Co-Founder, CEO, Airbnb

This workplace culture quote from Brian Chesky reveals something about company culture and how it becomes a living, visible, tangible representation of what the business is there for; its purpose.  

Those working in the business who aren’t engaged with that purpose may not feel as passionate about it and so the culture created by founders may become less cohesive over time. The risk of this increases if a business is growing and expanding at a fast rate.

As a result, it’s essential to recruit those who have the same (or similar) passions as those within the business. This can help you to create and maintain a positive workplace culture, no matter how big the business gets over time.

2. “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

– Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why

This is a thought-provoking quote as it seems to ring true at first reading. It makes sense that employees loving the company will surely transmit that to customers and help them love the company too. But when you think about practical examples, this isn’t always the case. 

For example, does everyone love working in any one of the fast-food or national restaurant chains in the UK? For some people working in hospitality is what they love to do and for others, it’s a stop-gap, a second income, a top-up whilst they study or the only job they could get. Repeat customers of those restaurants, from McDonald’s and Nandos to Burger King and Pizza Express, often return because they enjoy the food.  

So maybe the word “love” is the issue here – whilst we may want our staff and customers to love the company, do we actually need them to? Is it enough if customers like the company enough to return and recommend it? If staff do like it, are they more likely to perform well in their roles? 

When we look at the concept of changing workplace culture, you’ll limit yourself if you only look for individuals that are already obsessed with your organisation. Instead, look for passionate, enthusiastic team members that can learn to appreciate the company over time. 

3. “There’s no magic formula for great company culture. The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated.”

– Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group

There is truth in this as most of us would like to be treated with respect, honesty, kindness, these are common shared values. But what that actually looks and feels like in terms of identifying specific behaviours really can vary from person to person.  

In reality, there is no magic formula as each company culture is different. However, we do know some of the key ingredients and the OKR process can act as a guiding light for this.  

Generally, the most important aspect of developing a positive company culture involves engaging employees and defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Culture is just words and ideas until it translates into meaningfully aligned actions.

4. Our secret weapon for building the best culture is open and honest feedback.

– Gina Lau, Team Operations, HelloSign

One of the most useful workplace culture activities you could undertake is taking surveys of the people in your business. Without feedback, there is no improvement. Find out what your employees like and don’t like and align these with your culture goals. Learn more about what to include in a workplace culture survey here.

It’s clear that the issue of feedback is one that works very differently in different businesses.  For some, and not the majority, giving and receiving feedback is part of business as usual. In others, feedback has become a dirty word and usually means a telling off in some way.  

5. “It’s important for us to create a culture of innovation—one that both values and rewards risk.”

– Barbara Landes, CFO, PBS

Linking this to Barbara Landes’ quote (above) helps us understand why feedback is critical. 

Giving feedback can feel very risky to many people, for all sorts of reasons, even in teams who report a good deal of trust and psychological safety.  In the OKR Coach Academy, we include a module on feedback for this very reason. Gina Lau is right – open and honest feedback is absolutely essential for a positive workplace culture.

It takes a high degree of emotional intelligence, sometimes some courage and a strong sense of personal security in our own identities to give and receive feedback well. So, it’s often something that needs to start with the senior leadership team and be rolled out through the rest of the business.  

6. “Performance more often comes down to a cultural challenge, rather than simply a technical one.”

– Lara Hogan, Senior Engineering Manager of Performance, Etsy

7. “I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.”

– Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently

Performance requires us to know what is expected of us, have the skills (or the ability to learn skills) to do the job and have the right resources and tools to do the job.  The company itself is responsible for providing all of these in a way that creates sufficient psychological safety for the employee to feel included, as well as feeling safe to learn, contribute and challenge.

When we place greater importance on culture, as explained in point 8, we can start to see the positive change ripple throughout the company. Positive workplace culture also provides a great foundation for business growth.

8. “Determine what behaviors and beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them. These behaviors and beliefs should be so essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as culture.”

– Brittany Forsyth, VP of Human Relations, Shopify

9. “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”

– Peter Drucker, management guru

Let’s finish with a well-known workplace culture quote from Peter Drucker. Over the years this quote has been used to illustrate this point; a business can have the most well-researched, ambitious, inspiring and clear strategy, but if the culture of the company is not healthy or aligned the strategy is pretty useless.

What leaders often forget or don’t realise is that we can work on culture whilst working on strategy. There are several workplace culture activities you could take part in to get the ball rolling.

Getting people engaged across the business in strategy work can be a fantastic way to build collaboration, increase trust and report, help people get to know each other and create the kind of energy behind a strategy that is needed to realise it.  So whilst culture may eat strategy for breakfast, strategy can provide fuel to enable ongoing work on culture.  The bottom line is a company culture won’t be great if there isn’t a clear direction that all employees understand, feel connected to and inspired or motivated to deliver.  I think that culture and strategy sit very well together on any plate, breakfast or otherwise.

Where do OKRs come in?

So what does all of this mean for OKRs?  Well, here at TBG we know that successful OKR implementation requires the right kind of culture and implementing OKRs can be a great way to create that culture. We encourage businesses to incorporate the OKR principles of:

  • Accountability
  • Agility
  • Transparency 
  • Openness 

When embedded into company culture, these values can help to create and sustain a high degree of psychological safety. Without them, it’s likely that you have a toxic workplace environment that can’t be sustained.

Thinking about changing your workplace culture but not sure where to start? The team at TBG can help. Get in touch today to learn more.