Influencing Office Culture As A Manager


Since my first post on leadership reflections, I’m increasingly appreciating some of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve read about leadership over the years.

In particular, I learned that office culture can make or break a company because people are what drives growth – even if it’s a heavily tech-dependent (or AI) one.

And although middle managers are the “sandwiched class” in any given organisation, everyone above and below is still influenced by their actions.

It can be quite surprising how much influence a manager can have on team members, often unintentionally.

I can’t speak for other managers and other companies, but anecdotally, I feel responsible for the actions of my team members even if I’m not directly or indirectly involved in a situation.

One example would be a team member’s mistake on a solo project – there’s no direct involvement of anyone else except for said team member, though I can’t help to feel that maybe it’s my lack of guidance or even wrong directions.

Of course, I know that’s just a lack of maturity on my end as a manager – everyone should be responsible for their own actions, and a manager can and should only influence, not instruct.

That said, these are some guiding points that I always remind myself when putting on my managerial hat. Not sure how these will age.

Building a culture I’d like to work in

Since day 1, I’ve always told myself and the team mates I’m guiding: I project a manager whom I’d want to work under, so do tell me where I can improve because that’s just my bias.

Everyone has a different perspective of what the “role model” manager is, but there are certain universally desired traits.

People’s person – Listen, listen, and listen. Understand the people and remember minute details about them, genuinely caring for everyone. We’re all drawn towards people who are approachable and an aloof manager is the last to succeed.

Guide, not spoonfeed – Now, this I have to admit I’m still learning the balancing act because it’s always easier to give away the answer than to pave the way to it. It’s a lot of understanding the person and asking the right questions to lead him or her to the goal.

Help others succeed – For example, Sally manages a team of five and her priority is to help them succeed. When her team succeeds, it reflects very well on Sally because who doesn’t look up to a winning team’s leader?

There’s an obvious string tying all of them together, and it’s the focus on making the people in the company feel like they’re part of a shared vision.

Admit mistakes and give credit where it’s due

When everything is rosy and sunshine, it’s easy to get along with one another even if there are personal differences.

The real challenge is dealing with crises and on a micro scale, individuals’ mistakes in the day-to-day.

If a manager or director can’t even admit his or her mistakes, most of the respect is lost.

Even worse, if someone has to take the blame for the manager or director’s misstep, people will just be looking forward to leaving the company.

The same can be said for giving credit. It’s painfully easy but I’ve heard one too many “horror stories” about managers shoving team members aside to claim credit.

I can’t imagine anyone would want to work in an office culture where blame is thrown around like hot potatoes and claiming credit is a death race. I certainly wouldn’t.

I know before I became a manager and even now, I’m not afraid to raise my hand for the blame when something goes wrong.

We’re not defined by the mistakes we commit but by how we make things right.

Walk the walk

Setting the rules and upholding those very rules to yourself can be tough. But if the leaders are above the rules, then what’s the point of the rules in the first place?

When managers create processes for the team but subvert those very processes, no one will follow them.

Everything mentioned above is only as good as a manager’s ability to put the money where his or her mouth is.

There’s a reason why parents and leaders are often used as parallels – children tend to follow the footsteps of their parents, even when they know it’s wrong because the influence is too strong.

The same can be said about managers and their team members, only thing is the team members have the power to eventually leave for their own good.

Sure, it’s hard when push comes to shove, especially when the manager’s ass is on the line.

However, taking the fall today is building the foundation for trust and respect tomorrow and the years to come.

A manager is only as strong as the team

Any organisation is only as strong as the weakest link, and a manager is only as strong as the team.

A manager can influence office culture as much as the trust and respect he or she earns from the team.

Though as in any relationship, trust and respect can be lost in just a few missteps.

I can’t promise I’d be the best manager for my team, but I promise to always hold myself to the above points to build an office culture where my team members will feel warmth in their hearts.

About the author

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.

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by Vance Wong


Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.