In this time of quiet quitting and burnout, how do organizational leaders create a culture that encourages workers to go above and beyond their job description?

Organizational culture experts Jenny Chatman and Sameer Srivastava are back to answer this question from Meili Hau, the director of the Student Health Center at San Francisco State University. Tune in to hear Jenny and Sameer share real-world insights and research as well as strategies you can put to work to improve your workplace culture.

Do you have a vexing question about work that you want Jenny and Sameer to answer? Submit your “Fixit Ticket!”

You can learn more about the podcast and the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation at www.haas.org/culture-kit.

*The Culture Kit with Jenny & Sameer is a production of Haas School of Business and is produced by University FM.*

Jenny & Sameer’s 3 Main Takeaways:

  1. Codification – Codify your values and norms and systematically bake them into the fabric of your organization.
  2. Opportunity – Set up systems and opportunities for people to not only document their work and share knowledge across boundaries, but also to form relationships and meaningful connections that span those boundaries.
  3. Leadership – Leaders should reinforce the big picture, laying out a strong vision that inspires people to go above and beyond their job descriptions to achieve big goals together.

Show Links:

Full Transcript:

[00:00:04] Sameer: From Berkeley Haas and the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation, this is the Culture Kit with Jenny and Sameer.

[00:00:09] Jenny: I’m Jenny Chatman.

[00:00:10] Sameer: And I’m Sameer Srivastava.

[00:00:13] Jenny: We’re professors at the Haas School of Business. On this podcast, we’ll answer your questions about workplace culture.

[00:00:20] Sameer: We’ll give you practical advice that you can put to work right away.

[00:00:24] Jenny: Join us to start building your culture toolkit.

Hey, Sameer.

[00:00:29] Sameer: Hey, Jenny, it’s great to be back with you.

[00:00:31] Jenny: We have another great question.

[00:00:32] Sameer: This one comes from Meili Hau. She is the director of the Student Health Center at San Francisco State University.

[00:00:39] Meili Hau: How do you build a culture where people are willing to go beyond their prescribed roles or learn new things?

[00:00:46] Jenny: That is another interesting question. It made me think about this phenomenon of quiet quitting, which has gotten a lot of attention lately. So, quiet quitting is about becoming less invested in work and doing, like, the bare minimum of your job. Maybe, it came from the stresses of the pandemic. Regardless, it seems to be a real challenge in many workplaces.

[00:01:09] Sameer: You’re right, Jenny. Meili’s question made me think about the range of workplaces out there, but it also got me thinking about our own workplace, that is Berkeley Haas. And I was really reminded in listening to Meili’s question about the defining leadership principles that we have here at Berkeley Haas, which I know you played a central role in both developing and in reinforcing.

One of those principles is beyond yourself, which seems to speak directly to Meili’s question. So, could you say a little bit more about that principle and how we’ve tried to operationalize it here at Berkeley?

[00:01:41] Jenny: Sure, I’m always happy to do a little humble bragging on the school’s behalf, maybe without the humble. Here at the Haas School of Business, we’ve been trying to practice what we teach. We developed four cultural pillars, our defining leader principles, and one of them is beyond yourself, which you mentioned.

We see it as essential for the leaders we’re producing. We want them to aspire to solve the most pressing business and societal problems, like climate and inclusion. Our four DLPs are really incorporated into everything that we do here at Haas. At last count, we identified 180 different processes that are associated with our DLPs. We select students and faculty based on the DLPs. We recognize staff based on the DLPs. We have DLP-themed events for our current and alumni communities. In fact, to show how serious we are about the DLPs, we even etched them in stone in one of our buildings right across from my office. I’m looking at them right now.

And these efforts have resulted in Haas being described by Poets&Quants, a business magazine, as “standing alone among business schools in consciously defining and shaping a strong culture,” and here’s my favorite part, “to its competitive advantage.” So, Sameer, what are some other examples that come to mind for you?

[00:03:09] Sameer: Well, Jenny, as much as I like to talk about Berkeley Haas as much as you do, we should probably think about some examples that are outside of Berkeley as well. And the one that comes to mind for me is Stripe, the payment processing and corporate finance company that’s based partly in our own backyard in South San Francisco and partly in Dublin, Ireland.

This is a company that’s really centered its culture around writing and documentation. Why writing and documentation? Well, they have a strong belief that writing, clearly, is really important to expressing one’s ideas and one’s needs more broadly in the organization, and making one’s work accessible to others really facilitates knowledge sharing.

They take this focus so seriously that they, not only have their own magazine that’s focused on work processes and software development, but even their own publishing imprint, which they call the Stripe Press. What they’ve discovered is that, when people understand what others are doing and how they’re doing the work, it’s a lot easier for them to step outside of their prescribed roles and to do what’s really necessary to accomplish their broader strategic agenda.

[00:04:17] Jenny: Yeah. Stripe is really a fascinating company. But beyond documentation, what else do you think is needed to get people to step out of their prescribed roles?

[00:04:27] Sameer: Well, it’s one thing for people to have access to information about the broader workflows in the organization and quite another for them to step up to help others where they can. And here, I think we need to think about who people are connected to in the organization. In many organizations, as we know, network ties are highly siloed, by which I mean they tend to follow the contours of the formal organizational chart.

One of the other ways to encourage people to go beyond themselves is to help them build connections that span these formal organizational boundaries. And this can be done through more formal means, for example, designing workflows and decision processes that explicitly are cross-cutting, but also informally, for example, by creating social activities and other service opportunities that bring people together in meaningful ways.

An example of the formal approach comes from Kaiser Permanente, where they have departmental chiefs, but they also have systems that bring those people together, for example, chief of chiefs meeting in which the leaders can connect to each other and identify their team members who need to build connections in order to foster collaboration in the broader organization.

The beauty of these connections is that, once they start forming, they tend to really get reinforced. So, if one person steps up to help another, then there are some commitments and obligations that leave the other person to want to provide some support back.

But we know, Jenny, that having the right structures and opportunities in place does not, by itself, guarantee success. So, what can you say about how to actually motivate people to go above and beyond?

[00:05:48] Jenny: Yeah. Well, Meili’s question also made me think about some of my early research, where we found that people who fit better with the culture of their organization are more committed to that organization. They’re more likely to engage in what we call extra role behaviors, things like helping their colleagues, staying late to get something done, going the extra mile to help a customer.

We even found that people who were more committed to their organization gave back to it, even after they left. Think of college alumni. But to a certain extent, the onus is on leaders to inspire people by regularly sharing a perspective on the organization’s or team’s bigger strategic goals, reminding people of what they’re striving to accomplish together, rather than just focusing on specific individual goals.

I always think of a perfect quote for this, is from The Little Prince. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” I love this quote because painting the picture of the bigger awesome goals that an organization is striving for inspires people to go beyond the specific boundaries of their job description.

So, Sameer, what are some of the key takeaways about Meili’s question?

[00:07:12] Sameer: Well, as we did last time, I think we can sum it up in three key words — codification, opportunity, and leadership. First, codify the values and norms, for example, beyond yourself, and systematically bake them into the fabric of the organization. Second, set up systems and opportunities for people to not only document their work and share knowledge across boundaries, but also to form relationships and meaningful connections that span those boundaries. And finally, developing a compelling vision that fosters commitment and inspires people to go above and beyond their job descriptions so the organization can achieve big goals together.

[00:07:53] Jenny: Well, with that, let’s wrap it up for today. Thanks, Meili, for your terrific question. I should note that Meili was a student in my Executive MBA class, so a big shoutout to Meili for contributing a great question.

[00:08:08] Sameer: Yes, thank you so much, Meili.

[00:08:10] Jenny: Thanks for listening to Culture Kit with Jenny and Sameer. Do you have a vexing question about work that you want us to answer? Go to haas.org/culture-kit to submit your fix-it ticket today.

[00:08:22] Sameer: The Culture Kit Podcast is a production of the Berkeley Center for Workplace Culture and Innovation at the Haas School of Business, and it’s produced by University FM. If you enjoyed the show, be sure to hit that Subscribe button, leave us a review, and share this episode online, so others who have workplace culture questions can find us, too.

[00:08:43] Jenny: I’m Jenny.

[00:08:44] Sameer: And I’m Sameer.

[00:08:45] Jenny: We’ll be back soon with more tools to help fix for your work culture challenges.

Previous Episode 3: How to Manage the Tricky World of Subcultures