New Study Finds HR, Managers, and Employees Have Very Different Views of Workplace Culture by LinkNow Media (1)Work tends to be a big part of our lives. In fact, we often spend more time at work than anywhere else. Consequently, our workplace’s culture can end up heavily influencing how we view our lives. While most employees don’t spend much time thinking about these questions directly (usually because they are preoccupied with the work in front of them), who’s defining and influencing your culture affects each and every employee’s well-being. This makes it incredibly important to understand who defines workplace culture, who is responsible for maintaining it, and what could put a positive workplace culture at risk of going sour. In a new study commissioned by The Workplace Institute at Kronos Incorporated and, researchers surveyed three groups of employees, human resources (HR) professionals, managers, and non-managing employees to learn what they felt each about their workplace culture. The study analyzed data from more than 1,800 U.S. adults, and it’s interesting to see where various groups of employees agreed and conflicted on the issue of workplace culture.

Who defines workplace culture?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all three groups each said they felt like they were the ones responsible for defining the workplace culture. Approximately one-third of HR professionals indicated that the head of HR defines the culture, however only 10% of managers and 3% of employees agreed. On the other hand, 26% of managers said their teams define culture, but only 11% of HR professionals and 9% of employees felt the same way. Lastly, 29% of employees said they were responsible for defining workplace culture, but only 9% of HR professionals and 13% of managers agreed.

What culture attributes matter the most to employees?

Again, all three groups reported very different answers. Employees answered: “pay” (50%), “respect and support among peers” (42%), and “work-life balance” (40%) as their most important attributes, while HR professionals identified “managers and executives leading by example,” “employee benefits,” and a “shared mission and values” as the top three things they believe mattered most to employees. Managers claimed the most important attributes are “managers and executives leading by example,” “shared mission and values,” and an “emphasis on taking care of our customers.”

What kills culture?

Interestingly enough, in this question HR professionals and managers seemed to be more on the same page, but still, employees had a different view on things. According to HR professionals and managers, things that kill workplace culture are “a high-stress environment” and “company growth.” Employees suggested it’s things like “not having enough staff to support goals,” “unhappy/disengaged workers who poison the well,” and “poor employee/manager relationships.”


Most people should find it quite alarming to have such widely differing opinions between groups of people who should be on the same page. The fact that opinions and views on workplace culture are so different is a sign that there is a lack of order and unity within our modern work life – two things that are fundamental in a productive workplace culture. So what can we take away from this survey? Hopefully with this new insight, higher-up individuals can implement new strategies to improve company cohesion. It should also be a cue to HR professionals that not all culture attributes are created equal. What employees want and what managers want from their workplace can be different, which means future policies may want to target groups more specifically.