Implementing & Maintaining A Healthy Work Environment

October 29, 2018

In the October Round Table meetings, we discussed the topic of “Implementing & Maintaining A Healthy Work Environment.”

An essential element of maintaining a healthy work environment is trust. Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau of Grand Rapids, will speak on The Strategic Importance of Trust” at our upcoming Leadership Breakfast on November 16th. Click here to save your seat!

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Below are the notes from the October Round Table meetings.

Plymouth Round Table:

Q1: What is a healthy work environment?

In general, a healthy work environment has a culture based on the basic Christian principle of love for your fellow man. If we lead our businesses by example, based on this principle, most employees will recognize the ethical practices of the upper management and follow suit. This allows the following environmental (cultural) qualities will exist and grow:

  • Increased trust of both management and fellow employees.
  • Increased respect for company leadership.
  • A stronger team environment.
  • Less fear of making a mistake that would result in punishment, which promotes increased ownership of tasks/issues.
  • Less fear of ridicule when offering a creative problem solution or improvement suggestion.
  • A healthy work environment supports the basic human needs of:
    • Feeling significant – we have a meaningful purpose in the organization,
    • Achieving personal satisfaction – we can make a difference and have.
    • Feeling secure in our work situation – we’re not constantly looking over our shoulder for the next threat.

Q2: Do you know of any “model” companies?

The discussion group consisted of leaders from various sized companies, from very small 2-person operations to very large (G.E. and Comerica) corporations. Basic operating concepts were discussed and examples given  of how various situations were handled over the years by our team, leading me to the basic conclusion that there is no specific definition of a model/perfect company.  Each company/industry is unique, and the “model” company definition will vary accordingly, as will the leadership practices needed to set the company working environment. Everyone agreed that following Christian principals, as outlined in Q1 on this report (What is a healthy work environment?), are a necessary foundation for achieving a “model” company.

Q3: Are there any issues to avoid? Why?

Issues to avoid:

  • Jumping to conclusions – we must make sure that we have a full understanding of the situation. We must view the situation from all perspectives before issuing a judgement.
  • Being ambiguous – we must clearly and consistently communicate our with the direction.
  • Being overly tolerant of policy violations – while we strive to understand and amicably correct improper behavior/performance, we must decide when the situation is beyond repair and take corrective actions. If we’ve done everything reasonably possible to correct a bad situation that isn’t improving, we must not wait too long to take correct the situation.

Q4: What changes can you make in your company?

No specific company changes or pending issues were brought forth during the meeting, although there was a lively discussion of the topics in Q1 (What is a healthy work environment?), regarding how best to achieve a healthy working environment. Everyone supports conducting business both internally and externally with sound Christian principles.

Following the meeting, one attendee confidentially described to me a situation within their company where an employee violated several company policies, costing the company over $100,000.  The company’s upper management was debating whether or not to fire this individual and decided to take a more measured (read Christian) approach to discipline.  As it turned out, the individual lost some pay and privileges, but not their job.  Ironically, the individual understood that they had violated company policy, but could not understand why they were penalized.

Q5: What Strategies will you use to drive Change?

The discussion group recognized the importance that a healthy work environment plays towards achieving a successful company. By following Jesus’ direction, the work environment should be productive and positive, a place that most employees enjoy.  Some practices that were discussed to affect positive change within an organization are:

  • We must lead by example, following the same rules/practices that are expected from our employees.
  • We must be consistent with our decisions and direction within our organization otherwise confusion will exist leading eventually to apathy.
  • We should recognize/reward the achievements of our team. This helps people feel that they have a meaningful purpose within the organization and are secure with their position.
    • Public recognition within the company and/or industry.
    • Special incentives (Additional vacation time, special bonuses, etc.).
    • We must promote positive reinforcement throughout the organization.
  • We should make sure that we understand a situation completely, from all sides, before rendering judgement.
  • We should be tolerant of mistakes and understand the root causes of them, providing the support that is necessary to affect a lasting/permanent corrective action. If we have dedicated employees who are making mistakes, the likely cause is a systemic problem that must be fixed. Dedicated employees do not want to make mistakes.
  • We must recognize if a team member is simply not fit for a position and help them find a position that is more suited to them. If we allow someone to continue in a position that is not a fit for them, it affects the morale and effectiveness of the entire team.  This doesn’t necessarily mean an employment termination, it could mean a position change within the company or helping to find them a new position outside of the company.

Additional Takeaways:

  • Investigate the Disney corporate culture and structure, it is a good example of ethical business practices.
  • Investigate Wayne Huizenga and his organization, it is a good example of ethical business practices.


Kalamazoo Round Table (Tuesday)


  • Healthy physically & mentally
  • Unhealthy = harassment/bullying
  • Environment = Culture = values, attitudes & beliefs that permeate within a company
  • How do we want to behave?
  • What are our values?
  • What are we modeling?
  • What’s our “just cause?”
  • Timing is everything – how do we be more proactive/
  • Awareness training
  • Getting everyone in sync / aligned with your culture
  • Lack of peripheral vision


  • Training on identifying behaviors / personal awareness
  • It’s about the team / employees, not us
  • Keep it simple: training on the business, personal awareness & technical/job training
  • Effective communication
  • Need multiple channels/opportunities for people to express themselves (ie. RUOK program)


  • Be intentional
  • Be proactive with communication to catch yourself before you hit your challenge/obstacle
  • Need to be honest with yourself & your limits
  • We must discipline/mentor/coach
  • Balance – pay attention to best performers
  • Communicate/reinforce good behaviors & lessons learned (through storytelling)
  • Value = listening to employees
  • Tell stories to promote learning
  • “Health is about creating capability” – Bill Beck


Kalamazoo Round Table (Tuesday)


  • Business problems are simple, but people are complicated.
  • Good times can hide bad processes.
  • The effect of leadership not following their word.
  • Some leaders would rather be tough than smart.
  • Health includes physical and mental health.
  • Healthy doesn’t mean the same thing in all situations.
  • Hard to separate work culture from cultural issues at large.
  • Tough to maintain culture when national organization loses its personal touch.
  • Challenge of maintaining the small family culture in the midst of growth.


  • Employee wellness example: Caterpillar “R U OK” program.
  • Business/Corporate Jenga – Don’t just start making moves. Be strategic.
  • Leadership needs clear core values and instruction on how to incorporate them.
  • Set principles and values to establish boundaries.
  • Reach out between meetings.
  • Engagement – make your team feel part of something.
  • Create a common enemy (challenge, competitors, etc.) to unite your team.
  • Mission/Vision vs. A Just Cause
  • A well run business reduces workplace stress.
  • Be preemptive with wellness exams.
  • Teach your team through stories. Include stories of past mistakes from others or yourself.
  • Feedback loop – keep your team informed. Real-time communication about the company or goal helps eliminate issues or misunderstanding.
  • Consider using outside resources/consultants to help address issues that bosses feel unable to.


Grand Rapids Round Table (Thursday)


  • Leader needs to be trusted and lead.
  • Leaders should actively manage negativity.
  • Hold all employees accountable.


Kalamazoo Round Table (Thursday)


  • 5 elements of wellbeing: Physical, social, financial, community, and career.
    • Can add spiritual.
  • People are complicated. Top leadership must be on board with ensuring employee wellness.
  • If owner and C-level leaders are not on board, they will implement policies that undermine management efforts.
  • People are not systems.
  • Sometimes too many systems/rules can gum up the process.


  • Owners and CEO’s must be present during conversations/events.
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
  • Consider corporate chaplains.
  • Be very strategic and intentional about creating your company culture.
  • Create a sense of ownership among employees which will foster responsibility.
  • Create an element of flexibility with schedules.  Allow your team to feel that you trust them to get the work done.
    • Netflix offers unlimited PTO.
  • An engaged employee contributes to overall health and productivity.
  • Encourage your employees to review the benefits that you offer.


Kalamazoo Round Table (Friday)


  • What does an unhealthy environment look like?
    • Work only (no fun/personal balance)
    • Insecure/threatening
    • Political – it’s about who you know / good ol’ boys club / drama
    • Belittling/demeaning leaders
    • Autocratic leaders
    • Reward for bad decisions
    • Micromanaged
    • Fear of failure
    • “lost” leaders
  • What does a healthy environment look like?
    • Share common values & beliefs genuinely
    • Good relationships
    • Trust – good communication
    • Caring
    • Stable
    • Has courage to speak up when something is out of joint
    • Doing the right thing no matter what
    • Celebrates failure / what we learned
    • Environment of grace & truth
    • Approachability
    • Respecting all who make decisions
    • Empowered leaders
    • Keeping the good in the forefront
    • Encouraging


  • How do we implement a healthy environment?
    1. Define the core values, mission & vision
    2. Meet with all employees together & then have 1×1 meetings with every leader & staff member to enforce/reinforce
    3. Leader must lead by example
    4. Base all business / personal decisions on these core values / mission/vision
    5. Tell stories from the organizations history
    6. Personally model a healthy lifestyle authentically
      1. Be present to show you care & intentionally create relationships
    7. Maintain a rhythm of communication via meetings/other interaction for consistency
    8. Implement constructive accountability
  • How do we maintain a healthy environment?
    • Repeating things we’re doing that are healthy & always pushing forward
    • Replicate yourself
    • Keep taking risks
    • Encouraging/not getting stagnant
    • Need to maintain health
    • Has a spirit of a pioneer, not a settler
    • Take time to celebrate (even small wins)
    • Quarterly/planned reviews / weekly check-ins / ppl metrics
    • Survey the group


  • Keep it simple – follow the steps to implement & maintain
  • Assign high value to everyone
  • Intentionally create relationships as a leader / give opportunities to ask questions
  • We value what we focus on
  • Be very clear as to what you value
  • Examples: Phillips 66 – safety topics & talks / Joe Tye – Values Coach that talks about “the Pickle Pledge”

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