What Color Is Your Workplace?

Imagine a scene where a group of colleagues are having a brainstorming meeting. At first, everything is on-topic and productive. Then a manager says something inappropriate: maybe it’s a sexual comment or a joke based on a stereotype; maybe it’s a mocking observation about an employee’s value to the team.  About half the people burst out in laughter. A few people shift in their seats. Two colleagues glance at each other. Some people are clearly uncomfortable but they let the comment go by so they can get back to work. This incident passes by, but over time, little comments like these add up and demotivate and demoralize members of the team.

That’s why we created the Workplace Color Spectrum®—a communication tool that categorizes workplace behaviors into four colors: Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red. Positive and productive behaviors are coded “green,” toxic and illegal behaviors are coded “red.” Inappropriate comments, like the ones mentioned above, sit somewhere on the spectrum between green and red: they may be “yellow” if people are uncomfortable, or further down the spectrum and “orange” if people feel disenfranchised because of who they are, e.g., their sex, race, age, etc.

Now imagine the scene a little differently. When the manager says something inappropriate, a colleague says “hey, that comment was pretty “orange,” and another agrees. The manager is now aware that what they’ve said offends others.  The manager wasn’t told he/she was a harasser, automatically putting them in a defensive, adversarial posture.  The feedback is on the comment, not the person, allowing the person to get the conversation back on track in a healthy way.

The Workplace Color Spectrum is a key component of our online compliance training and has been deployed across all types of organizations. It gets rave reviews from employees and company leaders. We’ve watched as clients have integrated it into their workplace and seen how it’s created healthier workplace cultures.

Workplace culture is the result of values and how employees reflect those values with each other, with customers, partners, shareholders and the community.  When we evaluate workplace culture, we analyze employees’ actions in four (4) key, cultural components that can make or break workplace culture:

  • Are people of all backgrounds (gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc) treated with respect?
  • Do people communicate respectfully?
  • Are interactions between colleagues collaborative and motivating?
  • Do leaders resolve conflict in a way that’s helpful?

By asking “What Color Is Your Workplace,” we’re focused on how a workplace scores in these areas.  The answers provide us a snapshot of the workplace culture and how it might be improved. While individual behaviors are ranked on a four-color scale, we allow for color blends like “yellow-green” when we rate workplaces, because they are an aggregation of behaviors.

Take our “What Color Is Your Workplace” quiz and consider your workplace culture and how it might be improved. We’re on a mission to create healthier organizations. Join us.

Janine Yancey
Business Compliance & Workplace Culture Expert
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