Working atmosphere is the subjectively experienced and perceived long-term quality of the interaction, the cooperation of the employees of a commercial or administrative enterprise .
The working atmosphere is of great importance for the motivation of the employees; The same applies to employers , as it is suitable for improving company success, especially in times of crisis. A bad working atmosphere leads to unwillingness to work, thus destroying the joy of work , it demotivates, increases the sick leave and can lead to more production rejects. Bullying is a special characteristic of a bad working atmosphere . One possible measure to improve the working atmosphere is to create a trusting corporate culture with more space for independent action, with flat hierarchies and a modern, employee-friendly and cooperative management style.
Definition and demarcation
Although terms such as corporate identity , working atmosphere and corporate culture have already passed into common usage, there are many different ideas about what they actually contain. This is mainly due to the fact that there is a lot of overlap between the different areas.
The working atmosphere
In the specialist literature on work and organizational psychology, the working atmosphere is usually equated with the subjectively perceived, long-term quality of the interaction between the employees of a commercial or administrative company. The concept of the working atmosphere is partly equated with the concept of the organizational climate, but is also partly differentiated from it: While the working atmosphere is more related to the social conditions in an organization, the concept of the organizational climate arises from the perceptions and descriptions of organizational conditions. In this sense, the organizational climate is the more comprehensive concept, as structural conditions are also taken into account in addition to social relationships. In addition, the organizational climate approach is sometimes viewed as more methodologically oriented.
In practice, the working atmosphere is understood more like a kind of weather situation that appears in the most diverse forms and can range from sunny (harmonious coexistence) to thunderstorm (bullying). Since the working atmosphere has a great influence on the motivation and enthusiasm of employees, which can be seen in the annual balance sheet through higher or lower productivity, it should be in the interests of every entrepreneur to invest in improving the working atmosphere.
The working atmosphere
The concept of the working atmosphere is comparatively narrower. Working atmosphere describes the special situation at the respective workplace and is therefore even more direct in its effect on the individual employee. Due to this immediacy, the design of the work climate moves into the sphere of influence of the individual and is therefore easier to change. Working hours and pay are important factors influencing the working atmosphere . However, recognition and conveyance of meaning by the managers play an essential role. The working atmosphere is not particularly good when conflicts no longer exist, but when conflicts no longer lead to escalation and loss of added value.
The corporate culture (English. Organizational Culture ) influences the interaction, the appearance and behavior of the employees and managers among each other as well as towards customers, suppliers, business partners and new employees and has a strong effect on the working atmosphere of those involved. Consciously or unconsciously , they adjust their work and social behavior accordingly, adapt or resist.
Four approaches to influencing the working atmosphere
The autonomy approach
The autonomy approach is based on the complete autonomy of culture in relation to the possibilities of influencing. Accordingly, targeted changes z. B. not possible by management. The working atmosphere is therefore a coincidental result of the interaction between employees. However, this assumption lacks any empirical validity, but rather corresponds to the popular eyes-wide-shut policy of disinterested managers who do not know what to do with soft factors.
The crisis approach
The crisis approach also sees the corporate culture as unchangeable. Only in the event of a crisis is it allowed a certain variability, since in a crisis situation the values and norms of an organization are called into question by its members. Because the organization no longer provides the right answers to existing or developing problems. The crisis approach predicts a kind of internal revolution in which traditional rules are replaced by new ones that create a smooth day-to-day business with a productive working atmosphere.
The gardening approach
The gardening approach regards culture as something that can be influenced in principle. Like a gardener, the management can try to influence the working atmosphere - however, undesirable side effects of the influence cannot be ruled out. A certain “uncontrollability of nature” or the corporate climate is assumed. It is certainly true that in most cases there is more than one method of reacting to a situation.
The do-it-yourself approach
According to this idea, the culture is indeed fixed, but the working atmosphere can always be changed with the desired results within this framework. The manager can improve the working atmosphere of his employees through targeted interventions according to his ideas and thus give his company a competitive advantage.
The development of the work climate debate (beginning of the 20th century until today)
Scientific management (Taylorism)
The Scientific Management (dt. Scientific management), pejoratively as Taylorism called, goes to Frederick Winslow Taylor back. He was convinced that he could optimize management, work and the company with a scientific approach. The company's goal was to use the maximum efficiency of human work without wearing out the workforce. This was an almost revolutionary thought at the time. To achieve this goal, processes and tools were optimized until the most efficient “way of performing” was figured out. This was mostly based on an extreme division of labor (partialization) and was completely prescribed (assembly line work in piecework with performance bonuses). These routines should give the employee the highest level of security and maximum performance. The introduction of Scientific Management resulted in a great deal of rationalization in the companies. The term work climate was understood as the sum of environmental factors that had to be optimized. The workers were given a standardized environment with standardized lighting, tools and operating procedures. In return, they were increasingly denied self-determination and personal responsibility. The worker was now only responsible for the work itself, not for solving problems. The image of man inherent in Taylorism is that of L'homme machine , the machine man . The human being was seen as a technical device, as "company inventory", which had to be optimally used and maintained.
The German variant of Scientific Management was the so-called Psychotechnik . It can be classified between the First and Second World Wars and is divided into subject and object psychotechnology: The dominant form was subject psychotechnology, which examined the adaptation of the worker to the requirements of the job through selection and training and developed the first assessment center in history. The much less pronounced form was the object psycho technique, by which one understood the most humane structuring and design of the working conditions. Psychotechnology was mainly used in German army psychology during the Second World War and has had a rather negative image since then.
Taylorism experienced a boom until the 1930s, after which the enthusiasm ebbed due to the findings of the Hawthorne studies (1927–1929). Pure Taylorism is often seen in close connection with a culture of distrust, in which excessive controls, excessive hierarchy, impersonal command economy and excessive measures are the order of the day. Newer approaches are based on creating a culture of trust through largely independent group work.
The human relations movement
→ Main article: Human relations
When the scientist Elton Mayo at the Taylorist-run Hawthorne works, which manufactured telephones, cables, and switchgear, examined a study of the effect of lighting conditions on the work performance of employees during the late 1920s, he found that social situation conditions had a considerable influence the performance of the employees. As a result, more importance was attached to the informal social relationships of the employees, the human relations in the working groups, and a counter-image to Taylorism was drawn up.
Employees perform at their best when they feel comfortable at work - and the number one feel-good factor is the social ties between colleagues. This was a groundbreaking discovery at the time. However, the human relations approach suggests that the employees are less interested in the material working conditions than in their socio-emotional environment. A re-examination of the data showed, however, that the influence of wage incentives on work performance is greater than the influence of socio-psychological factors than the researchers estimated at the time. The most important result of the human relations movement, however, was the starting shot she gave to the discussion about the directive leadership style prevailing in Taylorism, which was already criticized at that time as making little sense and even damaging to business.
Work as self-realization
The image of man in the 1960s and 1970s is that of self-actualizing , which needs autonomy in order to realize itself. The achievement of top performance was promised by allowing maximum freedom and personal responsibility for the employee at his workplace. The content of the work also increasingly became the focus of interest. It was assumed that people seek self-fulfillment in their work and that this is the main reason for work motivation. At the same time there was a movement of "industrial democracy". Opportunities for participation and work design concepts (such as semi-autonomous working groups ) were developed. In the 1970s, minimum requirements, guide values and protection data were drawn up in the action program Humanization of Working Life .
- My most valuable achievement for IBM was my ability to select good and intelligent employees, to hold them together through conviction, through courtesy, through financial incentives, through talking, through chatting with their wives, through small courtesies and by doing everything that was available to me so that this team would think I was a decent person. ( Thomas J. Watson Jr. , former CEO of IBM )
Working atmosphere today
Today's working atmosphere approach takes into account that it is not just a question of a single factor such as “clarity of the task”, “social relationships at work” or “personal responsibility of the employee”, but that the employee has a multitude of individual and situation-specific goals that become complicated , but putting together a meaningful whole, pursued. Based on this, in addition to the respective tasks, the needs of the individual employees should be taken into account (e.g. well-being, acceptance, identity). Furthermore, an individualization of the work design to increase performance makes sense. In addition, managers must also become aware of their social moderator function and give this a higher priority instead of exclusively exercising planning, organizational and control functions. Rigid hierarchical structures, authoritarian, sometimes even absolutist leadership behavior and poorly communicated top-down decisions create a climate of mistrust. Today it is assumed that employees can best develop their full potential and performance within a trusting and humane corporate culture. The working atmosphere is also researched by employee representatives, such as the Austrian Chamber of Labor with the Working Climate Index .
- Ferdinand Eder: School and class climate. Form, determinants and effects of the climate in higher schools . StudienVerlag, Innsbruck 1996, ISBN 3-7065-1118-5
- Ludwig von Friedeburg : Sociology of the business climate. Studies on the interpretation of empirical studies in large industrial companies . European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1963.
- Maximilian Gontard: corporate culture and organizational climate. An empirical study , dissertation, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-87988-634-2
- Elton Mayo: The social problems of an industrial civilization , 1933 (German: "Problems of industrial working conditions", Verlag der Frankfurter Hefte, Frankfurt am Main 1949)
- Dirk Varbelow: School climate and school quality in the context of deviant behavior , Tectum-Verlag, Marburg 2003, ISBN 3-8288-8542-X
- Working climate index of the Chamber of Labor Upper Austria
- Harvard Business School online exhibit on the Hawthorne experiments
- Rudolf Bögel: Organizational Climate and Corporate Culture . In: Lutz von Rosenstiel, Erika Regnet, Michael E. Domsch (ed.): Management of employees. Handbook for successful human resource management . 5th edition. Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart 2003, p. 43 .
- Marianne Giesler: Creativity and Organizational Climate . Waxmann Verlag, Münster 2003, p. 156 .