How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation


How company culture shapes employee motivation

Do you remember going to your parents’ work as a kid? You entered the office and could immediately feel a shift in the atmosphere.

The air may have felt tense on certain days. You know, the ones with deadlines or a performance review.

But other times, the air felt lighter. Someone brought in donuts or a cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday – and they even got dressed up to celebrate the occasion

If you know what I’m talking about, then you know what I mean when I say company culture. You see, company culture is palpable.

It’s something that hits you as soon as you walk into the workplace. And even to an outsider, the company culture can either be inviting or disarming.

So, what if I told you that company culture directly impacts how well people work? Sure, there are just some people who seem to be highly motivated without any external support.

But let’s not shove off company culture as something rudimentary or inconsequential. I mean, even as a kid, you could feel whether employees were motivated or not.

And you could tell whether that motivation came from encouragement or fear. It only makes sense that the company culture would affect employees’ motivation in either a positive or negative way.

But what are the exact factors that go into employee motivation as promoted through company culture? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Below are the six main reasons why people work. You’ll find that the first three factors are rather positive. But the other factors involved can lead to a negative working environment.

By understanding why we work, you will start to understand how well we work under certain circumstances. And you’ll find how company culture shapes employee motivation in either a positive or negative way.

So keep reading. And help to affect culture in the best way possible. You may find that the total motivation of the office leads to greater success for everyone involved.

See Related: How to Do a Successful Virtual Fundraiser

#1. Play

Don’t you miss those days at the jungle gym? Or getting your friends together to play your favorite game at recess?

The motivating quality of play never goes away. And even adults need to play too.

When you play, you are already motivated. So the work itself doesn’t feel like work anymore.

In fact, the work can actually lead to greater satisfaction. When workers have room to be curious and explore, employee engagement levels go up.

And the processes through which the job is accomplished become far more creative and innovative. And you want to know something else?

Play also helps the week go along faster. Well, it makes it feel faster at least.

This is not only because employees are able to build and maintain a productive work routine. But also because they are happy to be doing the work in the first place.

A little fun goes a long way. Hire a corporate comedian to entertain the office. You’ll certainly learn what each employee’s laugh sounds like!

So no more having to kick yourself out of bed to get to work on time. Play makes the work fun and something that employees can look forward to.

Your work determines how well you engage with the material. So make play a central pillar of how your company culture shapes employee motivation.

#2. Purpose

Company culture shapes employee motivation either positively or negatively

Purpose. It’s something we all strive to find in life.

But what is the actual definition of purpose in the workplace? Well, when an employee is motivated by purpose, their identity takes part in the work they create.

Think of it this way. The outcome of an employee’s work directly correlates to their identity.

So, if they value the work, they also value the impact of their work. And this can lead to a high-performing employee who cares about what they are putting out there.

Sometimes, employees just don’t care about their job. And this shows in their work.

Their work might be sloppy or uninformed. And their total motivation seems to have gone down the drain, making it difficult for everyone else involved as well.

But purpose gives employees the motivation to view an outcome as a reflection of their identity. And when the work becomes personal in this way, employees care more about how they are perceived by business leaders.

This is not to say that all work must become personal reflections of the self. That’d be a little bit overkill, right?

But people work better when they recognize that their work for the team is truly an extension of themself. Not to mention that purpose is often a solid indicator of how great the communication skills are in the office. 

This level of self-awareness also extends to customer engagement and leaders within the organization.

So, this way, every one of the workers involved on the team can feel valued while giving their best performance. Consider how purpose plays a role in your company culture or not.

And if it doesn’t, try getting employees to view their business in a new way. You’ll be amazed at how well a team works together when they are motivated to contribute in a positive way to the workplace.

Bonus: What are Dad Jokes?

#3. Potential

You know how when you start a new show, you’re hoping that it will go somewhere good? Don’t give me that look – I know you’re guilty of going on a Netflix binge (or two… or ten).

Well, potential in the workplace is somewhat similar. I’m not talking about good cliffhangers or anything like that.

What I mean is more in line with how a business or organization can positively affect employees outside of their professional lives. Hardly anything is enjoyable without a satisfying end in sight.

And working at companies without any potential for growth can feel stifling in both a professional and personal sense. But remember how purpose ties the work to your identity?

Well, potential also impacts identity as well. Potential is realized when the outcome of your work benefits your identity.

So, in other words, your work has paid off and earned you something you are proud of. This might be a promotion or simply a personal best when it comes to your business performance.

But this is cause for motivation to keep doing better and keeping growing in a positive way. And when leadership recognizes those efforts, employees tend to keep elevating their performance all on their own. 

Valuing and recognizing potential is a huge way in which company culture can shape employee motivation. In fact, play, purpose, and potential all lead in highly motivating factors when it comes to employee motivation.

Cultures may vary across different managers or companies. But any corporate culture and environment that infuses play, purpose, potential, and more into its corporate culture will see greater business performance and better customer satisfaction.

Getting managers to lead in these ways can deeply enhance the leadership at your company overall. So don’t just assume that these values are for the culture of the employees alone.

Company culture starts with management. And then it trickles its way down.

#4. Emotional pressure

Emotional and economic pressure negatively shape employee motivation

So we’ve explored the more positive values in which company culture shapes employee motivation. But what are some of the factors in a company culture that can actually hold back employee motivation altogether?

For one, emotional pressure. Emotional pressure can be explained as an external force.

And this force threatens employees’ identities in some way. This may be manifested as employees working to avoid emotional pain inflicted by leaders at the organization.

Or, it might be employees working for companies that family and friends believe will provide them the most success. So, emotional pressure is both something inside and outside of corporate cultures.

Kind of deep, huh? But emotional pressure is still something business leaders should be aware of.

When the company culture is steeped in fear, then employee performance can actually be a little unfocused and jumbled. So emotional pressure might be a motivating factor.

But what is it motivating the employee toward? Keeping their head down and trying to stay afloat?

That doesn’t sound like a great company culture to be working in. But a company culture that provides reassurance to its workers can enhance their performance.

By virtue of the fact that they are being nurtured, employees tend to feel more at ease in a culture that has their best interests in mind. So, any way that leaders can get a team to value play, purpose, and potential is much better to boost engagement.

Emotional pressure reminds us that motivation can go both ways. People can be motivated by negative forces. Or, they can be motivated by positive factors.

So ask yourself what kind of an organization you want to be. (Hopefully, one whose culture shapes employee motivation in a positive way!)

#5. Economic pressure

Say hello to another external force that provides negative motivation. Economic pressure.

Economic pressure is when an employee works for fear of losing their job or source of income. So essentially, employees’ performance is not only linked to their identity.

But it is also linked to their ability to survive the business. Obviously, a little bit of pressure is always a good thing.

But too much emphasis on economic pressure in company culture can cause workers distress. And this ultimately hurts their overall engagement.

It seems counterintuitive. But when employees are focused on anxieties outside of the company, their motivation in the workplace environment is being funneled in a variety of directions.

So the focus for success and quality is not necessarily there. Instead, it’s on keeping the job, not doing a great job.

What this boils down to is security. Everyone likes to feel secure, whether at home, in business, or at the company they’re working for.

And security can actually provide a better level of engagement when it comes to motivation. So keep an eye on employee engagement and ask yourself whether there’s any emotional and economic pressure coming from inside the company.

Management can change its style. And the success that follows will prove that processes work better within a culture and environment that provides reassurance to its employees.

#6. Inertia

Employee engagement rises with motivation

Normally when you hear inertia, you think of forward movement, right? But what if that forward movement is so far removed from the individual worker that they simply work blindly?

This factor is particularly common in large companies with several workers. Most often, because of their size, they don’t have time to solidify workplace cultures.

They just focus on getting the work done. That is, without questions too.

For some employees, inertia in company culture can motivate them to try to keep up. But they still tend to be confused as to what they are working toward.

And when a team isn’t actually focused on a common goal, the performance might seem productive. But it lacks business acumen and personal integrity.

Ultimately, inertia is a great example of misplaced motivation in company culture. In fact, emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia all fall into that same category.

Each might disguise themselves as a boost to total motivation. But employee engagement will certainly go down in a company culture that focuses simply on emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia.

There are plenty of highly motivating ways to get workers at your organization prepped and ready to take on challenges. So consider the first three values that this article has presented when approaching your company culture.

The bottom line

Improve employee motivation and boost customer satisfaction

There is a myriad of ways how company culture shapes employee motivation. And this article certainly is not an exhaustive list of those ways.

But if you’re looking to shift your company culture, consider these factors in your decisions. At the end of the day, everyone wants to work at a job that is fulfilling and enriching.

The values of play, purpose, and potential absolutely help to supply that – no matter what the job is. But when emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia are involved, the focus can get blurred.

Luckily, culture changes. It always does. And that change can start with you.

Success can be redefined in the workplace. And management can shift its style to make for a better working environment.

But it all starts with a little observation about the current forces at work. You might think that all corporate structures are alike.

And there are certainly some similarities here and there. But only you will know what’s best for your employees.

So get to work, I mean play. And provide purpose and potential for your employees.

Keep Reading: How to Measure Employee Morale

Adam Christing is a professional comedy magician, virtual MC, and the founder of He is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood and a popular comedian for corporate events, magician, and virtual speaker.