At VSH, I really like the organizational culture. First of all, communication is very fluid and conversational. Because it is a physically small office, if folks have questions to ask another department, they will often simply walk over to the other person’s office and ask the question in person, resulting in a quick discussion. I really like this, because not only does it foster open lines of communication between departments, but it also increases accountability. Things get done and questions get answered faster when you have the opportunity to directly ask questions of others, which means the work at hand can be accomplished quicker and more smoothly. While I’m not sure how this pans out for, say, the property management department, who also works with VSH’s on-site teams throughout the state, the inter-office communication feels successful.
This type of communication feeds into how people interact. Because it is a small office that also encourages open and in-person communication, throughout the day you hear people passing each others’ offices and cubicles and also asking about their day, their weekend, or their upcoming plans. It feels as though everyone in the office knows each other. While there are still differences between this type of informal interaction and formal communication, even the formal communication is personable. While employees do not get sidetracked with weekend plans during team meetings, jokes are still made and it is clear that participants are comfortable and trusting of one another. Just today, Chris, Jonathan and I were late to the weekly Mission Advancement team meeting and when we joined the conference call, Elizabeth said not to worry, she and Arden had just been catching up and talking away before we got there!
I think the context, working in a human services-based nonprofit, informs this type of organizational culture. Because our mission is to help other people very directly, and especially a population of people who are pretty routinely dehumanized, it results in a culture where employees always treat each other with kindness and attention. We humanize each other because we understand how easily people can be dehumanized by others. We speak about the folks we serve as people experiencing homelessness, because not having a home is not their sole identity. Therefore, it seems natural that we see our coworkers as people doing their job, not their job as their identity.