We recently sat down with Cynthia Hernandez, Chief People Strategist, to discuss culture within the workplace. In her role at VIP, Hernandez works closely with the leadership team to strategically drive efforts to create a thriving work environment for all employees. Cynthia has over 10 years of experience as an innovative Human Resources professional.

“How would you define company culture?”  

The culture within organizations is not a “thing” that can be easily described, in great part because it is experienced. There are so many ways to define it. I have heard organizational culture defined as the personality of the company. While this may be true, personality is fixed, and not likely changeable. Culture, like energy, can be sensed, can be transferred to another person or people, can move forward or backward, but most importantly can be transformative.

“How is organizational culture shaped?”

Organizational culture is shaped by the collective values, belief systems, and world views of individuals that form organizational dynamics of behavior that are unique and are inherently accepted and the defining of the organization. That dynamism is the energy that fuels culture. Fuel is what we say and do not say to one another, how we behave in the absence of and the presence of one another, which values we choose to align ourselves with and how much thought we choose to put into decision making.

“How can a company maintain organizational culture?”

There are ways we cautiously maintain a desirable, growth-oriented, organizational culture.  We must recognize first and foremost that it’s not solely on the top leaders’ shoulders. When it comes to fueling culture, every employee should lend mindfulness to being a culture champion.

“When one is faced with a crisis at the workplace, how should they respond?”   

During crisis or times of duress, humans go into survival mode and instinctually protect ourselves; this can morph into blaming or backbiting behavior. Be more self-aware and don’t allow this to happen. Taking emotional intelligence assessments every so often will help to increase self-awareness.

“Why should empathetic concern be practiced at the workplace?”

Often we confuse being empathetic as simply acknowledging or validating feelings. When individuals perceive there is altruistic concern over their well-being and development, we feel safe and will respond rather than react. Practicing empathic concern when addressing undesirable, potentially toxic behavior is a courageous and effective action. Social scientist, researcher, and author, Brene Brown shares, in Dare to Lead, decades of research on leadership and how deeply human issues underlie our struggle to show up and lead through the discomfort.  We are human beings in a constantly changing environment we call the workplace, “We need braver leaders and more courageous cultures”.

Cynthia Hernandez | Chief People Strategist

“During a conflicting situation in the workplace, how should one respond?”

With care. Along with empathic concern, another courage-building skill to finesse is radical candor. Leaning into uncomfortable conversations requires care. If we take heed from Kim Scott, a former executive at Google & author of Radical Candor, when we deliver the hard message we will most often see a transformation because we care personally about the person. Effective leaders focus on the impact and consequences of poor performance or behaviors, rather than attacking the person. Keep this in mind when leaning in to have those conversations.

“How would you describe the culture at VIP?”

Stepping into VIP 20 months ago, the energy I sensed was mindfulness in progress. Today where I see mindfulness is in the organic mentoring that occurs with our engineers, the intrinsic creativity that rushes out of our architects, the heroics of our support teams, the unwavering dedication to quality & consistency from our construction & development teams. Together we play the infinite game.

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Our company specializes in architecture, engineering, construction, and development as a fully integrated design-build firm  to help organizations with building needs all across Upstate New York.

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