Healthy Organizations: What ultimately creates an organization’s culture?

When we explore areas of Industrial Organizational Psychology we begin to see that one area somehow connects to another, in such a way that it is hard to isolate one topic without considering the other. This is really quite understandable, once we realize the aspects of interconnectedness within an organization. The organization itself more appropriately can be seen as a complex living organization rather than simply as an organization.There are a multitude of facets involving I-O psychology; from understanding the science behind organizations, to disseminating that which constitutes for a healthy organization. Additionally, identifying what essentially motivates and or stresses individuals and groups unique to each organization, in turn ultimately creates that organization’s culture.

Research on what makes organizations healthy points to like-minded principles and elements, which together form good processes to create positive and healthy organizations. As with any living organism, a living organization needs to be nourished, maintained, and changed from time to time in order to sustain its longevity.

Introducing Five Essentials Common to Healthy Organizational Culture (ECHOC)

ECHOC 1 Equity in the workplace: Certain behavioral patterns have negative impacts on others, affecting them to become unmotivated and or to underperform.  Equity in the workplace is an underpinning factor determining individual motivation at all levels in an organization. For example, if Tom does all the work but Jim receives all the glory, Tom will likely begin to work less. However if Tom and Jim are acknowledged equally in proportion to their contributions, then they will both likely continue to work and perform well. Positive reinforcement and rewards should equally be recognized and distributed.

ECHOC 2 Positive emotional attractor (PEA): Professor Richard Boyatzis is considered an expert in the field of emotional intelligence, behavior change, and competence. His Intentional Change Theory (ICT) states that intense positive emotions will have a contagion effect on others. Likewise we must be conscious of the negative emotions one emits as well (Boyatzis 2012). Boyatzis has a 3:1 thought ratio to counteract negative emotions which states primarily for every negative thought three positive thoughts are need to counter the affect (Anderson n.d).

ECHOC 3 Interpersonal Communication: Effective leaders and managers should create an atmosphere that fosters trust and open communication. Communication can be critical especially under stress conditions. Communication is a two-way street that requires active listening. “Active listening means not only listening to what another person is saying with words, but also to what is said by intonation and body language. The active listening process also involves letting the speaker know that he or she has been heard” (U.S. Navy n.d.).

ECHOC 4 Employee Empowerment: Leverage individual talents; build confidence and trust in individual decision-making. By empowering employees to own responsibility, challenging barriers often seen in bureaucratic leadership and which stagnate performance are eliminated, and a healthy empowered environment is created.

ECHOC 5 Collaboration: Everyone in the organization must work in solving problems while adapting change together. Cohesive organizations build unity toward improving and resolving issues as a team and not as isolated units.


After all, a healthy organization should be a vibrant workplace, one that constitutes for the well being of individuals and supports the sustainability of the organization. It is ultimately a place where individuals are inspired to work, trust, and value one another, while reinforcing a foundation that supports the mission of the organization.


Takeaway for your practice

Engage qualified professionals that can ensure your organization is on a healthy track. They will help identify and reverse processes that are damaging to your workers and to your organization. These skilled professionals are often called change agents, they could be leaders, consultants, facilitators, coaches, organizational psychologists or any combination thereof who help develop individuals and instill positive changes in organizations. Professionals will generally offer diagnostic screenings to benchmark how healthy your organization’s culture actually is. These diagnostics will identify the main areas that need improvement and typically involve a 360-degree assessment in aiding an overall discovery process.

Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology offers an international consultant locator service that will help you find an industrial-organizational psychologist who performs consulting services in your geographical area and/or specializes in your organization’s particular area of need. Consultant Locator – SIOP  

Additional sources outside the United States include:

Canadian Psychological Association (CPA)
European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP)
International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP)

What types of assessments have been proven to work well for you and your organization?
Would you suggest another essential element(s) that supports a healthy organizational culture, not listed in the select five ECHOC?
Feel free to share a comment or two about your experiences.

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Adelson, S. and LaRoche, G . (n.d) The Power of Positive Emotional Attractors. Retrieved from:

Boyatzis, R. E., Soler, C. (2012). Vision, leadership and emotional intelligence transforming family business, Journal of Family Business Management. Retrieved from ProQuest Central. doi: 10.1108/20436231211216394

Lowe, Graham. (n.d.)

Topping, Peter, (2002), Managerial Leadership. McGraw-Hill.

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