Poor Organizational Culture in Local Governments: Mental Health Impacts & Action Steps

mental health impact

In the intricate web of our daily lives, the organizations we work for serve as significant cornerstones. They shape not only our careers but also influence our mental health. The collection of values and practices that guide the actions within an organization is collectively called “organizational culture.” When this culture thrives, it acts as a beacon of trust, accountability, and collaboration, leading to positive habits and stellar performance. However, what transpires when an organization’s culture veers off this virtuous path? In such instances, poor organizational culture can cast a long, dark shadow over the mental health of its employees.



Recognizing the Telltale Signs

Identifying a poor organizational culture can be elusive, yet it’s crucial for the well-being of employees. One glaring red flag is when a company fails to adhere to its professed values. For instance, if honesty is touted as a core value, but the company promotes dishonest behaviors within its managerial processes, a dissonance arises that can erode trust and negatively impact mental health. This, in turn, also impacts willingness to communicate across and within departments, erodes efficiency, and customer services all at once.


The Mental Health Toll

Harvard Business Review underscores the alarming fact that many managers become aware of their team members’ mental health issues only when they investigate poor performance. In a survey conducted in 2021, a staggering 84% of respondents agreed that workplace factors had negatively affected their mental health. Chief among these factors was the sense of emotional exhaustion and being overworked, two elements that can precipitate a cascade of mental and physical health issues.

The Mayo Clinic enumerates the dire consequences of job burnout, which include excessive stress, debilitating fatigue, insomnia, pervasive sadness, heightened vulnerability to heart disease, and an increased susceptibility to various illnesses. These debilitating factors collectively contribute to the development of anxiety and depression, casting a gloomy shadow over the lives of affected individuals.


Action Steps towards a Healthier Organizational Culture

To mitigate the adverse impact of a poor organizational culture on mental health, organizations must take proactive steps to create a healthier work environment.

Here are some action steps to develop a strong organizational culture in local governments:

Action Steps toward strong organizational culture


1.  Allow Flexibility:

Flexibility in work arrangements can greatly alleviate the pressure on employees. By offering options like remote work, flexible hours, and compressed workweeks, organizations empower their employees to better balance their professional and personal lives. This, in turn, can reduce stress levels and contribute to improved mental health.


2. Focus on Positive Outcomes:

Shifting the organizational focus from a punitive, performance-driven culture to one that emphasizes positive outcomes can be transformative. Rather than solely concentrating on correcting mistakes, organizations should celebrate achievements and discuss ways that leadership can further support their employees in resources, prioritization, or decision-making processes is an option too. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their hard work fosters a more positive and motivating work environment.


3. Be an Effective Leader:

Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping a local government organization’s culture. Good leadership involves leading by example, fostering open communication, and demonstrating empathy towards employees’ well-being. Leaders should prioritize mental health by encouraging breaks, supporting work-life balance, and facilitating time and access to mental health resources.


4. Promote Mental Health Awareness:

Organizations should actively promote mental health awareness among their employees. This can be achieved through training programs, workshops, and access to mental health resources and professionals.

Creating a welcoming environment where employees feel that they can discuss their mental health concerns with the right people—those who will actively listen and take meaningful action to address these issues.


5. Encourage Work-Life Balance:

Striking a healthy work-life balance is crucial for mental well-being. Organizations should discourage overworking, set reasonable expectations, and encourage employees to take regular breaks and vacations. Encouraging employees to unplug from work outside of office hours can prevent burnout.


6. Ask HR to Consider Implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):

EAPs are a valuable resource for employees dealing with mental health challenges. These programs offer confidential counseling and support services to help employees navigate personal and professional difficulties. These benefits have to be budgeted for but can be extremely helpful when offered throughout the organization.