Would a Vaccine Mandate Harm a Company’s Culture?

It is easy to look at the year 2020 and see it as merely a time when the entire world was in crisis. But 2020 was more than that. It was a year of opportunity and preparation for 2021 and beyond. Traditional approaches to daily life have been replaced by a "new normal." Company cultures have been dismantled and will be rebuilt using new standards. Employee's attitudes and behaviors shifted as they struggled through the pandemic, and there is no going back.

There is much discussion about "company culture," but does anyone aside from management know what that means, and is it still relevant now with only a few employees spending their day in the office?

Company culture is defined as a set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize an organization.

A company's environment and the interactions in the workplace largely dictate the quality of an employee's attitude about a company’s culture. The (almost) post-pandemic changes have resulted in a shift away from following the leader and towards a more mutual interaction between management and employees. This bridge paves the way for what comes next.

Helping to move us closer to the post-pandemic phase are the COVID-19 vaccines that have rolled out across the world at a record pace. The expectation is that they will keep us from getting COVID-19. With that expectation, a new question has arisen, should employers mandate the vaccine? Will that type of mandate harm the company culture?

Do Companies Have Their Own Culture?

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Yes. Companies have their own culture, and it begins developing before the first employee walks through the door.

Company culture is how people within an organization interact with each other and work together. It is based on the company's attitudes and behaviors, its employees, the values they hold and the decisions they make.

Companies tend to hire employees who share their vision and ethics, but even so, each employee will impact the workplace in different ways.

Training for employees and organizational development classes can help bridge the gap!

Company culture encompasses several elements:

  • Work environment

  • Company mission

  • Style

  • Values

  • Ethics

  • Expectations

  • Goals

  • Inclusivity

  • Psychological safety

Together, these make up the essence of a company’s personality and workplace norms. This year, however, will be a turning point for most companies. Employees are beginning to see their value, and more than that, they know the value that a psychologically safe and inclusive workforce could bring to the office.

Leaders must take steps to bring people together and improve the employee experience. A genuinely inclusive culture is psychologically safe so that employees can express their thoughts and ideas without fear of ridicule. The culture will either evolve as it attracts new employees, or it will become stale. The latter will be at a high cost to the company's reputation.

Vaccines, Your Company, and its Culture – Why it Matters

The question isn't, "can my employer mandate me to get a vaccination." The answer to that is yes; they can. However, objections based on religious grounds would still be exempt.

As of December 12, 2020, polls indicate that 40-50 percent of Americans say they will not get a coronavirus shot. The reluctance stems not from rebellion but its quick introduction and limited testing before FDA approval. Frankly, many people do not trust it.

Arguments can be made for both sides of the issue, but there is no clear consensus.

Many employees are concerned they may have to roll up their sleeves for the vaccine if they want to be employed. It may be a largely mute debate. Littler Mendelson released a study on February 9 that was based on a survey of 1,800 employers. It found that while 43% of employers are still uncertain about what to do, 48% had already decided against mandating the vaccine. The majority (67%) are worried about how a mandate would affect employee morale and company culture.

It is heartening to see that employers are taking the time to listen to their employees and consider their feelings about the matter. Before COVID, the culture of most companies was top-down. CEO's dictated, management translated and directed, and employees followed those directions—end of story. Now, in this "new normal," employers are considering employee's feelings, and though they are not legally required to, they are making accommodations and giving options.

The only way for a company to thrive after COVID is to evolve. The traditional workplace culture has become outdated and irrelevant. Companies must strive to create more inclusive, safe cultures which allow employees to be their most authentic selves at work.

Transparency is Critical to a Company’s Culture

At this point, mandating vaccines may feel disingenuous and cause distrust which will hurt a company’s reputation with its employees and consumers. Employees need to feel respected and appreciated. They need to feel like they are cared about as a whole person, including their physical, social, emotional and financial health.

Leadership is in a unique position to continue developing a culture that integrates managers and employees at their most capable levels. Encouraging vaccines, setting up special programs, allowing time off to receive it, or receiving a bonus, can be incentives for being vaccinated.

Uniting employees into a new culture will help ensure they work together towards a common goal with all their differences, experiences and backgrounds. Social influence is often a powerful motivator. People want to feel included and accepted and may jump on the vaccination bandwagon without a company having to force the issue.

Now more than ever, your employees need emotional support and resources. The pandemic has created a whole new set of physical, financial and emotional stressors that have woven their way into the home and workplace. 

Hundreds of organizations support their employees through The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Investing in the right EAP to support your employees before, during and after they face adverse events will help them and help you. Visit ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.


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Doyle, A. (2020, September 17). What is Company Culture. Retrieved from Careers: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-company-culture-2062000 

Edmond, R. (2020, 6). What is Company Culture in 2020? New Secrets & More. Retrieved from GaggleAMP: https://blog.gaggleamp.com/what-is-company-culture-2020 

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