Avoid the Thermostat Wars: Use Data to Measure Your Organization’s Climate

In the Northeast United States, the up and down temperature readings have brought out familiar sounds.  No, it’s not the sound of melting snow or cars sloshing through puddles, instead its co-workers arguing, “Who turned off the heat? It’s freezing in here”.  Countered quickly with “It’s too hot. Keep it off”.

These are all common refrains familiar to millions of people who share their workspace and a thermostat with others. These battles have undoubtedly led to thousands of hours of unproductive meetings and lost productivity simply to determine whether the office thermostat should be set at 70 or 75.

An organization’s climate is the way its members feel about their organization. Climate comes from people’s perceptions and attitudes, what they believe about their team and how they operate day in and day out.  The climate of an organization depends on the makeup of the team and can change rapidly as members leave and new ones join. 

As a leader, you establish the climate of your organization, no matter its size. While it’s easy to measure the temperature of an office by reading a thermostat, it’s not as easy for a leader to quickly and accurately measure the climate of their organization.

Too often, measuring climate utilizes the GFI (Gut Feeling Index) of the leader. The leader may think or have a gut feeling that their organization has a great climate but often lacks tangible proof. That leader may believe their organization has a negative climate but does not know the root cause or the source of the negativity and what actions to take to improve it.

There are fabulous research-based tools that can give a detailed analysis of a company’s climate, however, in many instances, the size of an organization does not lend itself to a large-scale survey or these tools are cost prohibitive.

An alternative for the inquiring leader is to ask your team to rate the following statements on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = no evidence/disagree, 10 = highly evident / completely agree).

  • My leader sets clear priorities and goals.
  • There is a system of rewards and recognition and it works to motivate me.
  • The leaders in this organization know what they are doing.
  • The leaders in this organization admit when they are wrong.
  • Leaders in this organization seek input from their team members.
  • Leaders in this organization act on feedback they're provided.
  • Junior leaders have the authority to make decisions that are consistent with the organization's mission and vision.
  • There are high levels of internal stress and negative competition in the organization.
  • Leaders behave the way they talk and their behavior is consistent with positive company values.
  • Leaders talk to their organizations on a regular basis and keep their people informed.

Your data collection method can be as simple as your team members rating these statements on a piece of paper or as complex as utilizing one of the many free survey software creation tools available. The data that you collect may show one glaring opportunity for improvement or multiple courses of action that you may take.

Either way, make sure you take action because nothing is more deflating to a team than giving feedback and then waiting for improvements that never come. Share the results with your team, create an action plan and measure again in a few months.

By utilizing these simple statements to measure your organization’s climate, you will gain an excellent data-based insight on how to lead your team…and avoid the thermostat wars.

Joe Carmen is the Director of Client Relations for Leadership Development at Quinnipiac Corporate Training.

He draws from three decades of practical, real-world leadership experience at West Point and in the US Army, as well as various engineering, operations, sales and leadership roles within Fortune 50 corporations and national award-winning schools.

In these various roles, he has developed unique processes for helping organizations succeed by turning management and leadership ideas into action.