20 Words to Describe Company Culture in 2023 – Positive Words, Negative Words, and more

February 22, 2023 Workhuman Editorial Team
describe a company culture

What one word would you use to describe your company’s culture? It may seem like an oversimplification, but that one word can paint a picture of what it’s like to work at your organization. 

Company culture is the company’s and its employees’ shared ethos and if that one word is negative or even vastly different for employees and leaders of an organization, that’s a problem. Not just for the people working at the company now, but for future employees, too. Many job seekers look for a positive, strong workplace culture in the same way they assess pay and benefits.

As an organization, it’s important to define your company in terms that reflect your core values and mission. We’ve put together this list of the most popular words to describe company culture, both positive and negative, with examples of how they manifest in the workplace.

9 positive words to describe company culture

The first step toward building a workplace that employees gravitate toward is to define your company culture. Let’s start with nine positive words that could describe your company culture:

1. Agile

An agile company culture is one that allows its employees to work in the way that suits them best. If you describe your workplace as agile, it means you place a high value on work-life balance.

What you can expect from an agile company culture:

  • Flexibility in scheduling
  • Remote work opportunities

This culture helps employees balance their daily work with their personal lives. As a result, employees are more content, which leads to increased productivity.

Agile work cultures also allow for greater adaptability to external changes, which is crucial for long-term success.

2. Autonomous

Gone are the days when employers needed to micromanage their employees. In an autonomous workplace, employees are encouraged to make independent decisions. 

This autonomy builds a culture of trust which creates a healthy culture that boosts productivity and positivity. Employees have control over their projects with the freedom to think freely and creatively.

According to research, employees can produce their best work in a trusting environment. Such an environment can also increase employee retention.

3. Inclusive

A primary goal for your company should be to make it more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive. Inclusivity is especially important for company culture.

A strong company culture embraces and celebrates employees from various backgrounds, identities, and experiences. Such a culture shakes off homogenous thinking and seeks to eradicate biases wherever they may lie. 

Above all, an inclusive culture helps the entirety of the workplace feel a sense of psychological safety and pushes the company forward.

4. Collaborative

In a collaborative environment, no person is an island. Employees should regularly collaborate when working on projects, but that is a dynamic that is nurtured by a culture that prioritizes connection.

A collaborative company culture should:

  • Encourage employees to share their ideas
  • Support one another
  • Work in teams to achieve common goals

Employees are more engaged and connected in a collaborative environment. They also have improved communication and teamwork skills. 

5. Empathetic

In an empathetic culture, employers acknowledge and encourage employees to express their emotions. They create a safe environment that encourages open communication and support.

All companies should aspire to be empathetic. Leading such a culture in your workplace can help prevent elevated levels of burnout and stress, it can increase trust, improve trust, and help employees feel valued.

When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to stick around.

6. Innovative

One adjective to describe a company culture that supports and encourages forward-thinking is “innovative.” Innovative companies grow at a faster rate and become more profitable than other businesses.

But that’s not because they are creating groundbreaking services or products every day, but rather encouraging feedback and iteration throughout the company. These small improvements stack up and can have an energizing effect across teams and departments.

What’s more, most young job seekers want to work for a company that celebrates thinking outside the box. They know that such companies reward their employees for trying new strategies, processes, and approaches to solving problems.

7. Motivating

Work monotony can have an adverse effect on some people’s performance and quality of work. That’s why most, if not all, employees want to work in a stimulating environment.

Such an environment seeks to inspire its employees through recognition. When employees feel they are succeeding and on the right track, they’re more motivated to take on new challenges and increase their productivity.

It’s also essential to pair the acknowledgment of a job well done with some form of reward. You can use Social Recognition® to build a culture of recognition. This tool can help provide employees with extrinsic rewards. As a result, they find it easy to stay intrinsically motivated.

When employees receive recognition from their peers as well as their superiors, they’re more likely to have a positive work experience, which is a win-win all around. Research from IBM® Smarter Workforce Institute and Workhuman® iQ shows organizations that score in the top 25% on employee experience report nearly 3x the return on assets and 2x the return on sales.

8. Casual

A casual company culture can foster a welcoming and laid-back environment. Employees prefer workplaces where they can dress comfortably and which allow for breaks and flexible work hours.

Such a relaxed environment can help keep employees happy at work which makes them more invested and compelled to deliver high-quality work.

So, unless necessary, there are not many positives for employees to follow an overly formal dress code or a strict schedule.

9. Transparent

A transparent company culture keeps its employees up to date on its operations, strategies, and goals. This includes any errors or crises that the company encounters.

Employees feel valued and trusted when there is this level of transparency. In turn, always being open and honest with your employees helps you gain their trust and respect.

A manager collaborating a brainstorming session with their team

7 negative words to describe company culture

A toxic workplace can result in high turnover and a low number of job applicants. Here then are seven negative words that describe work cultures you should want to avoid:

1. Biased

Whether intentional or not, biases create unwelcome issues in the workplace, such as:

  • Discrimination
  • Stress and burnout
  • Inequities
  • Microaggression

Biases can creep into every facet and process of a business from hiring to promoting and thus should be something every employer is consistently vigilant of. 

2. Cliquey

You may associate cliques with high schools, but cliques form in workplaces, too. A cliquey culture is one where employees are excluding other employees from their “team.” 

Employees can and hopefully do form friendships, but a cliquey form of grouping can lead to loneliness. As a result, excluded employees may experience low morale, which may negatively impact their performance.

3. Disengaged

In a disengaged culture, employees don’t feel connected to their workplace or their work. This state can spread low morale and negativity within the organization. It can also result in poor performance and high turnover due to employees’ lack of enthusiasm.

4. Hostile

Hostile workplaces are often known for being hyper-competitive. They foster an obsessive mindset and often lack empathy among employees and leaders. Unwarranted or disrespectful criticism from leaders and managers is often a source of hostility in the workplace.

Hostility can have a huge negative impact on an individual employee’s mental health and well-being and lower overall morale and performance overall.

If employees don’t feel safe, they’re less likely to engage with their managers and raise issues or challenges they encounter. When left on an island, employees may even become hostile toward one another.

5. Micromanaged

Micromanagers often feel the need to exert control over their team’s work. As a result, a culture of micromanaging can make employees feel like they’re underqualified.

Micromanagement has such a negative impact on businesses that it’s a common reason why employees leave. When employees feel like they don’t have the freedom to make decisions, they become disengaged from their work and the company as a whole. They may also feel like they’re stuck in place.

6. Rigid

A rigid workplace, as you might guess, is one where employees don’t have much flexibility in process improvement, work arrangements, and all sorts of facets of the workplace. They may find themselves employing antiquated strategies and approaches simply because that’s the way the company has historically addressed a problem.

Employees are also more prone to professional stagnation in rigid company cultures because they lack creativity and innovation.

7. Stressful

Taking on projects one after the other without a support structure in place can put all employees under pressure and stress. 

That’s a big deal because chronic workplace stress can lead to low productivity, low well-being, and high burnout. That’s why it is critical to provide employees with flexibility and breaks to recover from stress.

Using Moodtracker®, a pulse-survey tool, is one way to stay informed about how your employees are feeling. The tool sends regular surveys to all employees then provides an easy-to-read but detailed analysis of the results.

Moodtracker also provides immediate recommendations and solutions. This way, you can keep your workplace from becoming stressful.

words to describe company culture

4 Words to describe company culture values

The type of culture you’re part of needs to hold certain values. That way all employees have a clear vision of what they stand for.

Here are four words that you can use to describe your company’s values and ethics:

1. Accountability

Fostering accountability is a critical step in improving company culture. You want your company’s culture to be one in which all employees take responsibility for their work.

Employers and managers must be able to rely on their employees to complete their tasks and meet deadlines and employees need to be able to rely on employers and managers for support and open communication.

This accountability culture can help foster great commitment among employees. In doing so, employees are more likely to deliver the best results.

2. Communication

A positive company culture encourages open and honest communication. It’s what provides employees with a sense of direction and a method for forming effective teams.

Clear communication also sets the stage for what’s to come by ensuring that all employees are clear on common goals.

3. Feedback

Regular, two-way constructive feedback keeps employees and managers informed of their own and their team’s performance. One of the best ways to start is for managers to ask for feedback and let employees set the tone. 

It also allows everyone to fully understand what is expected of them. Research shows that this clarity of expectations can lead to a 5-10% increase in productivity gains.

In a company culture that values feedback, employees support and mentor one another. This reflects in the overall improvement and growth of the company.

4. Inclusion

As mentioned above, an inclusive culture encourages diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). It creates policies and tools to ensure that all employees, regardless of their background, feel valued, involved, and respected.

You could benefit from a feature like Inclusion Advisor, which reduces unconscious bias in written communications.

Inclusion Advisor does more than point out subtleties that may appear biased. It also offers suggestions and an explanation of why such language is biased.

According to research, developing an inclusive work culture is critical to a company’s success. The top 25% of companies in terms of racial and ethnic diversity outperform their respective national industry medians in financial returns by 35%.

Inclusion at work



Using precise and powerful words to describe company culture sets the stage for what’s to come from your company. It can affect all aspects of the company from engagement and productivity to turnover and the ability to attract the best candidates for your company.

Take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of your employees. Ask around and run employee surveys. Understanding what words your employees use to describe your organization will help you assess what’s going right and what needs improvement. 

Company Culture