Changing Your Organization’s Culture

Developing loyalty and integrity starts with a commitment to both at the top


Loyalty and integrity. Two different qualities, but without both your agency is doomed to fail.

But managers can’t expect their staff to just show up and exhibit exemplary loyalty and integrity on the job. It starts at the top, with an organizational culture that not only promotes those qualities, but practices, teaches and embodies them every day, in every aspect of the job.

“Do we answer to the public?” asked speaker Jason Dush, CCEMT-P, FP-C, a firefighter/paramedic with the Arlington (TX) Fire Department and flight paramedic for Careflite, during a November 1 session at EMS World Expo 2012 in New Orleans. “Does the public have a degree of expectation of us?”

The answer to both questions, clearly, is yes.

“Everybody (in a department) contributes to our success,” Dush explained, during his presentation titled, “Developing Loyalty and Integrity: The Role of Organizational Culture.” “But we mimic what we’re taught—our culture and behaviors—good and bad. Sometimes we do things without any rationale—‘It’s how we’ve always done it.’”

Dush explained that organizational culture—the values and behaviors that contribute to the distinct social and psychological environment of an organization—is unique to every organization and difficult to change once it’s been established.

Organizational culture manifests itself through the ways an organization conducts its business and treats its employees, customers and the wider community. An agency where supervisors show respect for the rules and employees will breed employees who show respect for each other and their patients.

Dush said creating a sense of ownership within the agency among employees—including them in the decision making process and encouraging them to bring new ideas to the forefront—fosters pride among your frontline EMTs and medics. That sense of pride in what they do and who they work for leads to loyalty. It also fosters a strong sense of integrity. But again, if employees don’t see their managers doing the right thing regardless of who’s looking, they’re less likely to do so themselves.

That said, Dush noted protocols are not the Bible, they’re guidance. Remember, patients don’t follow protocols, so a strict adherence regardless of circumstances may be as dangerous and not following protocols at all. It takes integrity to follow protocols, even if it’d be easier to take a shortcut. But it also takes integrity to speak up and tell managers when something needs to change.

Changing organizational culture requires the combined effort of everyone at an agency. The right people need to be in the right positions to foster change, and without buy-in at all levels of the organization, change will be impossible. In order to create positive change, training and education is often required, and leaders—both formal and informal—need to step up from all levels of the agency.

If everyone’s involved, there’s a greater likelihood the organizational culture can change for the better. But it begins with leaders who exemplify loyalty and integrity in everything they do. If you embody both qualities, you’ll quickly find your employees will, too.