What is team culture? Key elements, tips and examples

Updated 25 May 2023

Organisations benefit when teams have high employee satisfaction and greater productivity. By building a business that values teamwork and developing a strong team culture, managers provide a strong foundation for their employers' success. If you're about to join a new team, learning about building and adjusting to a team culture may help you feel comfortable in your new role. In this article, we answer 'What is team culture?', list key components of team culture and share tips you may use to help build a healthy culture within a team of which you're a part.

What is team culture?

Learning 'What is team culture?' may help you strengthen your teamwork skills and improve the way in which you collaborate with others in the workplace. Team culture is a set of values, goals and attitudes that members of the same team practise to create a productive and healthy workplace atmosphere. For a team culture to be effective, it's helpful when it uses the same principles as the company culture and simply adds or further defines specific aspects to better accommodate the team's abilities and situation.

For example, both a sales team and an IT team may follow the same principles that managers present to them as parts of the company culture. Due to the different nature of their daily operations, each team may execute these values uniquely. This may refer to the way in which a team communicates or the management style that the team leader uses. Here are some benefits of maintaining and encouraging others to follow their team's cultural principles:

  • Higher engagement: Organisations that effectively encourage their staff to adjust to their team culture may observe higher engagement from employees. This happens because building a team culture creates an atmosphere of openness and helps people share their ideas or try to take more risks at work.

  • Better retention rates: People who work in a healthy team environment are more likely to stay with the company long-term. Instead of changing jobs or transitioning to a different role within the organisation, they want to continue working with people they like and trust.

  • Staff development: As a part of their team culture, leaders may incorporate elements that support their subordinates' learning and development. For example, they may start a mentorship programme or run a survey within the team to ask about growth opportunities that team members might want to pursue.

Related: What is workplace culture and what are its characteristics?

Key components of a team culture

Team culture is a collection of elements that define the way in which members communicate, act, think or perform tasks. Here are some of the key components of a team culture:


Habits describe the rituals and routines of a team. Adjusting to a team's specific habits allows its members to always know what to expect from their colleagues or supervisor. This makes the workplace more comfortable for them and reduces performance anxiety. In addition, it helps members of a team better understand what their leader expects of them during different stages of a project or days of the week.

Related: 10 good work habits for a successful career: tips and advice


For a team to be innovative, it requires an open-minded leader who welcomes everyone's ideas, comments and suggestions. Innovation helps teams become more forward-thinking and supports a team culture that prioritises change. A strong team culture is likely to accept weird or risky ideas, as they're the ones that might drive real progress and help the team succeed.

Related: A guide to the innovation process and how to develop one


A successful team works towards a common goal. Allowing team members to familiarise themselves with the team's purpose also encourages accountability and makes the team more self-aware. To define a team's purpose, managers may consider the clients or departments the team serves and analyse the value it creates for them.

Related: What is a purpose statement? (And how to write one)


Members of successful and high-performing teams make sure to follow the same values. Depending on the goals and projects they're completing, their values may specify how they communicate or prioritise tasks. Specific values may also guide their work styles or the way in which they use their personal talents to handle day-to-day responsibilities within the project.

Related: How to create team values (with definition and steps)

Examples of team cultures

Depending on a team's values and the leader's approach, there are various types of cultures that they may implement within a team. Here are some examples of team cultures that you may encounter in organisations:

Approval culture

The approval team culture cultivates more superficial interpersonal relationships between members of a team. Its primary goal is to create a pleasant atmosphere in which individuals rarely, or never, disagree with their leader. People who work in teams that foster this type of culture often feel that it's their responsibility to make sure others like and respect them.

Related: What is work culture? (Definition, elements and benefits)

Humanistic culture

A humanistic team culture, also known as a helpful culture, allows the leader to create a member-centred atmosphere. It encourages team members to participate in the decision-making process by sharing ideas and constructive criticism. The core values of this culture are honesty, kindness and teamwork. Thanks to the approach this team culture allows, it's great for teams where innovation is the priority.

Competitive culture

This team culture prioritises winning. It encourages team members to compete not only with other teams and departments but also with each other. A leader who encourages this team culture concentrates on rewarding winners. This team culture might work well within teams that require a lot of individual work and in industries where being competitive is a key quality for professionals.

Related: Competitive rivalry: factors, benefits, downsides and tips

Self-actualisation culture

A team culture that builds its values on self-actualisation encourages creativity. It also prioritises quality of work over quantity. Leaders who choose this culture see each member of the team as an individual who has the power to develop themselves through taking action. They see teamwork and independent work as interchangeable elements of the entire team's success.

Related: What is Maslow's motivation theory (and how to use it at work)?

Tips for building and maintaining a healthy team culture

If you're joining a new workforce, you may be wondering what atmosphere you're about to encounter at work. The way in which your new colleagues treat you is likely to tell you a lot about the general team culture. Here are some tips you might use to help build and maintain a healthy team culture:

Ask about it during recruitment

Asking about the team culture during recruitment shows your situational awareness. It also gives you more time to prepare for what you're likely to encounter. If you're going through several rounds of interviews, consider asking about it during your second or third interview. This is because people who handle interviewing during those stages are often team leaders and managers who know more about each team's atmosphere than hiring managers.

Related: 15 questions to ask a hiring manager and the importance

Prioritise learning and support

Regardless of the type of culture a manager maintains within a team, learning and support are two universal qualities that may help you maintain a positive atmosphere. Right after joining the team, you may schedule a quick meeting with your supervisor to ask about learning opportunities they make available to team members. This shows your interest in personal and professional development.

Related: Learning environment (definition, types and examples)

Ask for feedback

If you're unsure if you understand the current team culture well, ask your manager for feedback. You may even specify that the reason behind this request is to make sure you use the correct communication tools and your work style aligns with the values of the team. Thanks to the leader's feedback, you may learn more about the team's goals or habits and adjust your performance to align with them.

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