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Thomas Carganico of PQE Group: Five Things Business Leaders Can Do To Create A Fantastic Work Culture

It’s important to respect the culture. When you create a work culture, honesty becomes paramount. Without transparency, everything would fall apart. On top of that, consistency in messaging and in actions is what really solidifies an organizational culture.

As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Carganico.

As the Marketing & Communications Director of PQE Group, Thomas manages all global MarCom initiatives — from partnerships and internal and external communications to digital and print marketing, and all events. Thomas is also committed to promoting gender inclusivity, gender equality, and eradicating gender bias; driven to create a culture of support, safety, and acceptance in the workplace. Thomas places a high value on making a difference, and he is passionate about raising awareness and taking action on social issues such as water conservation, food waste, and sustainability.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting part of my job has been to start building a team of people who are not based in the same country as me.

When we started work as a communication and marketing department, there were just three of us and we were very much in the startup phase of the project. Appointing an employee in China, which was where we started, was an interesting challenge because I was not sure how I would go about interviewing candidates.

It was my first visit to China and I was not sure about which questions to ask, given the enormous difference between our cultures. I took a class with a coach in Italy to help me understand Chinese culture and society and to walk me through interview scenarios.

I asked all the candidates to write an email reporting on an event. That proved to be very useful and helped me to make the right decisions. Doing something ‘out of the box’ was an interesting learning experience.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are running several projects internally at PQE Group. One of the most exciting ones is our policy on inclusive language, which I believe is a vital and beneficial initiative.

We have colleagues who may be nonbinary and do not wish to be referred to as male or female. Our language policy encourages people to be more open and enables everyone to feel comfortable in the workplace, which is most important. It’s a policy that I would like to see more organizations adopting.

Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I think the main issue lies in the generational shift in the workplace. Companies are still applying leadership styles that hark back to the 60s and 70s, but that is not working for millennials. Leaders and managers need to understand that younger generations grew up in a world that is far more diverse than before and they prefer a teamwork approach rather than authoritative management.

Companies need to find ways to meet these younger people halfway for the good of their workforce and their organization. It might take a while to achieve that. It’s a change that we all have to embrace. Society has changed in major ways since the 70s, and people no longer want to be governed by old norms.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

It is likely to have a significant impact on all three.

Company profitability is closely tied to productivity. Unhappy workers are less productive and less committed, which affects company performance. Dissatisfied workers are also less likely to become more deeply involved in the business and go the extra mile. When you have a content workforce, people are far more willing and able to contribute to the success of their organization and the financial results will reflect that.

In a B2B company, an unhappy workforce can have a more profoundly negative impact on profitability than in a B2C environment. B2B organizations like PQE Group are heavily reliant on their people. Our productivity is deeply linked to our people because we are consultants. Employee satisfaction is critical for us as it also has an impact on health and well-being. Happy workers are healthier and more productive workers.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

The key is to actually have a culture based on a strongly held and widely shared set of beliefs. If you don’t have a clear vision in mind it’s very hard to fake it or to create something from scratch.

First, you need to empower people to make sure that they’re happy and prepared to take on responsibilities. That relates to the second point, which is to allow people room for error. Because once you give them responsibility they will make mistakes — that’s normal. It’s also important to manage the consequences of those mistakes. The more comfortable your employees are, the more likely they will be to try new ways of doing things.

The second is psychological safety in the workplace. Psychological safety means creating an environment where people are comfortable sharing their feelings. When employees don’t feel comfortable in the workplace, they don’t share their problems and concerns until they become very overwhelming and the situation becomes very difficult to fix. Sometimes people leave their jobs not because the company was bad, but because they were not comfortable enough to share their problems.

I also believe in letting people do their own thing. At PQE Group, whenever there’s a new project or task, we let people lead with their own ideas. That happens organically because we are not a hierarchical company. This is truly valuable because when people have an entrepreneurial mindset, they are more passionate about what they do.

Lastly, it’s important to respect the culture. When you create a work culture, honesty becomes paramount. Without transparency, everything would fall apart. On top of that, consistency in messaging and in actions is what really solidifies an organizational culture.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

If you want to change the workplace culture, you also need to change the general culture.

It’s not one or the other, and I think that comes down to education. The education system has to change. As I said earlier, if we apply decades-old thinking to today’s workplace, we simply maintain the status quo. It’s the same with education, which is critically important because it plays a big role in shaping people. If the education system remains the same while the workplace requires different thinking, skills, and talents, the mismatch can create unhappiness.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I have an entrepreneurial approach to leadership and I encourage people to develop their own ideas. They set their own tasks and actions, and they’re happy to achieve their goals. I focus more on my team than myself because I want them to be outstanding.

For example, one of our staff wanted to take on the role of social media manager. She was in accounting when she started. One day she moved to my department because we needed support for an event, and she ended up staying. I asked her what she wanted to do and she expressed an interest in social media. So, I decided to let her lead the role and follow her passion.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I had many mentors outside of PQE Group. When I graduated from university. I moved to the US and I worked as a communications assistant to a manager at PBS. As my first manager, she was really, really hard on me, which I appreciate. She was tough but in a good way.

Although she was tough, at the same time, she really understood all the difficulties and the problems I was facing as I had come over from Italy and my English was not that good. It was very hard for me, but she helped me out. She taught me a lot, both inside and outside of the work environment.

It was from her that I learned to work fast and be detail-oriented. She would urge me to focus on details that at first didn’t seem so important to me. I soon understood how important it is to check every single comma in every single thing that we do.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I wish I could say that I have. I don’t want to use my success as a tool, because I’m not sure if I have even had success, to begin with. But one thing I always strive to do is to help whenever I can. If there’s anyone that needs assistance, I’m always the one that will find a solution or help people network to find the job they really want so that they can further their career. I always try to use my position to help everyone that might need it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. We all have a different status in life, but the one thing I believe is that whatever you’re given you should use to try to do your best.

This also means that sometimes you have to realize you aren’t going to be able to get exactly what you want. I’ve been somewhat stubborn about getting what I want, but life puts you in certain situations where you need to face up to the fact that your wish is not going to come true. We all need to realize that we can’t always get what we want.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Ideally, I would like everyone to become vegan, or at least to reduce meat consumption around the world so that we can put an end to big farms and find healthier ways of living that could be beneficial to both us and our planet. Livestock farming is causing many of our current environmental problems. This would be a very drastic change — even for me because I’m not vegan! But I think I would be ready to make that sacrifice if it could help to save our world.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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