Isle House Embraces a Workplace Culture Centered on Trust, Community, & Respect for All

The Isle House team boasts a culture that embodies trust, community, and mutual respect between all team members.

October 19, 2023

Core Values

There’s no denying that construction is—and always has been—an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry with a reputation for favoring “traditional” methods and approaches over those designed to challenge industry norms, such as corporate social responsibility. Initiatives centered on championing social progress on job sites and cultivating a more diverse workforce have long been dismissed as irrelevant and unnecessary despite the fact that men continue to outnumber women in construction by nearly 9 to 1.

The barriers to women’s success in construction have been researched at length for years, ranging from job sites’ lack of properly fitting PPE and sanitary facilities to the industry’s enablement of unhealthy workplace cultures, often fueled by sexist behaviors that continually go unpunished.

Such behaviors have no place at Isle House, a project boasting a culture that embodies trust, community, and mutual respect between all team members, including those on the trade partner, architect, and owner sides. At the helm of Webcor’s team are Project Manager Karen Turcios and Superintendent Maria Damas, two women of color with a deep appreciation for the female representation on all sides of the Isle House project. There’s a unique shift in perspective and energy inherent with working on a team powered by women, they say.

“As women, we tend to be natural multi-taskers,” Maria says. “Couple that with our valuable industry experience, and you get a team of goal-chargers who will accomplish all assigned tasks as efficiently and thoroughly as possible.”  

“Having someone like Maria as superintendent really helps set a workplace atmosphere that’s completely different from the type you’d typically encounter in construction,” Karen says. “She brings valuable attributes to the table, such as a calm and curious demeanor, that are backed by her in-depth field experience.”

A truly healthy workplace culture cannot be fostered by women (or any other underrepresented demographic) alone, however. Consistent allyship from male counterparts is integral to cultivating an inclusive work environment, which can be demonstrated through advocacy for their female teammates when they’re NOT in the room, respect for the full scope of responsibilities owned by the women on their team, and preventing them from being sidelined, Karen shares.

“When you combine these actions with active caring and execution from the top-down, you’re rewarded with a truly inclusive workplace culture,” she continues.

“My co-superintendents at Isle House, Kelly Martz and Justin Schmitt, are great examples of allies,” Maria says. “They’re super easy to work with and excellent at their jobs. I like to think that I play an important role in sustaining the positive nature of our relationship as well. Whenever we need to share a single resource for our different needs, for example, we always listen to one another and work together on reaching a compromise.”

At its core, Karen says, Isle House’s workplace culture is driven by a team of individuals who value one another for the perspective, experience, and solutions that each person brings to the table.

“We’re united in our shared goal of delivering a successful project that surpasses our client’s expectations,” she explains. “Every person on the team is looking to improve both as a team and individuals. It’s been fun and rewarding to be a part of all the progress that we’ve made – from internal team growth such as communication and process improvements, to the literal physical progress we’ve made on the Isle House tower over the last year.”

Isle House Culture’s Impact on Employee Experience & Performance

As the superintendent overseeing Isle House’s exterior skin and commissioning scopes, Maria leads countless male-dominated conversations, meetings, and gatherings. Instead of battling questions or critiques of her authority in such settings, as many women in leadership roles do, she’s been fully valued and respected by everyone on the team, she says.

“I’ve never felt the need to keep quiet or act reserved as a woman leading a field scope here because my teammates have created a safe and comfortable setting for me to do my job,” she says.

Karen shares similar sentiments about her experience as a leader in Isle House’s office, assured by the knowledge that her team will direct appropriate issues and questions her way without disputing her leadership or ability to effectively resolve challenges. That sense of empowerment is just one result of the workplace culture that Isle House’s team has advanced since the start of the project—a culture that permeates the entire team, from trade partners to architects to owners.

“Simply put, the team has been genuinely inclusive without any sort of hidden agenda,” Karen says. “They truly respect the feedback, input, experience, and solutions I bring to the table. I show up to work knowing that I’ll lead with transparency and honesty—two critical components to project success—and that I’ll receive the same in return. When you’re part of a team built on trust and community, treating one another with that type of respect is contagious.

“I feel extremely lucky for the opportunity to be supported and pushed forward by so many amazing people. It feels amazing to be offered a seat at the table by all who have, and currently do, mentor and empower me. I’m just so thankful for it every day. The positive impact is immeasurable; I hope to do the same for others as well.”

“I’d like to thank those to whom I’ve reported and continue to report for entrusting me with opportunities to grow in this industry,” Maria says. “Please never stop. Thank you for pushing me to do more and giving me a voice. I’m forever grateful.”

Why Does It Matter? Consequences of Poor Workplace Culture

Over the course of her decade-long career in construction, Maria’s worked with her fair share of personalities. Although she’s grateful to have learned from countless people she admires, she’s also navigated the difficulties of collaborating with colleagues “on the opposite side of the spectrum” who modeled the type of behavior she’s promised herself she’ll never emulate.

“I tend to avoid yellers and generally rude people whenever possible,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all want and deserve respect, so I try to always do what I’d like to see from others. It’s a mutually beneficial approach, as people will generally deliver better results when they’re treated well.

“An important lesson I’ve learned is to avoid dwelling on the cause behind the problem at hand and refocus the conversation on moving forward with a solution. It’s important to dissect what went wrong and learn from mistakes, but it’s more important to overcome it in a productive way.”

Treating all with kindness and maintaining a solutions-oriented mindset during stressful situations are valuable lessons that Karen’s embraced throughout her years at Webcor, she says. Mistreating your team will only compound the tension and erode respect, the loss of which will inevitably lead to disastrous consequences for the entire team and in turn, the project.

“Once you lose someone’s respect, you lose all power and ability to execute well on the team’s goals,” Karen says. “Maintaining a respectful workplace culture is the foundation for achieving anything else.”

Maria agrees that an unhealthy workplace “can silence talent” by depriving team members of a productive environment to learn and grow from their mistakes. Prioritizing respect, regardless of authority level, when managing conflict is key to building a workplace culture that breeds long-term success.

“No one deserves to be mistreated for making mistakes or being themselves,” she says. “Things quickly fall apart when people aren’t given space to grow.

“It’s important to give everyone a voice—actively listen to your teammates and take the time to reach out to the more reserved ones who don’t talk as much,” she advises. “We work better and achieve more when we work with those who respect us and actively listen to what we have to say.”