Workplace culture can differ greatly depending on your company, office space or colleagues. Workplace culture is vastly different when you are working for a smaller firm as compared to a larger company. What’s the dress code like at your office? Is it laid back, jeans and a t-shirt, or buttoned up in a tie and slacks? There are many factors that influence how your workplace culture is defined, and what’s a bad fit for one person may be a great fit for another. If you are in a workplace and the culture stinks, however, there are a few things you can do to make it better.
1. Go with the flow
Sometimes, workplace culture stinks and there isn’t much you can do about it. If you can’t change the workplace culture, that doesn’t mean you can’t control your attitude towards it. At times the best solution is to just have a good attitude. Come to work, don’t get caught up in the politics of the office, do a good job and then come home. Don’t let your attitude be affected by your office.
2. Go to HR
Companies have HR departments for a reason — to help manage human resources and to keep things professional. If the culture of your workplace is infringing upon your right to have a safe and peaceful work environment, it’s time to go to HR and make a formal complaint. This doesn’t make you a snitch, and honestly, it’s better sometimes to avoid confrontation and find an HR person to be a mediator. If you are feeling sexually harassed, do not wait to go to HR, better to cut off that behavior early on. No one should settle for being harassed because of sex, race or religious belief.
3. Be the change you want to see
Leading by example makes a big difference in how others react toward you, which could eventually affect how the whole office functions. If you don’t use swear words, but others around you do, you will be quickly outed for not swearing. People will wonder why you don’t swear… good for you! Slowly but surely people will notice you are present and avoid swearing or apologize for it. When you make yourself the example of what you want the workplace culture to be, in time, changes will take place and everyone will be better for it.
4. If you don’t like it, then leave
I don’t mean to be harsh here, but there are some workplaces that will not change. I had this experience with a contracting company that I worked for inside of a government agency. The employees dressed so poorly, like teenagers in high school. Their attitude was one of “I don’t care” and they listened to loud obnoxious and inappropriate music constantly. There was a supervisor who sat right with us and did nothing. In fact, more often than not, she joined in on the ruckus even though she was easily 20 years older than all of us. There was no professionalism and it started to reflect on me. It was clear that nothing was going to change and they were likely going to lose the contract when re-compete time came around. I just flat out left… I had been there for 2 months and couldn’t take it anymore. Sometimes you just want better for yourself and you have to leave to get it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
5. Create boundaries
There are times, especially when working for a small company, that the lines of professionalism get blurred all in the spirit of having fun. Smaller firms sometimes break out alcohol after 5pm, which generally ends up being 3:30. I worked for a small firm that had a keg and every Friday they would fire it up and people would drink. What if a prospective client had come in and seen that? What if a government official had walked in while they were shouting about which college football team was better all while slamming beer back? It doesn’t present an air of professionalism. Create a boundary for yourself that while you are at work, you will remain professional from 7am Monday to 5pm Friday. It’s not difficult, and you won’t be nearly as affected by the workplace shenanigans you might see from time to time. Creating clearly defined boundaries let’s people know what you are and aren’t willing to do.
As in Golf, “Keep Your Head Down”
When a new golfer is shanking balls off the tee box and topping them, just about anyone playing with that newbie will say, “Keep your head down.” Focus on the ball and you will make solid contact, focus on your surroundings and you will shank it! If you work in an environment that stinks, when your workplace culture is bad, focus on what you are doing and let your work speak for itself. People will take notice and things will get better.