Every company has a culture. Those who put thought, effort, and planning into company culture have higher employee retention rates. They also have more engaged and productive employees, and are able to attract the best and the brightest. Companies that leave workplace culture to chance drive good employees away and spend more time resolving workplace conflicts than actually, well, working.
But fostering a healthy workplace culture isn’t a task that begins and ends with the higher-ups. It’s a team sport, and each employee needs to do his or her part.
For a rule-bound 9 to 5’er, it can be difficult to adapt to a freethinking company culture. Those offices full of people who routinely fire Nerf darts at each other over cubicle walls. Likewise, a free spirit just out of an open office may have trouble adapting to a rigid environment where music is forbidden and the break room is always empty.
Your part in promoting a healthy workplace culture requires you to learn as much about it as possible. You should preferably do this before you accept the job offer. Ask your interviewer for insight on the office culture. Scour the company website and social media platforms for clues. And get a feel for whether it’s the right “fit” for you before you join the company.
Failure to understand the various personality types of colleagues and coworkers can often lead to a toxic work environment. For example, your workplace culture may dictate that everyone gathers around the espresso machine for a gab session at 11:15 every morning. If an employee doesn’t show up, that doesn’t make him anti-social, standoffish, or unfriendly. Large crowds and chitchat just might not be his thing.
Never judge colleagues for their actions. Instead, ask yourself why they’re acting the way they are. Resolving workplace conflicts is often as simple as understanding what makes your colleagues tick. Do what you can to accommodate their specific personality type, rather than pegging them as “difficult” coworkers.
Like your colleagues, you also have a personality type, and it helps everyone if you’re clear about it from the get-go.
For example: If you avoid grabbing lunch with coworkers, it’s easy to get an undeserved reputation as a snob. However, if you’re forthcoming about your reasons—you prefer to eat lunch alone in order to recharge during the workday, for example—you change the way people see you.
Creating a healthy workplace culture requires some give and take. You should never feel pressured into doing something you honestly don’t want to do (talk to your manager or HR department immediately if you feel bullied into doing so). But it’s important to be flexible for the benefit of the whole team.
Do you hate team-building exercises, office parties, or other activities? Pick one or two a year that you choose to participate in. Approach the events with a positive attitude. Who knows—you might end up enjoying yourself!
Remember, if you want others to respect your preferences, you need to afford them the same courtesy.
Your company culture isn’t set in stone; there is always room for improvement. So instead of being the one to say, “I don’t want to do that,” or going along with it just to keep the peace, try introducing something you do want to do.
Do you regularly walk or jog on your lunch break? See if anyone is up for an exercise club. Love to read? Find like-minded colleagues and start a weekly book club. Want to learn a foreign language? Start a study group. Not only does this improve the company culture for you, it improves it for current and future employees, as well! (Be sure to clear any groups or clubs with your manager or HR department first.)
Let’s face it—not everyone is into ping pong tournaments or employees skateboarding to the copier. A healthy workplace culture means something different for everyone. And it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote it to the best of their abilities. Find productive ways to engage with and influence the culture of your organization. Be part of creating a healthy workplace culture everyone loves!
For more ideas on improving your workplace culture,