Workplace Culture: What it is and why you should care

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What is workplace culture?

In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior.

Culture is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of – generally unspoken and unwritten – rules for working together.

From: Culture: Your Environment for People at Work

As the above definition illustrates, the culture of a workplace is abstract – defined by unspoken rules and expected patterns of behaviour – but it is also important. And fitting in with workplace culture can have a big impact on your chances of getting and keeping a job! Each workplace is going to be a little different, and it is important to be able to adapt your behaviour to fit the culture. From adapting to policies such as following a dress code and obeying rules about what you can display on your desk, to acknowledging the more subtle nuances of communication and management styles and how those affect office interactions, workplace culture is a part of everything you do in your job. Whether or not you do your job successfully depends in no small part on how well you adapt to the culture around you.

How to assess workplace culture and adapt to fit in

It’s important to try to get a feeling for the culture of a workplace in order to be successful. When applying for a position, research the business to get a feel for its values and general atmosphere. Does it put a lot of importance on the professional appearance of its employees, or does it favor a more relaxed, down to earth approach to customer relations? Does the company value creative input from employees, or do they want workers who will focus on their jobs and nothing else? What is the management structure like? How are employees treated?  All of these questions point to the culture of a workplace, and having an idea of the answers can help you better present yourself in an application or an interview. Showing that you can conform to the workplace culture goes a long way towards getting you hired, and helps to foster healthy, productive relationships with your coworkers and your employers.

When the culture just isn’t a fit

Sometimes, your personality and the culture of a particular workplace just won’t be a match. In some cases, this ill fit becomes so obvious that the individual or the employer may move to end the employment altogether. It’s important to know yourself and your personal values well enough to be able to decide when it is no longer worth the effort of trying to adapt. Some cultures can become toxic to an individual who doesn’t fit in, causing discomfort and unhappiness. While we can’t always love our jobs, we should at least be able to get some satisfaction from what we are doing; Whether it is the feeling of pride after a productive day of work or the gratification that comes with each hard earned paycheck, there should be something about the job you are doing that makes it worthwhile.

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