Do you remember when you first started a new job? Did you find the new workplace strange, interesting, or even bizarre in some ways?
Assuming you stayed in your job long enough, the workplace probably started feeling more comfortable and less interesting after a while. After even more time, you became assimilated to that workplace culture.
We often think of culture in terms of ethnicity, religion, or country of origin. But actually, each individual family and each different workplace has its own unique culture.
When we’re uncomfortable in a situation, we often find ourselves at odds with something about the culture, and our first impulse is to criticize. What we might forget is that we also have cultural assumptions, and these might be uncomfortable to others. I remember visiting a friend’s home and wondering why they yelled so much in their family. I later realized that he likely wondered why everyone was so quiet in my family!
When we find ourselves unhappy in a workplace setting, we can ask a few questions to help get to the root of why we feel this way.
1. How can I adapt to this workplace culture, and adopt it as my own?
2. How can I shape this workplace culture, and how can I add to it?
3. How can I challenge the negative or damaging things about this workplace culture?
4. What about this workplace culture bothers me (conflict, power hierarchy, safety, work ethic, cleanliness, structure), and how can I address it in a thoughtful and respectful way?
By taking a look in the mirror and seeing how our own assumptions may be informing our attitudes toward our workplace culture, we can make it a healthier and more comfortable place for everyone.