Six Signs Your Work Culture Doesn't Fit You
Workplace culture is a tricky thing—when it’s right, it’s right. But when it’s wrong? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Company culture is a mix of communication styles, conflict resolution and how much employees feel they are valued by leadership.
I’ve worn many hats in my career: frozen yogurt slinger, digital marketer, freelance writer, service baker, front-desk greeter. Each role had its own style. It’s more common to quickly adapt in the environment you’re given than to flounder in that environment.
If you have work perks like an unlimited snack bar, countless happy hours or an every-Friday bring-your-dog-to-work-day, you might be left wondering, Why isn’t this working for me? I’ve learned perks aren’t indicative of a company’s culture. Instead, how do you feel at work? Here are six signs your office culture isn’t quite the right fit for you:
1. Every day is like the first day of school
You know the feeling—shaky palms, nervous smiling and those nagging questions in your head: Will I make friends here? Will I get along with my coworkers? These are completely normal when you start a new job, but if they persist at months three, six, eight or beyond? Every day shouldn’t feel like you’re scanning the lunch table for the first time, trying to find a place to sit.
On the first day of a new job, you’re nervous to eat around your coworkers. You question that tuna sandwich in your brown-bag lunch. You worry your handshake isn’t firm enough, or your outfit isn’t corporate enough. These anxieties should all dissipate over time as you feel more comfortable bringing your personality and voice to the table. If they don’t, it could be a sign you’re in an environment that isn’t right for you.
2. You sound like a skipping record
Are you having the same conversations over and over again at work? Are the days a blurry “Groundhog Day” situation? You might find yourself telling the same story when you run into a colleague in the kitchen. You might fall into habitual conversations at staff meetings, or continually lapse into work talk when you’re out to lunch with a colleague. In your day-to-day responsibilities, you might see yourself pitching an idea or brainstorming the same topic multiple times before the idea is acknowledged. It’s a basic human need to feel heard and listened to at work, regardless of your position at the organization.
3. You feel the effects in your body
When a work culture isn’t serving you, look for bodily signs, like diminished appetite, pacing or sleeping too much or too little. If you have trouble eating or sleeping and you can’t figure out why, trace back the first time you felt that way.
Body language can tell you a lot about how you’re feeling; everything from slumped shoulders to a pursed mouth can signal that your body is triggering a fight-or-flight response in that environment. If this sounds drastic, it is! These symptoms should be taken seriously, especially if you can determine they’re directly correlated to how you’re feeling at work.
4. You dip out of company activities
Socializing after work can be difficult, especially if you had a long day leading up to the office happy hour, holiday party or coffee date. But ask yourself: Do you consistently leave happy hour after one drink? Do you find it difficult to be in socially mandated situations with colleagues?
You might need to recharge and rest, especially if you’re an introvert. But if your nature is to socialize, this could be a red flag you don’t feel the sense of community or support a company culture is assumed to provide employees. If you keep politely declining invites to office activities, take a second to think about when this started and why you might be feeling that way.
5. Your communication style is drastically different than your coworkers’
When you start a new job, you quickly get the lay of the land in terms of how people speak to one another. Does your boss prefer Slack or email? Are they consistent in their one-on-one meetings with you, or do they regularly reschedule? When you ask questions, do they brush you off?
If you’re a person who likes to have written record of what’s expected for you on a project and your boss is a verbal leader who prefers to give you ad hoc tasks or assign new projects during meetings, a disconnect in communication is inevitable. Ideally, different communication styles require both parties meeting each other halfway.
Yielding in your communication style and adapting to a company’s preferred method can have two outcomes: (1) you succeed because you learn how to communicate with that group, using a savvy understanding of different styles to changes yours, or (2) you will struggle to be heard, because your preferred communication style is different than the majority.
6. You don’t think things will ever change
The wrong work culture is a lot like a relationship that isn’t working anymore. You get stuck in patterns of thought, telling yourself nothing else will be any better. You chalk it up to, Well, that’s just how they are. But a good cultural fit in a workplace is one where you can feel safe in the expression of your ideas. It’s one where you feel hopeful going to work in the morning because you believe you can effectively communicate with your coworkers.
It can be challenging to know what to look for when you’re struggling in a work environment, but awareness and listening to your instincts is critical. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right for you. Company culture is more than the vacation policy or the benefits they offer employees. A truly good culture is respectful of your time, your ideas and your personhood.
Babes who hustle shouldn’t settle for anything less.
Caitland is a writer and editor based in New York by way of Tallahassee, Florida. She recently traded in her 9 to 5—and the ability to sing the Dolly Parton song—to freelance. In her free time, she runs Prospect Park, and stops to get coffee on the way to get coffee.