Whether you are just starting your career or you’re a seasoned leader looking for new hires, there is one aspect to any professional role that everyone considers consciously or subconsciously: work culture. For any employee—or employer—we’ve all had experience with a difficult colleague or boss. Perhaps you haven’t followed up on an interview because of a dynamic you picked up on. Maybe you even left a company that facilitated a harmful space. Whatever your view or experience, there is no denying that work culture plays a major role in not just how you feel about your job, but perhaps even the trajectory of your career.
Read on to discover more about why work culture is so important for the employee and the employer, and how to encourage a healthy environment in your company.
Work culture for the Employee
While the position and salary will be the main reasons why you may apply to a job posting, work culture will play an underlying role. How well you interview can definitely lead to you progressing in that job prospect. However, the part of your personality you show in an interview can also determine you being hired over someone else. Now, this does not mean that you should be devoid of personality—after all, that is what will make you stick out as a candidate. But when it comes to the final rounds of hiring, employers are looking for someone who will get along with the rest of the team. After all, if finding the right fit for the work environment didn’t matter, then we wouldn’t have interviews.
What if the interview goes great, you begin your job, and then realize that a colleague or boss seems toxic? This situation is a bit of a balancing act. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed when starting in a new role. There is always a period of transition to the workload, expectations, and process. Endure this period—after a few weeks, or, at more unfamiliar roles, months—to allow yourself to adjust to this position. After some time, you may find yourself feeling less stressed.
However, if you have adapted to the role itself and you are interested in your work, but you still feel miserable, perhaps it could be the work culture. If you dread interacting with an individual or group, and find yourself unusually upset in the office, maybe it is time for a change. Now, it can be very difficult to know when to make that change. You might feel like a quitter. But there comes a point when a tough time is really just the wrong place. As you advance in your career, it will become easier to determine when you are quitting too early or when staying is more destructive in the long run.
If not for the sake of your well-being, a poor work environment can stunt the trajectory of your career. If you are spending much of your energy trying to survive the day, you can’t focus on improving as an employee. In fact, you probably don’t even want to improve as an employee. This mentality can really discourage you from blossoming in your career. If everything else is working but the unfriendly space, now is the time to change what space you’re in.
Work Culture for the Employer
On the other side, work culture is an important aspect that the employer must keep in mind and positively foster. An interview can reveal obvious red flags in a candidate. If two prospective employees have very similar resumes, the interview process can point to which person is best to join the team. No matter what side of the questions you sit on, if you do not feel compatible with a person in an interview, it most likely won’t change.
Say you’ve hired some very qualified and effective people. How can you make sure to facilitate a healthy environment? It’s no secret that even just one “bad apple” can taint an entire team of people, percolating resentment and passive aggression into all areas of the office. Once this has occurred, you will find people dropping away. No matter how good other incentives may be, a toxic culture will generate a revolving door of employees. You may find yourself struggling to retain the talent you want, which can ultimately harm your business. Even then, those who stay in a harsh setting may not be the ones that help encourage a welcoming space.
How can you avoid this? The first, and most obvious answer is to discourage unkindness. A slideshow or video on acceptable behavior feels obligatory but can only do so much.
In a recent episode of Making Bank, Mike McDerment, the co-founder and CEO of Freshbooks, the number two accounting software company in the US for the self-employed, shares his tips.
McDerment begins by saying that you, as the employer, need to first value culture in order to generate a healthy one. He says, “I decided pretty early on that it was like as important as anything else. As important as marketing or software development.” As his company was a very customer-service-based business, he knew that it was imperative to create a culture that valued and understood the customers. He feels that if “you spend time with customers, they evidence to you what the problems are and you go and solve them. They reward you by sharing their hard-earned money with you.” Because of this belief, he makes every employee interact with customers during their first month on the job.
What McDerment has managed to accomplish is that he identified culture as an important aspect to not just retaining employees, but to how those employees act. Additionally, he pinpointed what part of culture impacts his business and discovered a way to encourage knowledge and understanding in that area.
If you self-reflect on what is important to you, your career, or your company, you can discover what cultures to avoid and in what cultures will you thrive.