A subscriber wrote in once to ask me about company culture and said, “I just want to work with healthy adults.”

You’d think it shouldn’t be too hard to find a workplace with mature, fair adults who function well as a team, but there’s a lot of nonsense out there. The trouble is that bad culture brings out the worst in good people, so even if you’ve got a decent group of folks together, you put them under demeaning and discouraging conditions, and things are going to go south.

Now, if you’re stuck in a bad company culture, you probably know it. But just in case you’re doubting yourself…

5 ways to survive in a lousy office culture

Here are 10 signs that things are all wrong with your office culture: 

  • No clear vision from leadership
  • The actual values (actions) are different from advertised values (mission statement, policies)
  • No legit way to share ideas
  • No sense of ownership
  • Dysfunction and insecurity are catered to
  • Lack of recognition
  • Creativity and innovation are squashed
  • Lack of feedback on work
  • Professional growth is not supported
  • Tradition of suffering (“I had it hard, so you should too.”)

If those indicators are looking familiar (I’m so so sorry), what can you do about it?

What to Do When the Company Culture Sucks

Seek greener pastures

Yeah. Think about getting out of there and never looking back.

Keep your integrity

It’s so tempting to get down in the dirt with everyone else, isn’t it? Don’t go there. You’re better than that. You have to live with yourself after you eventually leave this job, or the people who are making things so miserable for you to leave. In five or ten years, you want to be proud of how you handled this.

Emotionally de-invest

I hate making this recommendation, because I so want you to be present, motivated, and giving your all. But when do don’t get anything back, why should you give your all? Take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself spin out because of the bad behavior of the people you work with. You know what to expect by now. Accept it, and don’t let it get to you so much.

Find the humor

As much as you can, appreciate the absurdity of the situation you’re in. People are so predictable, aren’t they? Of course he said that. Of course she thinks that. Hahaha.

Spend time with kind humans outside of work

If you gotta be around these monsters all day, for heaven’s sake spend time with good people outside of work. Socialize with people you can relax around, be yourself around, and have a good time with. Don’t let the people at work be your only human contact, or you may want to give up on the entire human race.

I know you must have some tactics of your own for surviving in an office with a terrible culture. What do you do to get through?

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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