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What to Do When the Company Culture Sucks

What to Do When the Company Culture Sucks

After my post about working with others, a subscriber wrote in to ask 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…

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?

  1. cc@stagewavedesign.com

    March 3rd, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Oh the feels, Laura! I rely heavily on friendships outside of my work environment. I prioritize my spiritual journey. And, as often as I can, I try to remember to be the change I want to see and offer support to my fellow coworkers. They are being no more appreciated and supported than I am by some less than healthy culture. I fail a lot but I am always back on the "horse" the next day!

  2. Ken K

    March 5th, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Great post.

    "Seek greener pasture" is on top of my list, but only if I can tolerate the current situation long enough to use it as a springboard for self-development on how to handle situations like this, but on a short-term basis at some unknown new employment.

  3. florenceimogensmith@icloud.com

    August 15th, 2019 at 11:00 am

    As much as sometimes you really have to cut your losses and appreciate that maybe things will never change, what about the people who may be stuck there for whatever reason, or can’t tolerate as much or have the confidence to leave and find something else. You have to at least try to address these things. The only way to change things is from within, and I believe with the right approach you really can be a glimmer of hope for a business. Start with ‘why’ – why has the leadership gone sour, why is there no way to share ideas, why aren’t people given ownership or recognition? Maybe there’s more going on that you don’t get at face value. Employees are more powerful than given credit for. Have something lined up incase you’re laughed out the office, but I recommend (without the ‘tell them how to run their business’ approach), give solutions to the people in power there to make it a better place for everyone. Back your statements up with research and recommendation and evidence from people who know (consider the source). This article is all about the giving in and giving up and it had the opportunity to be so much more about what you can do, and should always try to do. People are hired for a reason: they know shit the owners/leaders don’t. Empower people to make a difference, this is simply defeatist. :/ Sorry.

  4. laura@laurasimms.net

    August 15th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Hi, Flo. I appreciate your perspective and agree that if you can affect positive change where you are, you should. Many of my clients have already tried that and found that change is not possible from within if it is not embraced from above. If the leadership is abusive, narcissistic, or just willfully disconnected from the reality of the workers, there’s not much than can be done to change that. My clients don’t accept "stuck" or being victims of circumstance; if fixing things hasn’t worked they are willing to go someplace where they will get the support, meaning, and respect they deserve.


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