“Working with people you don’t always agree with is easier than working with complete strangers.” I read this quote in a textbook once and can attest that truer words were never spoken.
We have all done some sort of group work/ teamwork or had to collaborate with coworkers to get a large task accomplished. If you haven’t had that experience yet, you will someday and when you do you will become shockingly aware of all of the differences in communication and work styles. Sometimes in a team, you will be forced to join people who you don’t particular care for or work well with- other times you will have to work with total strangers.
When I worked in retail, each department had its own specific subculture, yet there was one overriding culture that transcended those subcultures and united us all. Once a period, there would be safety team meetings or some other committee that had to meet in order to communicate policies to the entire store. Typically, one person would go to the meeting from each department so that each subculture was represented. As with any team, some people knew each other, some knew of each other, and some were friends. Every so often, a new face joined the team. This new face was typically brand new to the store. Eager to fit in, they would join all of the conversations with insightful opinions and innovative ways to change old systems. It’s not that any of their ideas were bad or wrong- they just didn’t match the way we all did things- and the way that we did things matched our shared work culture. So, their ideas would be met with people exchanging disapproving glances across the room or snarky comments uttered under veterans’ breaths. The discouraged newbie would then become keenly aware that they had crossed some invisible line. Old team members acted as if they were the truest of friends in midst of someone attempting to challenge the cultural norms, while the newbie would long for similar companionship at future meetings.
Team meetings and group work are one way that you can see work culture in action. How is the meeting conducted? When do people talk? Who talks to whom? Is there an agenda? Is the agenda printed out? Is there a PowerPoint presentation? Are there snacks? What kind of snacks? What’s the formality level? Do people come prepared to take notes? How do people introduce themselves? And most importantly, how are new people introduced?
The way that these questions are answered will give deep insight into your true work culture. If you can easily answer these questions, you are likely immersed in your work culture. If you identify why you do these things the way you do- you are saturated in your work culture.
You will never be more aware of your work culture than when a newbie comes to the table. But remember- everyone has to start somewhere…
By Kristen Keyes