Company Culture: It Matters More Than You Think

Let’s be real: work is maybe 20% of your job. What about the rest?

I think we all crave something at our place of work: to feel needed, fulfilled, valued, and recognized as a person and not as a cog in a larger machine.

It’s taken me a long time to see how the pieces should fit together for me, but now that I know my ideal work culture, I can’t help but ask myself, “Why on Earth didn’t I demand a higher standard before?”

It’s worth saying that when I say “standard,” I don’t mean amenities like food or snacks. I simply mean culture fit and treatment. But what does culture fit mean, then?

Preface: I 100% recognize the below thoughts could be seen as coming from a place of privilege. Not everyone has the luxury of high re-employability if they’re in an “unfixable” situation where they’re not valued or can’t improve their work conditions. Of course, it should go without saying there is always a way to make your current job better, and I don’t consider a job truly “unfixable” unless there are factors beyond your control.

Culture Thought #1: Being Human

This one goes without saying, but it’s amazing how much we put up with when we work in a larger company to be treated sometimes like we’re less than human. It can range from large things like asking you work overtime multiple times a week when you’re clearly burnt out, or more subtle things like a supervisor not recognizing your ideas in meetings.

The more you think about it, it makes sense: we need to appease those we work for in order to secure our financial well-being. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of our happiness and moral/ethical values, and especially not our health.

Culture Thought #2: Feeling Valued

One of the toughest parts about any job is feeling like you add any real value to the business. You shouldn’t need to feel like an imposter your entire job, and heck, you may even be able to “fake it til you make it”. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that this usually leads to further resentment, both in yourself and for your employer.

Think about ways you can approach your coworkers and supervisors and seek direct positive and constructive feedback. I’ve seen a variety of feedback styles and the best for me is having answers to these questions:

  • “What am I doing well?”

and

  • “What should I keep doing?”

The baseline for any employer should be frequent one-on-one’s: do you get face-time with your supervisor or coworkers? If not, consider setting up frequent meetings to catch up and get on the same page.

Culture Thought #3: Respect for Career Goals

Any supervisor worth their salt will recognize your job description is not a reflection of the human behind it. In other words: they shouldn’t take it personally if you don’t like your job and want to move on, or that you don’t intend to stay where you are forever. While it’s true employers want loyalty and dedication, being aspirational should not be seen as taboo for job security.

The best supervisors I’ve ever had wanted to learn about my career goals so they can help steer me in the direction I wanted in the form of assigned projects. Perhaps not EVERY project was what I wanted, but as much as possible, my supervisor was cognizant of those goals to keep others and myself interested in their job.

Conclusion

These ideas aren’t meant to target every possible career.

But no matter what, there’s always a lot more to a job than the work itself. No one should be working in a silo and blindly saying yes to everything. Be vigilant about your interests, open communication lines, and look for ways to grow and learn about what work environments suit you the best.

George is a front-end developer and digital designer based in Oakland, California. He currently codes things as a front-end developer at Scribd. When he’s not in a text editor, he can be found long boarding, playing video games, and/or eating Chipotle.

Learning to see. @gwtrev

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