When You Like Your Job but Hate Your Office Culture
How to navigate a workplace environment that doesn’t click with your personality — and how to know when to leave
The problem with company culture is that one employee’s ideal situation can be another’s personal hell. Maybe you thrive in efficient, no-nonsense environments and prefer to keep your work and personal lives separate, but your colleagues turn every meeting into a chatty catch-up and always invite the office staff to their birthday parties. Maybe you crave camaraderie and fun in an office that’s mostly silent, sterile, and stiff.
You’re not in a toxic environment, necessarily — it’s more that it’s just not a fit. And culture aside, your work is solid. You’re good at what you do. You enjoy doing it. So, should you stick around? How do you know when to bail? Is culture really that important to getting the job done?
This has really only become a thing in the past few decades, as more workplaces have begun to pay attention to company culture. While every office culture is different, some rules apply universally: A good culture is one where employees feel valued and supported; a bad one has bullying and abuse. Research has shown that companies with positive cultures have more productive employees, which leads to higher profit margins. Unhappy employees don’t stick around, and recruiting and training their replacements can cost six to nine months’ worth of the original employee’s salary. Investing in company culture isn’t philanthropy; it’s ROI.
But it can be tricky to determine an organization’s culture short of actually working there. It doesn’t help that many companies and media portrayals conflate perks — foosball tables, beer kegs, dry-cleaning services, doughnut Fridays — with culture. And recruitment officers often lead with perks because they’re easy to communicate and quantify to prospective employees.
The definition of culture, on the other hand, is irritatingly amorphous.
It’s “the way we do things around here,” says culture consultant Marcella Bremer, quoting Hewlett-Packard’s influential 1980 manifesto, considered one of the first major company acknowledgements on the importance…