If you’re about to make a career move, transitioning from one office to another can be a challenge.
You’ve done your homework on your new employer and have the skill set to succeed in your new role, but the everyday details of your new environment are a mystery.
Workplace culture is the overall system of beliefs, behaviours, customs and dynamics that make up the identity of a workplace – and understanding it can play a big role in your long-term success.
There are as many different types of culture as there are companies, so how do you prepare yourself for success if your past and present work cultures are like night and day?
Here are 7 useful tips to ensure a smooth transition and help you overcome any office culture shock.
Before you get there:
1. Establish a cultural checklist
Make a list of the qualities you liked and disliked about your last workplace. This strategy will help you figure out which cultural qualities you need at the office in order to thrive (like an open-door policy with management) and those you can live without (lunchtime yoga classes).
Developing your sense of self-awareness can help to inform your future career strategy.
2. Examine your new employer’s online presence
Are they active on social media? Do they have a blog? Does their website feature staff photos or personal bios?
If an online culture is fun and interactive it may reflect a youthful culture offline.
If their online presence is more formal, offline culture could be by the book.
3. Compare cultural checklists
It’s difficult to assess workplace culture from the outside, so seize the opportunity to learn more during your interview.
Targeted questions that touch on issues like work-life balance can offer you a glimpse of an employer’s expectations.
Potential questions include: “What does the busiest time of year look like?” and “Which teams will I be interacting with?”
Once you arrive:
4. Take a “culture walk” around the office
Look for items that tell a company story.
Family photos on desks, accomplishments on office walls, memos on bulletin boards and the arrangement of furniture can all provide insight.
Market-driven cultures typically have financial goals and targets displayed in plain view on whiteboards. Highly collaborative cultures might have open-concept work areas where desks are arranged into clusters.
5. Listen to conversation (but don’t eavesdrop)
Are people sharing stories about their weekend or are they talking about work?
The level of personal interaction at a workplace can reflect how that team balances building community and growing the bottom line.
You can also discern culture by the way work is assigned. Are projects assigned primarily through email or is your manager more likely to stop by your desk to chat about it in person?
6. Find a mentor to help you navigate office norms
Mentorship can take many forms beyond professional development.
Connecting with someone on your team who has a good understanding of how the workplace culture works can help you avoid a misstep until you’re more comfortable on your own.
Ask questions about things you don’t understand, but be careful to approach everything with a positive attitude.
Instead of saying: “It was weird when X happened, is that normal?”
Try: “I’m curious about X. Does that happen often?”
7. Ask around about social initiatives and activities
Establishing personal connections at your new workplace can be an intimidating challenge. Getting involved outside of the office (in a volunteer program or organized sports league) can help you build social capital.
The initiatives a company is involved with can also be a great indication of their cultural values.
Remember, adjusting to a new role always takes some time. Be patient with the process and be proud of yourself for moving on to the next step of your career path!