6 Lessons You’ll Learn About Company Culture After Suffering Through A Crappy One


If you’ve ever worked in a toxic work environment, you know that it can affect every aspect of your being. And because an unhealthy work environment is the last place anyone wants to be, the dread of going to work is likely consuming your every waking hour (and often manifests in nightmares, too) which is a terrible way to live if you’ve ever had to experience that.

[Read more about having the “Sunday scaries”]

While we can’t necessarily fix the things that might be wrong with your current company’s culture, what we CAN do is assure you is that there’s light on the other side. We all spend too much of our lives at work to suffer through a bad company culture and, whether you believe it or not, there are lots of other opportunities out there for you. 

Here are 6 lessons you’ll learn about company culture if you ever had to suffer through a crappy one (and were able to make it out successfully!):

1. Company culture is sometimes more important than the work you do.

It can be a hard lesson to learn, but the culture of a workplace is often just as important (if not MORE important) than the actual work that you’re doing there.

Let’s say you’re passionate about increasing literacy in underdeveloped countries so you join a nonprofit organization that works in this area. The work is meaningful, and you’re truly making a difference in other people’s lives. However, the organization is mismanaged, your boss treats everyone terribly, and there is no room for growth. No matter how passionately you feel about the work, you will over time become resentful of the negative aspects of the company culture and eventually burn out. Remember that company culture matters, and experiencing a good culture can be more important than the actual work you do.

2. Company culture is changeable.

Company culture isn’t a monolithic, unchangeable thing. Instead, it is actually very malleable and will change over time. The key is that the company’s leaders need to be aware of the culture and willing to influence it in a positive way. Even if you disagree with some aspects of your company’s culture, ask yourself whether you feel that your voice is important within the company. If so, speaking up may actually lead to positive changes.

One example of this is seeking additional growth opportunities. If these aren’t available in your company, ask if they would be willing to facilitate conference attendance or implement a tuition subsidy program. Companies that ignore or laugh off these ideas are probably not willing to change, but those who at least consider the possibility may be amenable to other shifts in culture.

3. You deserve to work at a company with a positive culture.

This one’s for everyone reading who is thinking, “well, sure my boss is a jerk and my job makes me feel like it’s sucking the very life out of my body, but it’s not necessarily going to be better somewhere else.”

Listen up: you deserve to work at a company with a positive culture. This does not necessarily mean that your job will be the most important and fulfilling thing you have ever done (though maybe it will!). It does, however, mean that you will feel respected, included, and an important part of your company’s mission.

If you’re not sure where to start, begin by looking at online reviews of companies through kununu. Find companies that invest in their company culture and see what opportunities are available. Because while it’s true that the grass is not always greener on the other side, so to speak – sometimes it IS…and life’s too short to not want to find more positivity in your work life.   

4. It’s okay to choose culture over money.

The intangible aspects of your job can be just as important as that paycheck. And if it so happens that your company culture sucks, it’s okay to seek employment somewhere that has a better culture, even if the pay isn’t as good. This is a question that lots of people wonder, especially with the job market rebounding and there being more choices out there for talented candidates. 

You see this all the time with “big law” jobs. Lawyers find that working grindingly long hours in a punishing environment just for a far off chance of becoming partner of their firm isn’t worth the fat paycheck. Plus, transitioning to an organization with a better culture may spark your creativity and lead you to career avenues that you had never even thought of before. 

[Read more about which matters more today: culture vs. compensation]

5. A little vision goes a long way.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is failing to create a clear vision. Look at your company’s mission and values statement. Does it lay out a vision, or is it just a bunch of corporate mumbo jumbo?

When you work at a company where everyone is working as a team toward a shared goal, it feels great. Once those goals are fragmented or the vision is lost, work can feel like an exercise in futility. A strong company culture is one where employees really “buy in” to the vision that is being presented. If your company cannot make you, as an employee, believe that its vision is important…how will it possible for you to sell its product to others?

6. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” company culture.

At the end of the day, every company has its good and bad aspects. There is no perfect company, but there are organizations that are better or worse fits for you. Keep your eye on that goal to find the culture that fits you best.



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