Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

Understanding Company Culture

After all of your efforts, you have finally been offered the job that you were looking for for such a long time. You can start to enjoy the fruits of your hard labor, but you should remember that your labor is most certainly not over. Once you have finally snagged a job with a company, there is still some work that needs to be done on your part. Fitting into a new company and their culture might be difficult at first, but it is essential to your productivity and your overall happiness at work.

Coming onto a new team at work is kind of like being the new kid at school. It’s exciting but it can also be a bit nerve-wracking. Every company’s culture is different, so starting to understand what your company’s culture is like is the first step to becoming an important and comfortable entity within it. Following the tips I provide below can be a great starting point to finding where you fit in and how you can start feeling comfortable in your new workplace.

Co-Worker Interactions
When you were interviewing with the company, if you followed some of my previous tips on how to tell if a company is for you, then you would already have somewhat of an idea of this company’s worker interactions. However, a walk through the office a couple times certainly is not going to tell you everything you need to know. So, when you start actually working in the office, you’ll want to start making some heavy observations. Do most of the people that work there arrive early for their day or punctually on-time, or are workers seemingly more lax about what times they come and go? If everyone seems to be arriving to work 15 minutes early, then you should take note and probably pick up the same habit. When the work day is over, does everyone leave exactly at five or six or do they stick around a little longer to finish up their work? Also, how do co-workers in this company interact with each other? Is there a lot of “water-cooler” conversations or do people walk around freely and talk with each other as they please? These slight observations will hip you to a company’s overall culture pretty fast.

Interaction With Management
Another note to make is how the employees of this company interact with the management. Do your co-workers consider their superiors to be part of their team and interact with them as if they were on the same level, or are the managers and bosses separate entities from the team? Does management have an “open door” policy where you can come to them with any issues you have at any time and discuss them, or is it better to swallow your pride and work around the small issues? The answers to these questions give you great insight on how to communicate and regard management on your own. So how do you know? You can take note of how your co-workers behave around management to find out. When a superior comes into the office, are your co-workers friendly and communicative with them? Does the manager talk to his employees often and know personal aspects of their lives? If so, the management at your company is likely more “open door” and regarded as part of the team. If, on the other hand, your co-workers tend to sit up straighter, act different and get quiet when management comes around then there is probably a distinct divide between employee and manager. In this case, management isn’t quite viewed as part of the team, but rather as the team leaders. It’s likely that small talk won’t happen too much with them and in fact, you may have to set up an appointment to converse with them on important topics. Take note of these interactions between your co-workers and management and understanding their culture will be much easier.

Observe and Note the Company’s Unwritten Rules
Everyone is fully aware of the general rules of the workplace. You need to arrive to work on time, you need to actually work when you’re at work and lying, stealing or back-stabbing is frowned upon. Everyone knows these things, but what about the unwritten rules of the company? How employees choose to dress, how hard they work and whether or not co-workers date are important things to understand. These kind of rules may be a bit ambiguous at first, so you likely won’t know them unless you talk to your co-workers or unknowingly break one.

Ask Questions
This is something that goes along with the previous tip, but it’s important to highlight it on its own. Asking questions is a big part of how we learn. That’s why the age-old phrase, “there’s no dumb question” has rolled off the tongues of so many people. There may in fact be some dumb questions, but if you want them answered, who cares? Asking your co-workers what kind of behavior is acceptable in this workplace is a quick way to get acquainted and spark conversation with your new co-workers. Don’t be afraid to ask! Plus, you’re the new employee so they probably expect you to have a plethora of questions already ready to ask. So, ask away!

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
As a new employee, of course you want to show that you are perfect, qualified and prepared. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make any mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, making that first mistake at your new job will be a difficult hump to get over but it’s inevitable. We are all human and from time to time we make mistakes. Understandable. So, when you do make a mistake, try not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, learn from your mistake and evaluate how others react to it. Keeping an observers eye during this will give you a lot of insight into how this company deals with mistakes, small or big.

IMAGE: Courtesy of HR Learner in Development

Nicole Nicholson

Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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