What Do You Do When You Don’t Fit In Your Company’s Culture?

I know this won’t be shocking to regular blog readers, but I write fairly often about company cultures.

Usually, I write for leadership – what their role is in creating a strong culture, how to do that, how to proactively manage culture based on core values.

This time, however, I’m writing for the average employee, because employees also have a direct responsibility in building a positive culture of recognition by actively acknowledging and appreciating the efforts and achievements of their colleagues.

What do you do when you don’t fit in your company’s culture? That’s the question asked in this Forbes article, which gives several good examples.

2 options when the “problem” is you

What do you do when the “problem” is you. You don’t fit in for whatever reason. Realistically, you have only two viable options:

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  1. Change to fit the culture – Perhaps you’re more of a “heads down, get the work done” kind of person in an office that enjoys lunches as a group, birthday celebrations, etc. You need to get away from your desk and join in the festivities, at least on an occasional basis.
  2. Walk away from the culture – Perhaps the culture is so completely foreign to you and your own nature – it’s too competitive, perhaps too secretive, maybe even one that thrives on back-stabbing and one-upping each other. Perhaps it’s not as negative as that, but it still is foreign to you and how you like to work. All you can do is walk away.

Ultimately, we have to be comfortable in the place we spend the majority of our waking hours. Remember, when you’re interviewing for a job, you need to interview the company as much as they interview you.

Find a culture that fits you, and don’t be afraid to walk away.

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


6 Comments on “What Do You Do When You Don’t Fit In Your Company’s Culture?

  1. Hey, I have a 3rd alternative for you; be a Corporate Rebel… because you care! Way too few people care enough for their employer (and themselves) to stick their chin out and dare to question things that are not contributing in positive ways for the company. 

    If employees accept to “adapt or die” or just leave… who are then left to drive positive change? The kind of employees companies need right now – and what we need to be for ourselves –  are people who dare to challenge status quo and look for new and better ways. There is no reason to accept stupid decisions, bad corporate politics, lousy leaders or crappy cultures – it is not what will bring your company – nor the world –  forward. Guts, courage and passion for doing the right thing will. 

    However…and I get it; sometimes it is not enough. Then it is ok to walk away. And it will only be the company´s loss.
    But at least – by being a Corporate Rebel (that cares) in your heart and actions – you have indeed “dared bravely”…(tribute to Brene Brown´s latest book). And that just feels SO good!
    Corporate rebellism… bring it on!:-)

    1.  Having been in the situation where you are the ‘odd one out’ it is hard to challenge a team that is only used to working one way, especially if the manager limits change and wants things done their way.
       If the company is doing well,  what motivation does the manager have to try and change the culture? Their attitude is ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ Yes you can have guts, courage and passion, but that can quickly be extinguished.

  2. Unfortunately it seems as though many are giving in and adapting to their environment. As a new employee we may believe/hope that we could be the one to make a difference. And optimism is definitely a trait we never want to lose. Often times the battle may not be worth the fight. Being rebellious, although it carries a bit of appeal, can also hinder one’s career. But being complacent doesn’t make for a very effective work environment. In fact, it may very well stump our professional growth. Bottom line is happiness contributes to professional and workplace success, so if the culture is affecting one’s ability to perform…move on.

  3. I feel like every time I read an article about not fitting in in an office it’s about not wanting to be chummy and have fun, but in my case I feel like everyone at my job equates silently working without a break at all with excellence, and I feel like a kid with ADD trying to stay seated, what do I do when I feel like I don’t fit in a quiet, uptight environment? Not only introverts have trouble fitting in…

  4. So how do I fit in when everyone except 1 or 2 people takes things seriously? There is nothing wrong with joking around, but when it’s 10 + hours a day it gets annoying. I feel like I’m more of an adult than everyone else and I’m younger. Literally 2 of the people I work with takes 4-5 breaks an hour and it’s retail. It’s a super easy job and they complain about everything. Help?

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