It’s easy to think of your company’s culture as something you can’t control. In some ways, that’s true: unless you’re pretty far up the org chart, there’s not much you can do to change official policy about working hours or vacation time.
However, even without the ability to change the rules, you can affect the climate around you. The reality is, we all impact the organizations and the groups we belong to. So, if you’d like to see certain changes in your company’s culture, start by thinking about what you can do to make things better — with or without help from management.
If you’d like to change your company’s culture, you’ll want to start by assessing and understanding where it currently stands. Take some time to observe your surroundings and the dynamics you find there. Are people rewarded for innovation? Are they praised for working late? Some of the less formal aspects of a company’s culture are only detectable through observation. So, start paying close attention.
Also, check out some of the more crystallized aspects of the culture. Read the employee handbook. Consider the mission statement. You’ll learn a lot about the current state of your company’s culture from both researching and observing it consciously. This could also help you understand how defined or flexible the dynamics are.
2. Have fun.
No matter how you’d like to help evolve your company’s culture, you should try to move things in a positive direction, not a negative one. Being positive yourself isn’t a bad place to start. Find ways to have fun and demonstrate that enjoyment while at work.
It’s in the company’s best interests: Happy workers perform better. They’re 12 percent more productive, according to a study by economists at the University of Warwick. They’re also more creative, effective, and collaborative.
“We find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity,” an economist from the research team behind the study told Fast Company. “Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
So, no matter what your aim — adding a little more fun to your company’s culture should help you get there.
3. Set goals.
Culture influences all of us, whether we’re aware of it or not. It impacts retention, productivity, a company’s reputation, and so much more. So, if you’d like to move things in a more positive direction, start by consciously deciding how you’d like to see things change. Maybe you’d like direction to be more clearly defined. Perhaps you want coworkers to collaborate more often and in more meaningful ways. Rather than simply defining what you don’t like, or wishing that things could be different, settle on a goal or two. Then start to subtly edge things in that direction by embracing the value yourself.
4. Take vacations.
There are a few things we know for sure about vacations. First, we know that they’re really good for us. Vacations support physical and mental health, treat and reverse chronic stress, and improve relationships. The second thing we know is that Americans are using less vacation time than they have in decades — 16.2 days per year on average. And, about half of workers who put it more than 50 hours a week don’t take the vacation time they’ve earned.
Part of the reason for this unfortunate trend is that our culture of overwork exerts subtle pressure. Workers fear they’ll be punished for using their vacation time when others aren’t taking theirs. So, take your vacations. This is especially important if you’re a manager — but it applies to everyone. Many workplace and organizational cultures would be improved by becoming more vacation-friendly. Be brave and lead the way!
5. Never forget that culture is always evolving.
The thing to keep in mind about your company’s culture is that it is always evolving and changing. Culture is complex and it is ever-shifting. Remember that the process of influencing your company’s culture is ongoing. You should be in a constant state of conscious engagement with it. You, and those around you, stand to gain a lot from your influence .
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