He's looking for a way to open up the office culture

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2011 - 1:38 PM

QI work for a large corporation and like the people I work with; however, I get stressed out because everyone is "heads-down" and there's not a lot of interaction. While I'm doing well and know that my work is important to the company, I'm not that happy. I'm a people person and would like to change the culture -- but not leave for a different company. Where should I start?

AFirst define your desired culture, be clear about the gap you perceive, and then define short- and long-term ways to get there.

The inner game

You have a lot going for you in your job -- people you like, a job that matters to your company -- but when key intangible factors are missing, it can really detract from quality of life. The good news is that there are many things that are within your control that can make a big difference.

Your first step is to create a concrete, specific view of the culture you'd like to be part of, defining the social aspects, the work styles, and the team structure. It may include working more closely on projects with other people, or may be more related to the level of day-to-day interaction.

Then it's time for a gap analysis. Would you prefer a situation where people meet in a break room for lunch, but you now work in a "lunch at your desk" setting? Would you like collaborative problem solving, but are in a solo-oriented team? For every key aspect, check out the current situation, and then determine the extent to which that gap detracts from your satisfaction with your job.

Finally, determine aspects of the work culture that you could control or influence. These will be your greatest points of leverage as you seek to remodel your work environment. These items can also be assessed in terms of the impact that change would have on your sense of well-being.

The outer game

To get started, select a high-impact item, for example, a daily conversation that isn't about work. Then, make a plan to make that happen. The plan would ideally include identifying individuals you'd like to chat with, topics of interest, and ways to promote visits, even small tactics like putting a candy dish on your desk to encourage visitors. With others who prove to be receptive, it opens the possibility for lunches, potlucks, even outside-of-work social events. After all, you may be a bellwether of a need that is more broadly felt.

For more work-oriented opportunities for engagement, try talking with your boss about your interest in more interconnection with co-workers. This may prime you to be a candidate for cross-functional teams or shared assignments within your team.

Realistically, many opportunities to change a company's culture come with a promotion into leadership. You may want to participate in leadership development programs and prepare yourself to step up so that you can broaden this ability to have an influence on the environment.

The last word

Having a clear vision and taking steps to reach out will enable positive shifts in the company's culture.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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