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Changing Workplace Culture When You're Not the Boss

April, 2018- By Matt, Director of National Accounts and David, Technical Recruiter, from the Apex Systems Jacksonville Branch

Apex Culture

“Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” - Henry Ford

Culture is the most significant factor that contributes to the success of your office. It determines employee happiness, creativity, retention, and most importantly to your boss, the results.

Easy enough. Change the culture, change the office performance, right?

It’s not that simple. Culture is a direct reflection of the everyday habits of your teammates. Altering those habits to align with the new culture you want to create requires a delicate balance of vision, motivation, and patience.

This may seem daunting at first, especially when you’re not in charge.

However, as an individual contributor, you are more likely to create an effective culture shift because you know your teammates better than your boss does!

Here are 5 simple steps you can take today to change your office culture:

Step 1 - Clearly Identify the Issue
Do you come into work every day excited and ready to go, but leave feeling drained and unmotivated? Office culture might be the culprit.

Accurately pinpointing the issue and understanding its effect on the office is extremely challenging. Try to identify what changed your mood, and how it changed it.

Was it a co-worker’s attitude? Was it work ethic? Was it how something was communicated?

You have to clearly define the problem in order to start solving it.

Step 2 - Develop a Culture Vision
Once you get a good idea what the problem is, you need to establish a vision of what the ideal culture should be. Perhaps ask your co-workers for suggestions.

The key with developing your culture vision is that it must align with company goals and values! This will be crucial for Step 3 when you are lobbying for manager support.

Start thinking through specific changes you would like to make and come up with a few actionable solutions. The goal is to be able to paint a realistic picture of what the office culture could be and then illustrate the road map on how to get there.

Here is a case study on what New Belgium Brewing Company has done to rapidly grow their business and still keep their culture in tact. Maybe it will give you some ideas!

Step 3 - Present Culture Vision to Leadership
You have pinpointed the issue and developed your culture vision. Now it’s time to get leadership involved!

Approaching leadership about problems with office culture is understandably difficult. This step of the process obviously needs a bit of finesse behind it.

You will want to think through the conversation with your boss ahead of time to ensure your message comes across clearly and concisely.

Remember, your boss will appreciate that you’ve actually developed a vision with a couple of actionable solutions that align with the company goals. Most people just complain, but don’t try to fix anything, so you’re already way ahead of the norm.

Step 4 - Implement Your Culture Vision
Your boss signed off on your culture vision and your plan is working! Next stop… culture change!

With support from leadership, you can now roll out your culture vision to the team. It is important to get their ideas and buy-in. Most likely, your culture vision will morph to a different shape from where it started based on your teammate’s suggestions. You need to be OK with this.

While you will be the one expected to drive change in the office, having your co-workers buy-in is pertinent. After all, you’re trying to change the habits of the office so you need everyone to be onboard.

Admittedly, this may be your biggest challenge.

Step 5 - Stick With It
Perhaps, we should have led with this thought:
If you want to change your office culture, it will require sacrificing personal time as well as creating additional work beyond your normal day job.

Consistent (and often tedious) focus on your culture transformation is necessary for changes to start taking place. You have to live it, breathe it, and speak it... constantly. Steps 1 thru 4 will not matter if you’re not willing to lead the charge!

As the culture-shifter, people will look to you to be organized and ultimately, a bit of a cheerleader. If you aren’t willing to champion the culture you want, why would anyone else follow along?

You will be the one expected to follow through, follow up, and communicate what successful change looks like!

So, that’s it! 5 simple steps and you’re on your way to changing your culture.

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