If You Want to Thrive, Sync with the Vibe

Work culture, like music, has the uncanny ability to bring people together or drive them apart. Personal preferences about every genre from rock to reggae can end up building or burning bridges. Similarly, people in the working world may survive being out of sync with their company’s vibe, but they’ll never really thrive! It’s no wonder that new articles on what makes or breaks employee engagement drop every week like new albums hoping to top the charts.

I recently read one such article in Forbes on wrestling with work culture titled, "How To Work With Immature And Unprofessional People." It got me thinking about the importance of making sure my inner rhythm, my core disposition, resonates with where I work. You see, employee engagement increases when underlying dynamics like values, pace, banter, priorities, decision-making, advancement, and perks line up. Managerial leaders recognize that these factors and more help optimize performance both professionally and interpersonally. Still, no matter how hard they try, no boss can ensure everyone will love where they work or who they work with. In other words, music may be a universal language, but liking what’s playing isn’t universal. It’s ultimately every employee’s unpaid job to sync with the vibe or go somewhere they do.

If you truly want to thrive as an employee and teammate, you need to sync with the vibe of your company’s tribe. Here are five simple principles to make sure you’re moving with the metaphorical music of your work culture, not against it.

Prep Your Playlist

Knowing your non-negotiables and preferences before walking into work will change your tune. Do you thrive as an individual contributor or a team collaborator? How important is having a private vs. public workspace? Do you want to work remotely or be shoulder-to-shoulder with colleagues more regularly? Is free coffee or a ping-pong table in the office a deal breaker? Only you can create your playlist of what contributes to an awesome work culture.

Be Curious, Not a Curmudgeon

No one is 100% happy-go-lucky, smiling ear-to-ear all the time (except that one weirdo you work with!). On the contrary, some people seem to get annoyed more easily than others ALL…THE…TIME. People at both ends of this spectrum, and everywhere in between, cause challenges in working relationships. When you’re frustrated by other people’s attitudes and behaviors at the office, convince yourself to be curious instead of the curmudgeon in the corner. Ask questions. Discover your coworkers’ likes and dislikes. Bring someone an unexpected coffee. Hear about someone else’s workload or day instead of fretting over your own. And, if you have nothing nice to say, smile and see what happens.

Find a Few Friendlies

Liking who you work with is important, but it’s not as significant as knowing who’s got your back. (Caution: Don’t turn office friendships into corporate Survivor!) The goal in finding a few friendlies is not to negotiate alliances, but to make lasting connections with people that share your personal and/or professional interests. When you show up curious with your playlist prepped, building a support network is a natural next step.

Work with Fellow Whistlers

Did you know “whistle while you work” is highly overrated? Yes, some people whistle when they’re in a good mood, but most unconsciously do it to stay focused or avoid negative thoughts. The result? Everyone within earshot of the whistler wishes they would stop! Rather than point the finger at a colleague’s quirks, recognize your own, and learn to work with imperfect people that will whistle with you.

Sway to the Music (or Step Off the Dance Floor)

Every work environment has people that never let their hair down. They keep their guard up for lots of legitimate reasons, even when the culture is cutting lose around them. No one’s saying you have to dance. But if you can’t simply sway to the metaphorical music—the cultural rhythm of your office and colleagues—it might signify that somewhere else is a better fit. Resist taking responsibility to “fix” people around you. Take a step back so you can thrive here, or somewhere else, in your work and workplace moving forward.