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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to Create Culture in a Cultureless Company

If “fun” isn’t the F-word you most frequently associate with your job and your company is devoid of culture like Zooey Deschanel of emotion in 500 Days of Summer, I can relate.

I, too, have experienced uninspiring workspaces plagued by stark hallways, poor insulation, and even poorer excuses for international potlucks. Worse yet, I’ve seen good people turn their backs on all things right in this world, subjecting nearby worker bees to Toni Braxton’s Greatest Hits just because the “silence was deafening.” And that, my friends, is never the business.

So, how do you combat such shared-space crime and lead a cultural revolution to make work more fun?

Start small. Here are a few ideas to explore no matter your title or tenure.

Get Up

When you take brain breaks to counteract spreadsheet myopia, instead of pinning photos of baby koalas to your Vacations board, take a lap around the office and stop for a water break. Challenge yourself to strike up a conversation with a co-worker in the kitchen or in the hallway, and take the first step towards building a relationship. Short term, you’ll likely find more people to jump on that Taco Tuesday bandwagon you’ve been trying to rally for months. Long term, you’ll sponsor camaraderie among your officemates. And maybe even get them to start talking to one another.


Go Social

Let’s face it: Hashtags are happening. They’ve taken the place of punch lines and indexes alike and have come together as crosshairs of our generation.

So create one. Tell all your newfound water-break-buds about it, and watch the aggregated gallery grow. You’ll be surprised how apt your co-workers will be to involve each other in plans and online conversations. They’ll tag filtered photos of their lunch breaks or capture bizarre moments happening between white-boarded walls. They’ll find funnies everywhere. And more importantly, they’ll find more joy in the daily grind.

Be Competitive

Try your hand at team captain. Cordially invite hotshots and novices alike to take their heckling light and their jerseys seriously by joining a recreational sports league. After all, if we learned nothing else from Angelina’s right leg or Chick-Fil-A circa October 2012, it’s that people tend to come together over a common enemy. Plus, by coordinating loose practices and habitual pre-game “stretches” at a local bar, your team will build chemistry faster than you can Google “softball chants every team should know.”

Of course, there are hundreds of tactics you could deploy to build company culture. You could create a dance box out of tape and require every person who steps in it to bust a move. You could sponsor Scone Tuesdays or Beer Fridays. You could drive the would-you-rather bus, or plan company trips to Lake Tahoe. You could lay the tracks for a random act of kindness train, or schedule an inspiring lunchtime seminar series.

No matter where your to-do list takes you, though, remember the underlying goal of spurring company culture is to instill a keener, more jovial sense of workplace pride. Though this can be especially intimidating when management doesn’t seem to care about anything but the bottom line, make like Fleetwood Mac and Go Your Own Way. Lead by example to foster a fun work environment and let the ripple effect roar.

Before you know it, you’ll be spending your water breaks chatting about how Kate, the once quiet, sock-bun-wearing accountant from Finance, is now all over the company Instagram as #KatetheGreat. Killer line drive, that girl.

Photo of co-workers talking courtesy of Shutterstock.