Module 04: On the Job Success

What is workplace culture?

Organizational culture involves the values, beliefs, attitudes, and systems that influences the employees’ behavior. Workplace culture plays a significant role in determining employers’ expectations. Understanding these expectations is essential to your work success. During your job search, you may have identified organizations and workplace cultures where you feel best positioned to thrive. However, it’s important to acknowledge that for a variety of reasons you may need to accept a position at an organization that is not your optimal “fit”.

Jane stands in the centre of an elevator speaking with a man. The man stands to the left and another woman stands to her right.

Many organizations will make hiring decisions based upon a candidate’s “fit” within the organizational or workplace culture in order to maintain the status quo. Some research has indicated that this practice may actually harm the company’s bottom line as hiring people with the same perspective can stifle growth and competing ideas.  Diverse teams can work well together to come up with innovative solutions to problems, which might not have been achieved if the employees were too homogeneous.

Sit back and observe

Understanding the values, beliefs and unspoken norms in your organization will help smooth your ability to navigate your new environment. You will gain an understanding of the values, guiding decisions and how processes are run. Give yourself time to observe and uncover workplace expectations- your patience and perceptiveness will pay off in time. When starting a new job, it’s best to be reserved and professional until you become accustomed to your new workplace.

There may be unwritten rules on taking breaks, calling in sick, and scheduling time off. Observe co-workers as well as your supervisor and try to emulate their behaviors. Do colleagues arrive early or stay late and, if so, how early or late? Do people tend to socialize with each other in the morning, at lunch or after work? What types of behaviors or approaches get rewarded? Are there any ethical considerations to keep in mind? How would you characterize the general atmosphere in the workplace? Is it boisterous or calm?  Upbeat or stressful? Is there a particularly important overarching mission which your co-workers support?

Here are some useful tips and scenarios:

  • Be aware that many organizations have flat organizational structures: In recent years, there has been shift away from traditional hierarchy, and moved towards teamwork. It’s becoming more common, for example, for a director to solicit feedback from an entry-level employee.  It’s expected that you form collegial relationships with your managers and co-workers.
  • Understand that organizations have their own “style”: For example, the dress code may be more relaxed or you may be encouraged to call the company president by their first name.  The best approach is to watch what everyone else is doing and follow their lead. Adopting a casual approach still requires that colleagues demonstrate respectful behavior.
  • Know that you are responsible for a particular process and/or outcomes:  In many jobs, your manager will tell you what they expect from you right from the start. They may not care how you do it, but you’ll be held accountable if you’re not meeting expectations.
  • Recognize that employers value initiative:  In today’s fast-moving environment, managers value proactive employees. If you see a problem, instead of rushing to alert your manager, use your judgment and try to determine if it’s something that you can solve on your own. Once you’re comfortable with your work priorities and time management, think about whether there are any projects or resources that you could work on to benefit your team and add to your accomplishments. Remember that individual contribution is valued even in contexts where you’re expected to work in a team.
  • Project a positive attitude: Being a positive team player is often valued just as much as being competent in your job. No one wants to be around negative people and being positive plays a major role in both the hiring process and in assessing job performance. Instead of complaining, offer possible solutions.

Take a moment to watch this 3 minute video clip about work culture. The video was created by SHRM

(2019). Why Workplace Culture Is Everyone’s Responsibility. SHRM. Retrieved from

Share This Book