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Culture Shock: Keeping Your Office Space Productive

people working in an office

Perhaps you’re like us, sporting emotional scars from working for companies with highly political, cutthroat cultures. We know that Office Space is uncomfortably accurate, and the main character’s crux is chillingly familiar: 

“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.”

That’s how some people feel. And they could be on your team, responsible for important projects, and on the verge of missing deadlines every day. All of the employee-of-the-month awards, Hawaiian shirt days, and ping-pong tables won’t undo the damage caused by a degenerative workplace culture.

Keep your office space productive with these tips

Give Your Teammates Confidence

People governed by fear — of being embarrassed, of losing their job, of being exposed as unproductive — only respond to that stress for so long before they either become apathetic, just do enough not to get fired, or find another job. So the employer is left with a group of people who are either too unmotivated or too unqualified to find employment elsewhere. Go team! What red flags should you look out for? 

  • Stifled ideation — Only one person on the team ever comes up with good ideas while the rest bite their tongues or sit on their hands because the topic isn’t necessarily germane to their particular role at the company, or they’re afraid of being shot down. 
  • Contentiousness — In meetings, there are uncomfortable pauses and poor body language, or people avoid contributing to the conversation in order to get the meeting over with faster; and when they do talk, people are very territorial and try to justify their existence.
  • Negative talk — Gossip is common within the ranks, and water cooler conversations cover what’s wrong with the company, never what’s right. 
  • Regular absences — People are often sick or stressed out, everything feels like a Sisyphean experience, and nobody is excited about work; it’s just a paycheck.
  • Party poopers — Work parties are very subdued and cliquish and feel like an obligation.

Come Through in the Clutch

I’m just one person — how can I change my company’s culture? If you see these trends in your own office space, counteract the negativity from wherever you are in the organizational chart with these steps:

  • When evaluating a plan or calling for new ideas, start with the most junior person in the room to ensure their participation and find something positive to say about all ideas. 
  • Encourage and practice transparency. Knowledge is power, and when everyone understands the big picture, they’re more likely to feel included, want to be part of a success story, feel in control of their situation, and derive their self-worth from within.
  • Be as big a cheerleader as you are a critic. Celebrate wins as vigorously as you lament the losses. There should be motivation to win versus motivation “not to lose.”
  • Vocalize what’s right about your company and merchandise it internally. 

More than anything, it’s a mindset. Be inclusive and urge coworkers to be part of a team. Lead by example. You’ll be surprised what your team is able to accomplish and what your colleagues start to mimic.

Want to discuss a healthy corporate culture or need more quotes from Office Space? Just contact me.