How to dress up your organizational culture, and wear it like a boss.


“No one swears here.” That was my reaction the first week at my new job. I had left a 17-year career with a business whose culture was — let’s say — more lax. New Job was in a glitzy space peppered with alcoves and steeped in quiet. You could hear a pin drop. A new tone had been set to elevate my professional development, and it all boiled down to a well-formulated culture.

I settled in, and after several weeks of uttering the eff-bomb under my breath, I broke the habit. I found myself surrounded by people who acted and spoke in positive ways. They weren’t overly fake, but they each had methods that were admirable, especially in a business setting.

For example, Elizabeth had an arsenal of questions. She could ask her way out of any situation no matter how irate the opposition was. Jillian was always calm. Always. Literally, nothing could fluster her. If we were in a situation that got my ire up, Jillian could handle the onslaught with grace. Sarah smiled. She bravely smiled and proved the 80/20 rule that 80% of life is how you reacted to it. These gals had learned how to handle all negativity with ease. It rubbed off.

So what if you’ve got the same problem? What if you’re quagmired in a culture that needs to shape up but you can’t ship out? What if you’re surrounded by complainers and you want to throw in the towel? Good news: It’s not impossible. It will take time, but the methods I’ve picked up are simple, easy to do, and they just might help you escape the darkness and shine.

  1. Get over what happened yesterday. Complaining fixes nothing.
  2. Write, speak and act as if you’re out to dinner with your Mom (The no swearing thing applies).
  3. Practice some flexibility – bend like bamboo (figuratively, of course).
  4. Think of one thing your organization does well and tell it to someone every day.
  5. How do you want to be treated? Start treating others that way.
  6. Answer people, phone calls and disruptions with a helpful tone. No matter what. You were born to help.
  7. Find your Elizabeth, Jillian or Sarah and pick up their good habits.
  8. Give it time. Once your coworkers notice the ways you’re acting, chances are, they’ll emulate you.