5 C’s to Make a Work Environment Work for You

Starting a new job or leading a new team can feel like landing on another planet. You need to get up to speed quickly on policies and procedures, acronyms, names of colleagues and clients, and – most importantly – where the coffee maker is. On top of all that is getting a feel for the workplace culture. You’ll want to fit in and stand out at the same time.

Tricky, right?

Being adaptable comes in handy in these situations. So do strong working relationships with your peers. To navigate your new ‘home’ successfully, you’ll want to do your best to steer clear of toxicity and build authentic relationships with the folks who will have your back. Here are the five C’s to get you started.

The 5 C’s

#1 – Clarify: Cultural norms and expectations must be clear to everyone. It’s equally important to demonstrate what is and is not acceptable behavior, along with the consequences of toxic behavior. Leaders need to ‘walk the talk’ and model what they want to see from their team. And if you’re a new team member, look to leadership for your cues on what’s expected.

#2 – Connect – Build meaningful relationships with your team and with your colleagues both inside and outside the organization. This is 100% essential to success and happiness in the workplace. Leaders need to create an inclusive environment in which team members feel comfortable sharing their experiences. This can be achieved through an “open-door” (and open-mind) policy. As individuals, we must be willing to invest time getting to know people on a personal level, and open up to them in exchange. It’s the only way to build truly authentic bonds.

#3 – Communicate – If you see something, say something. Too often, we hold on to negative emotions, allowing them to fester. You must be willing to have critical conversations that foster healthy relationships and work environments. Even if it’s outside your comfort zone, and even if they won’t like what you have to say. Just be sure you’re having the conversation with the right person. Set boundaries. Focus on behaviors.

“Skilled people start with heart. That is, they begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused no matter what happens.” Joseph Grenny

#4 – Confront – I cannot tell you the number of professional women I speak with who dread confrontation and avoid it at all costs. But there are some very high costs when inappropriate behavior is not addressed directly. Team morale and productivity go down, while tension and resentment go up. You cannot conquer what you’re unwilling to confront. Be brave and direct, and come prepared with facts. Swift action is necessary to prevent negative behaviors from creating a toxic culture. 

#5 – Choose – Decide in advance what action you will take when someone who exhibits toxic behaviors does not respond positively to culture, connection, communication, or confrontation. It’s not always easy, but the better choice is often to terminate one toxic person than to lose many good people. You don’t let the weeds take over your garden, and you shouldn’t let your high-performing staff or colleagues get so frustrated that they simply find somewhere else to work.

The Bottom Line

No one wants to deal with toxic behavior in their workplace. As a leader or member of the team, you have the power to create the kind of environment in which talented people with good attitudes thrive and are happy to come to work every day. The culture is yours to create or enhance, so make sure your behaviors always align with your values and you’ll do great! And if you need help, let’s talk.

Lisa L. Baker - Certified Personal, Career, Success and Life Coach

Lisa L. Baker is a professional life coach, career strategist, and keynote speaker. Lisa is the founder of Ascentim – a Maryland-based coaching practice that utilizes a unique G.R.O.W. process to help clients gain clarity, realize new possibilities, overcome obstacles, and win at life. Lisa shows high-performing professionals how to Level Up and Live the Life of Their Dreams.

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