Understanding Workplace Culture for Your Summer Experience


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You have been involved in your summer experience for a couple of weeks now and are getting comfortable with your workplace and your co-workers. You start to notice differences in personalities and work styles, along with a sense of a how each employee works together. Now is the time to explore and gain understanding of this workplace. The organization’s style sets the tone for the company culture. Going beneath the surface of observable behavior, understanding the motives of your co-workers and your employer/supervisor will go a long way to helping you to understand the culture of your workplace.

Here are 3 tips to help you gain understanding of workplace culture and how it impacts you.

Research Company Values:  

Have you ever had a job at Whitman that didn’t feel comfortable? Maybe you value being able to work only your set schedule but your Whitman supervisor would like you to be on call. What happens when your employer’s values don’t match yours?  If the environment is at odds with your values it can make it difficult to communicate or work with your fellow co-workers. You may highly value a relaxed camaraderie but your employer prefers a more professional work behavior. It is important to interact with your co-workers and to talk with your supervisor to develop an understanding of the pulse of your workplace. You don’t have to give up your values to suit your employer, but it will work in your favor to balance them with the values of the company. Gaining this understanding will go a long way in taking your summer experience from “good” to “excellent”!

Explore Company Behaviors:  Dress, Language, and Time Management:

This may be the first professional experience where you have had to think about your style of dress or even the style of the way you talk. At Whitman, dress codes are pretty casual, even faculty are known to come to class in shorts and t-shirts. Your language could be splashed with casual slang, your emails full of emojis, and you might be on a  first name basis with on-campus supervisors. Maybe your on-campus job had a very relaxed mode when it came to coming and going and you have never had to “clock-in” with a time card. These are workplace culture issues that are important to be aware of. Observe your co-workers style of dress, and align your style to adapt with the company’s expectations, understanding that you don’t have to give up your own personal flair. Organizations are comprised of lots of different people with different styles and personalities.  Understanding these different styles will help you to put the puzzle pieces together and establish yourself as a professional with coworkers and your supervisor.

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Observe Observe Observe!:

Watch other employees. Do they smile? Are they engaging with one another? Do they seem to enjoy each other’s company yet still able to be productive in their work? How do employers engage with their employees? Is there an open policy to share ideas and opinions from all levels of the company? Does your supervisor support respect for all employees? Do they create a positive environment that results in employees feeling valued? Use your talents of observation that you have expanded in you classes and extra-curricular experiences while at Whitman to gain get the answers to these questions. A workplace culture that supports all of the above tends to have employees who will stay longer, and who will typically go above and beyond what is expected of them. This type of environment creates engaged and positive employees and promotes high productivity and satisfaction. Gaining an understanding of how your coworkers engage and support each other, will go a long way in creating a positive experience.

Your ability to relate to  the “culture” of your workplace will be a determining factor in how much you will enjoy your internship. Creating community, and your level of connection to that community will have a positive impact on your experience. By understanding the values of your company, the culture of dress, language, and time management, and observing how engaged other co-workers are will help to ensure your success this summer!

Your Internship Doctor 🙂


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