how long will it take to change the culture at my new job?

A reader writes:

I’ve just started a new job which is much more in line with my interests. It was a step down pay-wise but I believed it would be better for my mental health because it is something I actually enjoy doing. The interviewer was my boss’s boss and has only been with the company for a few months. Despite a red flag in the interview of a few “characters who can be tough to work with,” the rest of the job sounded good and generally I get along with everyone.

It is so much worse than I thought. Everyone is pessimistic, negative, ready to quit or unwilling to share information. I have only been there three weeks and already I can see a load of problems. There are cliques between and within departments, crude and sexist jokes, violent temper tantrums (slamming equipment), shouting, constant swearing (general and directed at others), and some people just walking off the job when they’ve had enough. I was literally told “welcome to hell” one morning! There was no official onboarding process: I was “trained” by someone who doesn’t even work there (sister of the boss) who wasn’t trained herself. I have heard things from older employees that turn red flags into a full parade, e.g., “wow you got an access card? I didn’t get mine for a year!” and “They’re hiring in X position and even though I have 26 years experience in that, they still have me sweeping floors.”

Now I’ve gone full care-bear manic-pixie-girl break-them-with-love mode and had private conversations with most people about the workplace culture and issues, brought in donuts on my birthday to share, made offers to help with things when I can, touted the benefits of working as a team, opening up lines of communication, offered to write up processes and procedures so everyone knows what they are responsible for — and I like to think that will help a little — but how much longer do I have to press to see a change in the culture?

My immediate boss has been described as abrupt, a non-communicator, misogynistic, and sometimes just a jerk. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him beyond short work-related questions and barely get a hello in the kitchen in the morning. The new grandboss (who everyone agrees is great, by the way) is keen to turn things around, but with my immediate boss going on extended leave for a bit, am I stuck in hell for longer? Should I stick it out or look for a new job while I’m still in my probationary period? This job could be amazing — great, steady work load, optional overtime, okay pay, close to home, and I’m not looking for progression — but already I’m getting tired of putting on mental armor each morning. How long should I expect to wait it out before calling it quits?

I wrote back and asked, “What’s the nature of your job there? Are you senior in the hierarchy with a lot of influence to effect culture change, or more junior?”

I’m a lowly pleb. So I guess I’m a regular team member. Saying that, I was told I’d be the shift lead when the boss is away in one email before I began work but I am nowhere near trained up enough to do that yet.

Okay. So … your own actions are not going to be able to change this company’s culture, and probably not your team’s culture either. You’re just not in a position to do it.

Culture change is a ton of work, and it nearly always fails if there isn’t full buy-in from the top of the organization. It usually involves soul-searching, full-scale resets on how things get done, explicit conversations about how things are changing and why, lots of work to reset expectations with managers about how they’ll manage their teams, holding people accountable to a new set of standards (which can include replacing people who can’t or won’t make the shift), and often outside coaching for top leaders in how to make all this happen.

It’s got to come from the top. Sometimes a new manager can come in and change the culture on their particular team (by doing a smaller-scale version of the things in the list above) even if the broader organization around them stays dysfunctional … but that’s still change coming from the top of that group.

It’s possible that your new grandboss is going to lead exactly that kind of change, who knows. Given the environment you described, it would be a tall order — doable, but only if she has the will (and the backing from above) to truly shake things up. Since you’re only three weeks in, you’re not a great position to judge what she might be working on, but given the severity of some of the issues (violent temper tantrums?!) I’d expect to see intervention from her very quickly if it’s going to happen.

Any chance your abrupt, non-communicating, misogynistic jerk of a boss’s extended leave might have been imposed on him from above because he sucks at his job? If so, that would be a good sign. If not and he stays without a significant makeover, that’s an indicator you’re not likely to see real change.

Especially since you’re contemplating leaving anyway, one option is to talk to your grandboss, share your concerns, and ask for her take on the culture and whether she expects much change. Her answer will give you more insight. You’ll still need to put more weight on actions than words, but since some culture change can start behind the scenes and not be fully visible to more junior staff right away (especially if it involves moving out problematic mid-level managers), a conversation could give you a fuller picture of what’s going on. And if she continues to downplay the situation as “characters who can be tough to work with,” like she did in your interview, that’ll be useful info too.

If that conversation gives you hope — if she sounds like she sees the problems, agrees it’s unacceptable, and plans to take real action — you could wait and see what happens over the next couple of months. But given how hard real culture change is and how often it doesn’t happen when it should, even when new leaders come in, the unfortunate reality is that there’s a high likelihood that you should in fact be planning to move on … and unless your grandboss tells you something really compelling about her plans for wholesale change, it’s probably to your advantage to re-start your search now rather than later.

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. So Tired*

    Bless you for trying, but these problems don’t sound like something donuts and offers to help people with their work are going to fix. Allison is right, the new grandboss may be able to turn things around, but it’s going to take time, and even then they may decide it’s not worth the effort and things won’t change.

    1. So Tired*

      Whoops, the rest of my comment didn’t post! But basically, don’t count on these culture issues changing, and focus on getting out as quickly as you can. And do try to be more aware of red flags in future hiring processes so you don’t end up in another situation like this!

      Best of luck, LW.

      1. Melicious*

        In my experience, a red flag has to be pretty bad to get explicitly mentioned in a job interview. In an interview, I was told by someone at my level, “Boss can be difficult
        to work for.” Yeah… he yelled at people until they cried. Boss also asked what I’d do if I got contradictory instructions from him and Grandboss. Guess what? That was a no-win cluster to navigate. Other big problems existed too, and there’s nothing could do to change most of it. Unfortunately, I was desperate to take the first offer I got.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I kept on getting told at one of my very first big girl interview that the boss “was very _ethnicity_”, implying that he had a temper. I was like “ok, I’ve worked with people who have their volume cranked a bit”. The lady interviewing me kept telling me the same thing though, and was like “but when we get down to grant deadlines, the hair really starts flying, and we need someone who can handle that”.
          Eventually I went “do you like your job?”
          She stared for a long 30 seconds into the void, and then told me “yes”
          I did not take that job.

          1. Beth*

            Yikes. Even without getting into whether the job was bearable or not, if I ever heard an interviewer describe someone as “very ethnicity” and mean anything about their character by it, I’d run away. That is a D&I nightmare waiting to happen.

        2. Culture Change OP*

          Thanks for the replies. I can definitely see a consensus to move on. Unfortunately this job was my “desperate to take the first offer I got” job too. I will keep looking.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I would only add, honestly OP may find that they can live with the chaos and find ways to either enjoy the parts of the job that they like, or disengage from the office and be satisfied with their quality of life overall, and keep on keepin’ on even if everybody else is nuts (for a year or two, to build experience and then translate it into a new organization that deserves OP). I’ve done this. If you have a role where you’re an individual contributor and you like the person you directly deal with the most, just keep repeating “not my circus, not my monkeys” and “I can’t care more about this company than the people who have the power to change it do.” Definitely no more trying to save everything, that will just burn you out.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I agree.
          But the LW is not really setting themselves up for that.
          You *have to* detach if you’re going to do that. You have to be able to truly say, “not my circus.” And here is the LW, trying desperately to change the culture.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            And trying desperately to change the culture of the whole business by being cheerful and sunny and providing special-occasion doughnuts. I feel LW’s pain, but one aggressively nice happy person does not evolve a whole office.

      3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I agree with Alison that a conversation with grandboss might be useful before giving up. If you’re probably already one foot out the door, it provides more leeway to talk to grandboss than you might have otherwise. I’d have a *really* frank, possibly bordering on exactly what’s in this letter, talk with her. Like send an email that basically says:

        “Hi, I’ve been here three weeks and I’ve noticed a, b, c, … h. Can you a let me know what some of your short and long term plans are for mitigating and correcting some of this? I’m trying to do x, y, and z, but there’s only so much I can do at my level.”

        I think, since option “b” is basically just to leave, you have the freedom to basically be as honest as you possibly can without being rude. It’s a risky move, if grandboss isn’t smart enough to read between the lines, or flexible enough to realize you want to help, you may find yourself on the way out. If grandboss is smart and as good as people seem to think though, you could be part of real change. Someone like that is going to need help. Being the first or one of the first to offer that help could be rewarding in a lot of different senses.

        Or it could all fall apart and you wind up looking for a job in a month or two, but you’re kinda there anyway. Doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to lose.

        1. Culture Change OP*

          I will be having a meeting with Grand Boss next week to go over my time here so far. I think my list probably goes down to P and Q by now. Saying that, she has been very frank about what she wants to change and is very much aware of problem behaviours. I will take your advice and ask for deadlines. I have spoken to a few other staff members about this and unfortunately one left abruptly (no farewell speeches or goodbye gifts?! She was there for 2 years!) but the other is determined to help me get processes in place.

          It will be interesting to see what happens when other Boss gets back from leave. He left on paternity leave so he will be back – and will probably be sleep deprived (read: cranky) when he does return. Either way I will keep an eye on job openings. Thank you for your comments!

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, often when such a massive culture of negativity has set in, it takes wholesale change in management/staff before anything will really change. OP, you’re just going to exhaust yourself throwing doughnuts and rainbows at people who hate their jobs.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I know someone who first went into an office like this, and people actively hated her for this attitude. I think it was a protective mechanism. “Oh, he hasn’t broken you yet?”

        1. Very Social*

          Yeah, unfortunately, I’d expect that kind of reaction. I really want to root for this OP, though!

          1. Culture Change OP*

            I’ve got that too. I got something to work the other day and yelled “Huzzah!” and was told by a coworker, not in an unfriendly way, “Stop being so cheerful!” and just replied, “No! Stop being so grumpy!”

            A nickname I’ve had at other places has been Smiley. I’m a generally happy person so I think it will take a lot to break me. (I’ve worked retail at Christmas as an elf. If I can survive that I can survive any job.) I just find I’m paying more attention to how much other people aren’t happy at this job. There are always people who revel in the grump persona (I had a coworker who signed off emails as The Curmudgeon) but I still get along with them.

            I don’t want or need to be everyone’s best buddies. I don’t mind a bit of sarcasm and sighing. I just don’t want people slamming staplers on desks and swearing at each other. And if this is something I can help with, I want to know. And if it isn’t – why are they still here? They should be encouraged to leave.

            Thank you for your comments. I won’t stay until it breaks me and I will keep looking at other options because I understand this is not sustainable long-term, but while I’m here, I’ll keep fighting the good fight.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It would at least take a monumental number of doughnuts, and management being willing to provide them.

    4. Happy*

      Yeah, this is not a problem OP can solve and honestly, break-them-with-love is not an effective way to combat a misogynist boss.

    5. MsM*

      Yeah, I came here to say that even if grandboss has a foolproof plan for addressing everything, you don’t go from this kind of systemic dysfunction to a fantastic place to work in a matter of weeks. If OP needs mental stability sooner rather than later, finding a way to exit gracefully and leave the door open to coming back after the culture change is complete may be the better call.

    6. AnonAnon*

      Agree – OP: my job is literally working with organizations to design and implement culture changes. And I can tell you it takes years to change culture, even for organizations with fully committed leadership.
      In your case, you won’t be able to change culture through bringing baked goods and being nice to people. Instead, most likely, the culture will change you, and not for the better.

  2. No Tribble At All*

    You’re already tired of putting on mental armor every morning? The job isn’t going to change. It’s not one person, it’s multiple people, including your direct boss. Get. Out! Pull up anything else you found last time you were job searching and get back in touch with them. The job can’t be amazing if you have to do it while surrounded by angry bees.

    1. Homebody*

      Definitely agree. I’ve seen situations where firing one employee improves the culture almost overnight, but the problems here seem deeper and much more on a organizational level.

      I hope the OP moves on to greener pastures soon.

    2. Orange Crushed*

      Agreed- I’m going through something similar and there’s a nasty pack mentality. One on one the people are little better, but all together it’s just too much. Getting out is the only solution.

    3. Culture Change OP*

      Thank you for your comments! When I start imagining a swam of disgruntled bees next time something happens and I get weird looks for laughing, I will blame you.

      In the meantime, I will take the advice of everyone here and keep looking at other options.

  3. staceyizme*

    It’s so hard to have to face changing jobs again when you’ve already done your due diligence and have shifted to something that you’d hoped would bring a better work-life balance (or just SOME definition of “better”!). That sounds like something you might be facing, though. Is there any possibility that you could regain your old position, if you felt able to tolerate it for a year or two? If so, it might be a better investment of your time and energy, professionally. Otherwise, well- maybe the energy that you’ve been putting into conversations, engagement and attempts to change the culture in your current role would just be better spent looking for a better professional opportunity?

    1. High Score!*

      It can be done. One of my coworkers came from a job that she’d been at less a couple of months. She stated that the job was not what she’d been led to believe and interviewers at our company didn’t think ill of her for leaving. This was before the great resignation. Good luck!!

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup to this: I had a coworker who took a job in academia after a career in industry, her boss quit on her first day and the place was all the bad and annoying things about academia rolled into one. She noped out in a week with nothing lined up and we did not hold it against her.

        Sometimes you get sold a bill of goods and reasonable people will understand that.

    2. Fran Fine*

      Yeah, I’d either try to go back to where I came from for the time being or I’d save up all my energy during the day, job search during lunch, and submit applications when I got home to move onto someplace new.

      Sorry, OP. I don’t see this situation getting better for your anytime soon.

    3. Culture Change OP*

      I already stuck it out longer in my last job for an extra year to qualify for long service. I don’t think I could go back now. The work itself is great – it’s simply the people there make it much more tense than it needs to be. I will see what Grand Boss says at the next meeting and set some deadlines but keep looking. She knows what the issues are and how I feel about them. It seems her time here so far has been putting out fires rather than pre-empting issues. I’ve said I’m willing to help turn things around but without visible changes from above like disciplinary action for those speaking badly/abusing others, I’m out.

  4. Wildcat*

    I understand you’re trying but I think it’s a mistake to take this in yourself. It’s just not going to work and you’re going to end up crushed.

    There are so many red flags here, I’d focus on getting away from there as quickly as you can. You can leave it off your resume if it’s a shirt tenure.

    1. Typing All The Time*

      Agreed. It seems this place just didn’t turn out to be what you hoped for. Start job researching now.

  5. Dust Bunny*

    Start looking and cut your losses. It’s noble of you to want to fix this but you don’t have the status and won’t for a long time, if ever.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Not only that, you WILL be affected by working in this culture, you need to get out before that happens.

  6. OyHiOh*

    It took me a year and a half to change the culture of a place I worked – but I was a manager responsible for training student volunteers, among other duties. In that setting, when I started making it very obvious how I interacted with my students, the other managers/directors/teachers started modeling the same behaviors. It still took 18 months to see the rest of the adult leadership come around.

    Setting, “pre professional” community theater/after school arts program which had a strong culture of only discussing what went wrong (never mentioning what went right), and no habit of thanking volunteers, student or adult, for their effort. The place literally would not exist without the volunteers so . . . . a bit problematic from my point of view. I started debriefing my volunteers on things we got right, first, and then addressing problem spots, and also of being very generous with thank you’s and other brief statements of appreciation. It worked, but it took time.

  7. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    I could see myself writing this email when I was at one of my first jobs decades ago. Dear sweet reader, if you are anything like me, you grew up ensuring all of the grown-ups had their needs met, while ignoring your own. It is not your job to change the culture. You can only change yourself and your own heart and actions.

    It can take years for the culture to change. My advice would be to keep your head down, and do your job, and stop trying to fix problems outside of your control. Start looking for a job that is a better culture fit for you, and one that deserves your awesomeness. And if anything I wrote resonated, please read the work of Brené Brown. In addition to lots of therapy, her books and podcasts have helped me immensely.

    1. Fran Fine*

      My advice would be to keep your head down, and do your job, and stop trying to fix problems outside of your control. Start looking for a job that is a better culture fit for you, and one that deserves your awesomeness.

      This would also be my advice.

      1. Culture Change OP*

        It’s solid advice. My trouble is I’m a naturally bossy and sometimes impatient (but not rude) person.

        I’ve been a manager and didn’t like it. I prefer being a team player but somehow end up leading the pack when people don’t know what to do. Why stand there flapping your arms when you don’t know what to do? Just ask someone! It’s not embarrassing, it’s the nature of work. If you don’t ask you don’t know. Don’t say their problem is not your problem – we’re a team, if it’s their problem it’s your problem! Help them out! Set the next person handling the job up for success! Don’t leave a mess for the next person to use this desk, put your stuff away. Leave notes about where you’re up to. Etc etc etc.

        Somehow this means that I should be a leader and I don’t want to deal with that. I just want to be an excellent team player.

        I’ve overheard people here say “I don’t know what to do next… but I’m too afraid to ask.” and “I asked Boss what to do for x and got told off for not knowing already but I only did x once years ago!” It’s definitely a manager issue. If it doesn’t change dramatically, soon. I’m out.

    2. Sara without an H*

      This was me at one of my first professional positions. I thought if I did my job well and was sufficiently agreeable, everything would be all right. Nope.

      OP, I know it’s tempting to think that, if you’re just nice enough, other people will eventually respond, but that’s unlikely to work when the problems are so entrenched. Please start looking for a better job now, before the poisonous atmosphere starts to change you.

  8. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    The classic advice is “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

  9. Critical Rolls*

    Just… be prepared. Be realistic with yourself about what you can tolerate without harming your mental health and sense of norms. Give it time if you want to, but set yourself deadlines so you don’t let yourself get stuck. “If the temper tantrums don’t stop within a month, I’m out.” “If the boss comes back and hasn’t changed, I’m out.” And then stick to it. You don’t have any leverage to mandate change, so while it probably won’t hurt to do what you can, it’s not a failure if you can’t roll this boulder uphill with just your two hands.

    1. Smithy*

      Absolutely this. But I’d encourage not thinking of deadlines in terms of months/years but honestly weeks. Essentially, what are immediate indicators that say “leave now, leave this job off your resume forever”

      I will also say that this kind of culture change can really take SO much time, because it really does require leadership to be that deliberate. And I often think there can be moments where they figure they’ll just ‘wait out’ xyz team leads to leave while focusing on change in abc and efg teams. I worked at one place for 3.5 years that remains my apex toxic mountain. About six months before I was hired, the nonprofit’s board had been fired due to the levels of how awful the place was. During my tenure, the improvements still left a pretty workplace – that were still seen as a genuine improvement.

      Another 3.5 years later, someone who worked in a parent agency of the place and had seen everything from before the board’s firing told me that the organization was now a fairly decent place to work. Whether or not it had to go that slowly, I don’t know – but in reflection it makes a lot more sense why it took that long. Things were really bad when I joined and definitely naïve in thinking what it would take to fix. As well as the level of experience they could attract given the state of affairs. So the fact that someone largely learning on the job and making their own mistakes also took more time……again, it makes a lot more sense now.

      1. Aggresuko*

        Essentially, what are immediate indicators that say “leave now, leave this job off your resume forever”

        This entire letter has those immediate indicators.

        1. Smithy*

          I’d agree….but lots of people do manage to find survival work arounds at not great workplaces and then end up staying there for a year+ and leave with a good enough reference.

          I have two people in my network looking to leave roles in jobs where they’re quite unhappy at disorganized places with bad cultures. While both have personal financial situations where they could quit without a new job, one person is in a mental sanity position where they can stay 6-12 months until they find the right next job and will leave with good references, resume accomplishments, and a long enough tenure for our industry. The other person was in a situation where the circumstances were seriously negatively impacting her mental health and deciding that quitting would just afford her more time to focus on finding a new job with the gap easily explained.

          I think both situations are common enough for toxic work places – and it’s reasonable to keep both options on the table when considering. With the understanding that the culture is highly unlikely to change.

          1. Culture Change OP*

            I am definitely not in a financial position where I can quit on the spot so I think I will take your first example and keep on keeping on with an eye on the job search websites. Thanks for commenting!

  10. oranges*

    Run.

    Sticking around a job like this is how people end up writing to this site wondering if thrown chairs and wall punchings are enough reason to maybe, someday, polish up their resume. YES. See the forest! That is not how healthy, functional place of business operate, and from your role, you will never be able to change it.

    The job market is red hot right now. Start looking and leave that place ASAP.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      …. or having their mouths duct taped shut, or biting their colleagues, or being made to wear a dunce’s cap…
      OP, don’t sacrifice your sanity and warp your professional norms for the sake of this place. Your grandboss might, given time and management buy-in, be able to change it. You alone cannot.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Most unexpected update ever: Respected peer felt that OP biting the office manager was quite normal for their office.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        ooh, I missed the biting colleague one.. wow, just wow!
        I remember the duct taped mouth and dunce cap..both would have been immediate resignation from me.

        1. Observer*

          The duct taped one was similar to the biting one in that the LW on that one did not see how big of an issue it was. They described the boss as “great but with this one quirk”. Which, no. NO ONE who duct tapes people’s mouths is a “great boss”.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      For the OP and anyone else who hasn’t read these letters yet:

      The boss who punches holes in walls:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/my-boss-has-violent-tantrums-and-punches-holes-in-walls.html
      https://www.askamanager.org/2020/04/update-my-boss-has-violent-tantrums-and-punches-holes-in-walls.html

      The boss who tapes her employees mouths shut:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2020/02/my-boss-tapes-peoples-mouths-shut-during-meetings.html
      https://www.askamanager.org/2020/03/update-my-boss-tapes-peoples-mouths-shut-during-meetings.html

      The person who bit their coworker:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2017/07/i-bit-my-coworker.html
      https://www.askamanager.org/2017/12/update-i-bit-my-coworker.html

      The dunce caps:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2016/02/low-performers-in-my-office-are-paraded-around-and-forced-to-wear-dunce-caps.html
      https://www.askamanager.org/2020/01/updates-the-coworker-who-lashes-out-the-dunce-caps-and-more.html

      1. Culture Change OP*

        Yikes. Yeah I’ll keep an eye out for dunce caps and tape. I have already got the “that’s normal, just ignore him” about the slamming of work supplies but next time it happens I’m calling it out for the disgusting behaviour it is. I was in shock before (and on the far side of the room).

  11. Aggresuko*

    This place already sounds like a trainwreck. Or dare I say it, hellmouth.

    I’m with Alison: unless the highest people want to do something, nothing is going to change.

    1. irene adler*

      Agree. Upper management sets the culture.
      AND to change that culture they have to take actions. So even if they SAY “we are going to change this culture” nothing will be different until they take actions.

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    A rule I’ve sadly found to hold true is that one person determined to cause trouble has a much bigger impact on a neutral group of normal people than one person determined to make things better. (Picture each person armed with an ax.)

    OP, you’ve got tons of people who seem dedicated to maintaining the dysfunction, and very few interested in changing it. It can’t be only you and the grandboss–especially if he isn’t pitching in to fix, say, the person with 26 years experience in a skill they need who’s being kept on sweeping instead.

    1. Beeeees*

      This is terrible advice – the wind from your forward motion will fan the flames, and the movement of your legs will further agitate the bees stuck between you and the smoldering fabric.
      Stop moving long enough to strip, THEN run away from the flaming bee pants!!**

      **Solution may be somewhat less than helpful in a workplace environment

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Nah, sounds about right. Stop making any excess effort, get yourself another job, then bounce.

      2. Culture Change OP*

        So now the comment above about angry bees making it hard to work have been transformed in Fire Bees! Bees with mini flamethrowers intent on destruction of pants! No shorts are safe! No pants are protected!

  13. Coffee Bean Counter*

    I think we work at the same place or at least places with the same problems. 9 months in a change is slow and absolutely will not happen without key buy in from a handful of top leaders. The department I’ve worked in has reached its limits on its own change. HR isn’t actually supportive so I don’t think OP can bank on anything changing with their efforts alone. OP, decide what kind of environment you’re willing to deal with and then if this is not it, I recommend looking for a new job asap so you can take your time to look for the right culture to move too.

  14. GythaOgden*

    Tough situation, OP. I love the place I work but there have been situations elsewhere in the building that sound low-key toxic, involved two friends and someone who offered me a job (which wasn’t something I could have taken for various reasons) who was at the centre of some horrific stuff. However, our team was led by a guy who had anxiety issues himself and that got me through six out of the eight years I’ve worked there. With the pandemic, the toxic department got scattered to the four winds and its influence died on its feet. Let’s hope Alison is right about the boss’ sudden vacation being ‘gardening leave’ before being sacked.

    Thing is, with this kind of ingrained culture it’s so hard to do this from the ground up. Whether or not you could work with your grand boss on this, it’s going to take a lot of personal capital before you can make a dent. It’s up to you whether you can tolerate it enough to work with it or whether your life is simply too short to make this work.

    I really hope you can effect some real change but I think being too enthusiastic about it will put people’s backs up and maybe make them more resistant to change, simply because you aren’t a manager and because this needs a concerted effort from multiple management teams.

    I hope you get it sorted! A place you can be proud of working for is always a good thing, as is a positive culture. I want to offer you a solution, but as a fellow pleb, I can’t. However, I can express my solidarity and hope it goes well for you whatever you decide to do.

    1. Culture Change OP*

      First, I love the username.

      Second, Boss’s leave is paternity leave so he will return.

      I will dial back the enthusiasm but I refuse to stoop to their level. I’m a naturally happy person and if that irks someone that’s their issue. I love the work so I hope things do change, but I will also take everyone’s advice and keep looking for greener pastures. Thanks for commenting!

  15. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Changing the culture of a workplace is up to management and the management consultants they hire. It’s not up to the LW and it’s not going to happen with anything they do, sorry to say.

  16. Potassium*

    Yes, unfortunately I’d take Alison’s advice on this one. I’m on the leadership team in my organization with a ton of pull and in a position directly responsible for setting expectations, enforcing culture, and resetting peoples’ mindsets, and it still took me nearly two years to get our culture to a place where I’m proud to welcome new employees in.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Agree — even with complete buy-in from the top I’ve never seen culture change take less than a few years to take hold, and it usually involves firing most of the previous management.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        And often fails when top management decides they can’t fire Toxic Executive #2 or Senior Toxic Managers #5, 25 and 82 because they “need” those people. “Oh, you were SO close and couldn’t pull those last triggers.”

  17. Falling Diphthong*

    I can’t figure out the right search terms to pull it up, but I remember an old letter from someone who had turned down a job at a company like this, but the interviewers weren’t hearing that and were just focused on how great it would be once OP came on board and turned things around. Like, OP would manage all the bad apples back into professional norms as soon as OP started.

    I think grandboss is the flip side of that letter, who took the job thinking he could wrestle things to the good, and the dysfunction is sunk too deep to see much short-term effect, and quite likely long-term effect.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      This is a wonderful example! I vaguely remembered something like this, so thanks for unearthing it. I hope the OP is able to take a look – this person was hired to change the culture and it still didn’t work, even after years of trying.

  18. Fluffy Fish*

    OP – run. Even if a culture shift is possible its going to take a lot of time and will come with a lot more grumbling before it gets better.

    You’re already unhappy. The culture of the company is not your burden. You deserve to go to a job that doesn’t suck the life out of you before you even step foot in the door.

  19. EPLawyer*

    OP, you are not in a position to change the culture. All you will do is wear yourself out from trying. Going full on “care bear manic pixie girl” will not change the culture of the place. It will just give people more excuses to dump their work on you while they complain.

    You have to protect yourself first and foremost. You owe this company nothing except your best possible work while you are there. Which you do in exchange for a paycheck. You don’t owe them loyalty. You can’t care about the culture of the place more than management does.

    GET. OUT. NOW.

    1. Heidi*

      I cringed a little when I read “care bear manic pixie girl.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP’s coworkers responded badly to this approach. If someone has been yelled at and underpaid for years, a doughnut is not going to make up for it and awaken the better angels of their nature. I might actually feel like an insult.

      1. Culture Change OP*

        Tbh I cringed a bit writing it, but it best describes what I did. I think a lot of the culture has built up on “They didn’t help me so I won’t help them” between departments because of just an absolutely shocking lack of communication. Every department is its own silo and people refuse to share information in case someone takes their job. There’s a lot of overprotective hiding, a lack of teaching and sharing, and as a result performance drops and people see others as being vindictive instead of just ignorant. When someone is away and productivity grinds to a halt, there’s more grumbling and anger instead of a “well what can I do to help” way of thinking.

        I’m trying to show as a new person that I don’t care about all that. I want to help. The donuts have helped me initiate conversations with others on a friendly note and tbh they’re just also really tasty and I wanted some for my birthday. I know it’s not a long-term way to help change a culture, and I refuse to take on the “unofficial mum” role of the workplace that so many women fall into. That is, cleaning up the kitchen, organising gifts for bdays and farewells, doing others’ work for them, admin tasks outside the role, etc etc. I just did this more for an intro and to get to know the people I’m working with past the daily “give this job to X”. I have already told Grand Boss that I will help write policies and procedures – but I have made it clear I will only work on this during work hours and using work’s resources to do it.

        I’ve gone off on a tangent, haven’t I? Sorry about that. Anyway, donuts do not equal happiness angels, I know. Thanks for your comment! I will keep it in mind.

    2. BlueSwimmer*

      I agree! It will drain you to do so much emotional labor beyond your actual job that you are being paid for, and in my experience, people will literally and metaphorically eat your donuts, but never do anything to help you in return.

      Remember, once you give people an expectation that you will always help out, go above and beyond, be the team Care Bear, and bring them donuts, they will expect it and get mad if you don’t do it. I was this person at my old job. I finally realized after years of being the sunshine committee of one that I was being used, and that no one would ever lift a finger to do anything for me or to help me, but they all had opinions on HOW I did the nice gestures. Like, if I went to Costco and bought snacks for a meeting, rather than thanking me for my time outside of work hours, they would complain about the snacks I chose.

      If they want to be toxic, they are just going to keep being toxic while eating the donuts.

      1. EPLawyer*

        “They are just going to keep being toxic while eating the donuts.” Perfect description of so many dysfunctional places.

      2. Goldenrod*

        “sunshine committee of one”

        Shouldn’t this be the name you use to post comments? It is amazing.

  20. anonymous73*

    This is similar to dating someone, having them treat you poorly, and then constantly making excuses for their behavior. When they show you who they are, BELIEVE THEM. Find another job and move on. The longer you stay, the more it’s going to affect your mental health. This is a toxic environment and you’re not going to change it.

  21. A Simple Narwhal*

    Oof. I read the title and immediately thought “geez, good luck with that!”. And that was knowing there was a possibility that OP was a high-level person brought in specifically to change the culture. Finding out that they’re pretty low in the organization? Probably not a snowball’s chance in hell. (Sadly.)

    I think it’s really admirable that you want to improve things, but Alison is right that this change has to come from the top. Have you ever seen the movie 9-5? (If you haven’t, absolutely watch it, it’s a real delight.) The main characters had a lot of awesome ideas on how to improve the office and fix the culture, and by the end of the movie, it’s worked! But the only reason it worked is because they were able to assume the role of the big boss and make those changes from above. When they were lowly peons (with a horrific boss uninterested in altering anything), nothing changed. It required power (or at least the illusion of power!) for the transformation to happen.

    So sadly, I think your energy is better spent elsewhere.

  22. Antilles*

    If that conversation gives you hope — if she sounds like she sees the problems, agrees it’s unacceptable, and plans to take real action — you could wait and see what happens over the next couple of months.
    A couple months is very much underselling it in my view. Even if the entire management team from the grandboss on up are fully committed to fixing the problems, this is a problem that’s going to take YEARS to really fix.
    The problems cut across departments and levels. The issues are so widespread that a new employee recognize tons of problems within the first month. Crude jokes, violent outbursts, screaming matches, and temper tantrums appear to be accepted. This isn’t a matter of dropping a few bad actors or fixing some policies, this is going to require systematically gutting the place to the studs, replacing a lot of people at all levels of the hierarchy, completely changing the enforcement mechanisms, and so forth.
    And oh by the way: You need the company to remain functional while you’re doing this, so it has to be a process; you can’t just fire the entire accounting division or sales department or etc, even if that division is a complete mess. You might be able to see signs that they’re taking it seriously within the next two months, but you will still be encountering these sorts of problems in month 3, month 4, and so forth.
    OP, do you really want to stick it out that long? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe you can come up with some kind of coping mechanism, maybe the other benefits are worth it to you. But even if you hear all the right things and the company truly does mean those right things, you should still know the kind of long-haul this is going to be.

    1. Observer*

      A couple months is very much underselling it in my view. Even if the entire management team from the grandboss on up are fully committed to fixing the problems, this is a problem that’s going to take YEARS to really fix.

      Definitely. But here is the thing. *IF* management takes some significant steps in the next few months (3, imo) then there is the possibility that things will get better over time. But if no action is taken in that time frame, or only surface action (like weekly donuts), then the OP has definite proof that nothing is going to change without some sort of earthquake. And you don’t sit around waiting for earthquakes to save you.

      Of course, the OP may decide that they don’t want to stick around anyway. And that would make sense too.

    2. Deborah*

      I think “a couple of months” is to see if the grand-boss does ANYTHING at all. If not, OP should bail immediately. If she does something, anything, then there’s hope that real change will occur . . . in 2+ years like you are saying. With that in mind OP might want to bail regardless.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      I agree with Observer and Deborah. It can be reasonable to wait a brief time to see what efforts are being made by management, and how the other employees react. As long as she understands that major changes will take a lot longer, and will require major input from upper management, she can feel like her decision is better informed 2 or 3 months out.

      If she decides to focus her energy now on finding a better job, I wouldn’t blame her in the least.

  23. Momma Bear*

    What kind of stands out to me is that OP went “full care-bear manic-pixie-girl break-them-with-love mode” within weeks to try to right a ship that’s not OP’s to steer.

    While the office culture might be horrible, I think OP should also take a step back and think if they’re taking on people’s emotions and/or problems that are not OP’s to fix and if they do this in other places in their life, too. Some very caring and lovely people take on more emotional work than they should. Maybe instead of going full bore (even if OP looks for a new job), focus on the people directly around you and be a steady, friendly, professional coworker and see if that has any ripple effect within your circle of influence. If a coworker is having a hard day, you can commiserate, but it’s up to them to take steps to change it. You don’t need to love bomb them or be their counselor.

    In the meantime, do go ahead and talk to the grandboss. If nothing else, find out the managerial/job things you need to go forward until you get a new job. Don’t let management assume you’ve had training you haven’t, etc.

    1. kiki*

      Yes, I see a lot of myself in this. It’s good and healthy to look for jobs and people you don’t need to radically change or change yourself for. And it’s okay to see an organization having problems and not solve them when they’re not in your purview. It’s okay to just come to work, do your job well, and go home and not think about it anymore.

    2. Culture Change OP*

      Thank you for your comment! I agree in that I will take a step back and watch what happens (or doesn’t happen!) in the next few weeks. I’m having a meeting with Grand Boss next week so I will see what she has to say and do.

  24. Serenity*

    OP, you sound awesome. I love your commitment to wanting things to be better, and that you’re actively working (in LOTS of different ways) to build to that. You’re going to have a great career.

    All the other advice is great. Look for signs of real change, give yourself timelines, and protect yourself. Probably be looking. But also, I’d encourage you thoughtfully to see what you can learn and observe about what makes a dysfunctional workplace. You’ve already named a lot, but keep watching. Imagine yourself as an anthropology studying this business. What’s going on? Imagine yourself being hired in to fix it as someone higher up. What would you keep or change? Basically, what information can you take with you into your future, either about what you want from a workplace or how to use your strengths in powerful ways as you move through your career.
    Wishing you all the best!

    1. Culture Change OP*

      Haha I love this take! I am definitely taking on everyone’s suggestions and looking for work elsewhere but I really like your idea of analysing it from an outsider’s perspective. If nothing else, I might be able to provide additional viewpoints to Grand Boss before I leave.

  25. Sparkles McFadden*

    One of the most difficult things for human being to accept is how little influence each individual has over any larger collective of humans. If one dares to say that out loud, one will be bombarded with lectures on negativity and how that sort of thinking is part of the problem. But, it really is very liberating to understand what we can and cannot do (or even what we should and should not do).

    In your particular case, LW, it is literally not your job to change the culture and yet you are trying to take on this enormous responsibility. I know you are thinking “If they could all just see things how I am seeing them they would want to change” but…no. They are not you and they don’t see things the way you do. Just as you wouldn’t want them to have the power to change who you are, you should not want the power to change who they are. Of equal importance is the fact that you don’t have the tools or the political capital or, dare I say it, the skills, to make such a large change.

    Sometimes, jobs just aren’t the right fit for whatever reason. It is not a personal failing on your part. If you enjoy the work (or benefits or schedule) enough to offset the culture, you stay put. So take Alison’s advice and have a conversation with your grandboss so you’ll feel as if you’ve done all that you can, reset your expectations, and start looking for a new job.

    …and speaking as someone who was assigned to “rehabilitate” problem employees and fix an unproductive, negative departmental culture, it is a long, difficult and painful process. You have to make hard choices and, often, you have to move people or even job eliminate them. A culture shift is not something that can be accomplished with a sunny disposition and pastries.

    Learn what you can from this job , even if it’s what not to do. I hope you find a new job with people who will appreciate you. Best of luck.

    1. Culture Change OP*

      Thank you for your comment. I’m taking them all in even if my replies are getting shorter (it’s late here!).

  26. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I appreciate your stance more than you know – I’ve been in your shoes – and I learned some things the hard way. As much as I’d like to think I can effect and own change, I can’t change much outside my own work and workgroup…and even then, the overall work culture can stop me.

    Ask yourself these simple but hard questions:
    Can you accept that you cannot change a company’s culture by yourself?
    Can you accept that you might not even be a small part of a culture change?
    Can you accept your company’s culture as it currently exists?
    If you choose to stay because you like your role, can you remind yourself that you made this choice in spite of the culture?
    If you can’t accept any of the above, are you ready to do whatever you have to do to leave?

    Please keep us posted, and good luck.

  27. RG*

    This is way outside your remit and literally above your pay grade. So many red flags.
    A probationary period is also, kind of, an extended audition of whether the organisation is right for -you-. Nothing you have written here suggests that it is.

  28. soontoberetired*

    Culture change without management change rarely happens. Over 30 years with one company and the only real change comes when they hire people into management with a different mind set. Old managers say the words upper management wants to hear, and get away with it for a pretty long time.

    But there has been real change, but slowly. All from having upper management doing what needs to be done to make the change – not just talking about it, but making the changes that need to happen. Right now we are in another attempted culture change which isn’t going well in large part because they’ve left a lot of middle management alone, and there’s no real incentive for them to make changes. 9 months and it won’t be my problem any more.

  29. kiki*

    I would also like to bring up that changing the culture for the better is a lot, a lot of skilled, exhausting work you wouldn’t be compensated for. Like, companies bring in consultants and pay 6 figures to get this sort of work done and it doesn’t always work. Taking this all on your own shoulders is a recipe for burnout and exhaustion, especially if you’re not even getting paid the big bucks.

    As somebody who has had similar hopes and became jaded, I’d urge LW not to go down this path unless the company leadership initiates the culture change. Trying at something like this can really break your spirit.

  30. lost academic*

    You have no power and are valiantly trying to change an entire system from the very bottom. You are in an even worse position then Don Quijote. You need to leave, because it is going to be extremely hard to avoid having this place change YOU.

  31. Beth*

    The answer to your question is: Never.

    Your next question is to decide what to do with that answer.

  32. Jay*

    Wow, this could be written about my employer. Here management talks about making it a better place and improving culture however has done absolutely nothing to facilitate it. In fact last announcement was that they were going go to go to a stricter business casual dress code for the office (this is for a manufacturer of dusty, dirty products and rarely in-person customer contact) but they were excited to announce twice yearly cookouts. Um……….

    Why for the dress code – it’ll make us all feel more professional and treat each other better. Yet will cost most of us money for new clothes (and to replace ruined clothes) and to feel uncomfortable while sitting in our dark cubicles all week. Now there’s changing culture……….. in the wrong direction.

    1. londonedit*

      My old secondary school tried that (several years after I left). When I was there it had a dreadful reputation, and then when a new head came in he decided that all the problems with behaviour were clearly down to the fact that the students weren’t all suited and booted in proper uniform (the vast majority of schools in the UK have a uniform, but during my time it was just black/grey trousers/skirts, a white polo shirt and a black/grey school sweatshirt with the school logo on it). So he changed the uniform to black trousers/skirt, proper white shirt, school tie, blazer with school logo on the pocket. The idea being that the kids would suddenly feel proud to be part of the school and stop being so poorly behaved. Of course it cost parents an absolute fortune, in a town where a lot of people didn’t have much money to start with, and it didn’t really do much to improve behaviour. Things are better there now, but that’s taken 15 or so years of work by the head and the school governors. Just sticking kids in a blazer and tie isn’t going to solve the problem.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        OMG. I was replying to Jay. And making a joke. Is there a corporate equivalent of rule 34? Like make the most outrageous, out of touch demand an employer could make of staff/clients/customers: Rule 99: someone already did it.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Remember the meme about the tree swing? Client states he wants a swing. What the sales team promised (Disneyland) v. what the engineers could (rigid right angles, gears, steps) v. what the customer really wanted (a tire swing)?

      So your place had a meeting and determined: Yeah, if people have better clothing, they feel better, if they feel better they are happier, if they are happier, they perform better.
      Oh, like company provided uniforms? No. Like everyone buys new clothes.

      1. Jay*

        I totally forgot about the swing analogy but it so fits!! Thanks for the laugh!
        I overheard then talking about the upcoming cook out and if they should limit 1 per person of all items or allow more. Ugh!

  33. OrangeSherbet*

    I attempted to change the culture in my previous department. I was there for 7 years. People complained about being siloed, not having information needed to do their job, no one communicated, everything is just putting out fires, etc etc. So I worked really hard to make connections, set up a HUGE document repository to share information, worked to improve processes that kept causing failures, and tried to be generally positive and approach things with a collaborative problem solving attitude. It did not work. I ended up being burned out, grouchy, and my work slipped. I got to a point where I’d just sit in my office browsing websites all day because it seemed like no one cared, and I stopped caring. That’s when I decided to find a new job in another department on campus. It’s WAY better, and while there are cultural challenges, the top management actually IS committed to improving the culture. Is it slow? Heck yes it’s super slow. But I have seen the results of these changes over the past 5 years.

    The only real good that came from all I did in my last job was that I gained a reputation as someone who worked hard to improve things and communicate with others. But that was disappearing by the time I left, because I was just so burned out. OP – have the talk with your grandboss like Allison suggests, but I would probably bail if you can. She’s absolutely right that if the top mgmt is not committed, then it just won’t work, and you’ll just be burning yourself out. If you are not able to leave the job soon, then I would try to detach and just get your work done and not put too much emotional energy into it. If you do think your grandboss can change things, then be prepared for it to be SLOOOOOWWWW. Like years slow. Ask yourself if you can/want to hang around that long.

    Best of luck to you! I was in exactly the same place and getting out was the best choice I could have made.

  34. it's me*

    In a job market like this, go ahead and work on getting out of there. If you’re concerned about how it looks to have only been there a short time, either don’t mention it if possible or state that the environment wasn’t conducive to your success.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Shortest period of time I ever spent at one job was 3 months. And yep, left because omg it was a complete disaster area. If asked, I’ll usually say ‘it really didn’t suit me’

      1. Mockingjay*

        Four months. “It wasn’t what I thought it would be.” Turns out that the hiring manager who interviewed me wasn’t my manager, just a team lead. I actually reported to the Grandboss, who I didn’t meet beforehand. He was so bad (a micromanaging chauvinist who refused to use technology) that HR wouldn’t let him interview anyone, because he scared every decent applicant away. (I’d have run far and fast.) He’d hire unqualified friends instead. They never did get rid of Grandboss; instead they “promoted” him to a paper position in which he did nothing until he retired.

  35. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Changing the culture of a place is, sadly, not as easy as eliminating a bad culture from a petri dish (autoclave!).

    It’s like the ‘I can change him!’ urge I got when in a relationship with one of my exes – sure he was a total bigot, mansplained everything, gaslighted me alll the time but I was so sure if I showed him love and affection he’d become a happy lovely person! Spoiler: so did not work.

    One cannot change others unless they want to be changed or if there’s real negative consequences if they *don’t*. You can’t influence either of these in your role.

    Go, while you still have your sanity.

    1. quill*

      Given that most petri dishes were plastic and not autoclaveable where I’ve worked in micro, I guess technically it still works? Burning the heck out of a bad culture and everything surrounding it does technically kill the culture.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Whoops, you’re right! I worked with viruses, not bacteria so didn’t actually use Petri dishes at all. Sorry all!

        But basically, bad culture is a very very difficult thing to get rid of without wiping out the whole thing (suppose firing everyone would work) or without pressure from an antibiotic (‘behave yourself or get out’ I suppose).

        Sorry, brain is not great today.

        1. quill*

          I mean you can still get glass petri dishes (I think) but the plastic (and throwing them in the biohaz bin whole) is pretty standard.

  36. BatManDan*

    According to 1600 executives surveyed by McKensie, 70% of organizational change efforts fail. I wouldn’t have much hope of there ever being a change.

  37. Anne of Green Gables*

    Cultures can be changed. I’ve seen it, I’ve participated in it. And while the top matters, one person can sometimes change the immediate culture around them. But even that takes time. Waaaaaaaay more time than 3 weeks. If you are already fed up, OP, then I think those who are urging you to look elsewhere are probably right. But it’s also ok to decide what you can sustain and do that. This is essentially the ‘control what you can control and accept the limits of what that is” model.

    1. Observer*

      But it’s also ok to decide what you can sustain and do that.

      Sure. The OP can decide what they want to deal with. But on a practical basis, they need to know that THEY CANNOT ACTUALLY CHANGE THE CULTURE unless there is buy in from the top. Because the culture problem in the OP’s immediate circle is coming in large part from the boss, who the OP has absolutely ZERO control over. And, given that he’s a misogynist, odds are the OP is not going to be able to have any effect on him without authority.

  38. PennylaneTX*

    Thanks to Alison’s past advice, I didn’t even need to read the post for my immediate response to be “You can’t, you should leave.” I did still read the post, though.

  39. The Original K.*

    I said out loud, “Girl, no. Quit.”

    As Maya Angelou says, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. As Alison says, change has to start at the top and even then it’s incredibly arduous and time-consuming. You aren’t going to see it happen in a reasonable amount of time, if ever, and you’re going to be completely miserable in the interim. I know job-searching sucks but this work environment is worse. Start looking again and leave as soon as you can.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Ha ha, I literally laughed out loud when I read it. Same energy: You in danger, girl! GTFO.

  40. Monday Monday*

    I agree with everything that has been said so far. Start looking for a new job.

    I tried the “kill with kindness” approach with a manager that came on board (internal to the company). It took me a solid year to start to turn that ship and realized after a year it had plateaued and he was never going to fully change.

    I took another position within the company and after 5 years I ended up leaving the company entirely. As long as management allows the bad behaviors to continue without serious repercussions, those behaviors will continue and will only get worse. I worked myself up so much in my last role that I almost had to consider anger management. I was so hot every day after work (I was working at home too) with what was allowed to happen at work and making myself miserable. Then I realized this was never going to change and had to leave. I am no longer angry and in talking with old co-workers, that situation has not changed and is getting worse.

    I wish you all the luck!!

  41. I'm Done*

    Use your energy to find another job and do just enough to make your job bearable while you’re still there. You can’t win this. Even if your grand boss is able to effect change, it will be a long and painful process.

  42. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I have been in your exact same position, except I was hired as a manager. I tried to change the culture in my department (and hoped like hell the broader org would come along) for several years, and all I got out of it was a nervous breakdown and a pink slip. You can’t fix your organization, period. I tried it all, my friend: treats, coffee, meals, heart-to-hearts, team-building, honest/difficult conversations, coaching, partnering, regular meetings, process improvement, workshops, staff changes, professional development, ad nauseum. The thing I just didn’t get was that despite how much they complained about their shitty culture, they’d been living with it and perpetuating it for decades. There was no way in hell I, a brand new person and middle manager, was going to be able to change that shit. It was a complete waste of my time and health.

    Here are your options: 1) if you want to stay, you need to enact self-preservation mode: severely limit or eliminate any extra labor (actual or emotional) trying to improve the culture or peoples’ attitudes towards their jobs, the org, their colleagues, whatever. Just show up and do your job, leave work at work as much as possible, and live your life. Or 2) decide you want more out of your work environment, and make an exit plan, polish your CV, and start looking for a healthier organization/team to work with. Trust me, they’re out there waiting for you.

    Good luck to you!

    1. kiki*

      The thing I just didn’t get was that despite how much they complained about their shitty culture, they’d been living with it and perpetuating it for decades.

      Yes! Even if folks acknowledge that the culture is bad and needs improving, there’s usually a reason it hasn’t. It generally takes more than a newbie with a can-do attitude to unpack those barriers. And a lot of the time, honestly, things are so broken that folks have to leave. Not that the folks who leave are beyond redemption– many of them move on to new jobs and flourish– it’s just that the relationship between this particular employee and this particular workplace has become toxic beyond repair.

  43. In Libraries, Too*

    I’m at the top of the organization and it took 7 years, lots of trial and error, and a total staff turnover for it to begin to feel like we were making appreciable differences in changing the culture. Then there was the challenge of solidifying the desired culture. My advice for the OP would be to find another job.

  44. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Hi OP, you were sold a bill of goods. Unless, like Alison writes, the boss’ leave is about his performance, then yeah, their plan is:
    1) bring in new, energetic people
    2) ???
    3) profit
    I’m sure someone in your group has a name for the birthday donuts, like “fresh meat meal” or something. You aren’t the first, you won’t be the last. Leave before you get sucked in.
    You are already showing signs of acclimating to the dysfunction.
    “Sometimes he’s a just a jerk,” when you mean “Sometimes he’s just a regular jerk, not a bitter, abusive, sexist jerk.” Like those are the moments that get you through your day?
    Life is too effing short for this crap.

  45. learnedthehardway*

    You’re a lowly pleb? You have no chance of changing the culture. Culture change has to have the buy in, support, and leadership from the top of the organization, and even then it takes sustained effort to change the culture (sometimes including replacing toxic people).

    Don’t bang your head against this particular wall – you’ll only bruise yourself. Instead, get your job search into high gear and find a company that already has a positive culture. Make sure you interview companies as much as they interview you – ask about their management style, look for companies that push decision making down as far as possible in the culture, that empower people to make decisions (essentially), where the focus is learning from mistakes not blaming people, etc.

    It’s not worth your time, effort or mental health to try to fix your current company. Stay only as long as it takes to find your new role in your next organization. If you need to explain why you’re leaving so soon, tell them that you took the role because it aligns with your interests, but that from the inside, you can see that the company has some serious issues and they’re above your paygrade to fix.

  46. Almost Empty Nester*

    As you make your plans to exit the hellmouth, and you definitely should exit, I would take a long look to determine if there was any way you could have known what a mess this place is to aid in your job search. I sincerely hope you find a place to work that deserves your hard work and energy!

  47. ecnaseener*

    “How long should I expect to wait it out before calling it quits” is the wrong question IMO – the right question is “Would I stay if I knew things weren’t going to improve for another 6 months? year? 2 years?” Get clear in your head about that, because it’s the most likely scenario.

    1. The Original K.*

      I read something that said “look at your life. If you kept doing what you’re doing for ten weeks, ten months, ten years, would your health improve, decline, or stay the same?” Same sort of thing here – and for OP, the answer is definitely “decline.”

  48. Incessant Owlbears*

    I did this for 2 years. I wholeheartedly dove in, building bridges between departments, documenting everything, charming the curmudgeons, assisting with work way outside my scope so people would see I brought value and be inclined to help me in return. I made baked goods with our team’s signature product in icing. I brought storebought treats to congratulate team members for doing their jobs correctly. My plan was to act like the yeast in a ball of dough, raising up the whole structure by working tirelessly behind the scenes.

    Guess what, it didn’t work! They drummed up a bunch of charges that I was bad at my job, and wanted me to sign a very damning PIP with many facts wrong. From the way it was written, I could tell that no matter whati did during my 4 weeks, they were going to say I didn’t perform well enough. So I left and found something better.

    Allison is right when she says change has to come from the top. I thought I could be like the yeast in the dough, but the yeast (1) has a million buddies doing the same thing, (2) must have the right environment to work. You can’t white-knuckle your way to changing the entire org culture on your own. Sorry.

    1. Goldenrod*

      “the yeast (1) has a million buddies doing the same thing”

      This is brilliant. So true.

      Tried it too. Can’t be done!!

  49. Ally McBeal*

    My best friend works in HR and was specifically hired to change the culture of a department. However, she was hired at a government agency and therefore was able to make absolutely zero headway – she ended up changing her workload and mandate entirely, albeit within the same role & department.

    OP, the task you’ve taken on is sisyphean. I’m so sorry but you are going to burn yourself out trying to fix things, and it won’t be worth it.

  50. Observer*

    OP, why do you think you have the ability to change this? I’m not trying to be snarky here, I really am trying to figure out what your thinking process is here. Culture change is extremely difficult even when the culture issues is limited in scope and all of the people involved are at your level or lower and you have direct connection with the peers. Here, you have issues across the organization and one of the key purveyors of the negativity is you BOSS – who engages in behavior that would get him fired in many organizations, which means that at the moment it’s being tolerated by the top management.

    What is your “superpower” that would allow you to overcome all of this? Because without something really unusual in your back pocket, this is not something you can really affect.

    Given the way you are describing what you’ve done so far, it sounds to me like you feel a sense of responsibility to fix the problem. If I’m right about that, it’s important for you to realize that this is NOT your responsibility. It’s not your job to fix this very fundamental issue.

    Talk to your grandboss and see what she actually does. If you’re not seeing some strong signs of change coming down the pike, start looking for a new job IMMEDIATELY. You don’t need to wait for some specified amount of time to see that this won’t change. Just like you would not think that if you wait for X amount of time the river you just encountered is going to change its course. Without strong action from the top, change in the organization is about as likely as the river changing its path.

    1. Don't wanna Gumption here*

      This looks like another Gumption!!! situation. OP has been lead to believe she can fix all the things if she just tries hard enough, darn it!!

      OP, start looking for a better situation. You will only damage your own mental health by trying to trying to change an entire company.

  51. Starchy*

    What’s sad is that it’s faster to undo a good company culture than to build a good one from bad. Watching my companies great culture disappear with the new leadership put in place. Only took them a hear to destroy it. Resulting chaos, loss of 60% of staff.

  52. Oysters and Gender Freedom*

    Not only are you not going to succeed, but you won’t necessarily make good relationships with people. If I were working at a place like this and I had made the unholy bargain to stay for whatever reasons, the last thing I want the new junior person to do is come around trying to get me involved in her new schemes for a better life and giving me performative donuts. I want a new junior person to figure out her job and keep things relatively frictionless.

    It sounds like you are genuinely motivated to make things better. But by having conversations with everybody and thinking your mood and donuts will somehow fix things, not only are you trying to solve the problem, but you are (indirectly) trying to center yourself in the office community. That’s really going to put off some people.

    Focus on taking care of yourself directly, instead of trying to make your life better by taking care of everybody else.

    1. Observer*

      But by having conversations with everybody and thinking your mood and donuts will somehow fix things, not only are you trying to solve the problem, but you are (indirectly) trying to center yourself in the office community

      No, the OP is not trying to “center themself”. At ALL. The fact that it will probably put people off is not because the OP is being self-centered, but because people who make bargains with the devil are either jerks or don’t want to be reminded that there are actually people who do act like decent individuals.

      Of course, it does still mean that the OP is probably best off getting out of there.

      1. linus bk*

        Hard disagree. I work in a place like this, am trying to leave, and management keeps trying to paper over real issues by hiring very young, inexperienced people who are Cheerful!!! and — at least in one case — who are not going to be supported by their bosses. They’re going to be chewed up, and while not all of us are jerks, the nonjerks don’t have a lot of bandwidth to hold their hands since we, too, are carrying a lot of mental armor.

  53. yala*

    Oh hun, that whole office is full of bees. I’d start looking for something else soon, before you get too settled in.

    Having worked in a similar environment…it’s much more likely to change YOU than you are to change IT.

    I remember watching in realtime as a new hire went from wide-eyed “I don’t know why everyone’s so grumpy!” to sullen and exhausted within a year.

  54. Goldenrod*

    I stayed in a toxic workplace for almost 3 years. I kept waiting to “win my boss over” and I even had people tell me that that was my job…to get her to like me.

    She was never going to like me (or any assistant).

    And just to add: I am generally very well-liked at work!

    I know this isn’t your exact problem, but in retrospect, I wish I had realized earlier that all the positive energy in the world can’t overcome a deeply negative culture.

    There aren’t enough manic pixies on earth to be able to do this. Alison is right – it’s just not in your power.

    Sorry this was so disappointing! I say, maintain the upbeat, cheerful vibe for as long as you have to be there (it does help on a personal level). But also make plans to leave.

  55. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Run.
    And pay attention to the red flags you saw!

    I so learned the hard way that someone near the bottom cannot change the culture. I wish you success in moving on!

  56. Calibri Hater*

    This sounds like the environment I stepped into a year ago. I realized there is no change in culture that would take less than 20 years. I would start your exit plan now.

  57. Graeme*

    I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility that LW has been hired as an early part of the grand-boss’ attempts to fix this culture. Commentors and AAM have suggested that GB needs to be prepared to move people on if they resist change – seems very likely that boss falls into that category, and hiring someone bubbly like OP to train up in their place seems a reasonable bit of preparation for that eventual probable firing.

    Don’t assume that’s the case though – advice to sit down and air your concerns with GB seems like a good move. And even if we are right, a) are you prepared to stick around until (if?) boss gets fired, b) will you be happy if this is only phase 1 of a many-phase plan and the culture doesn’t actually change until later and c) how long can you handle it without any changes?

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility that LW has been hired as an early part of the grand-boss’ attempts to fix this culture. Commentors and AAM have suggested that GB needs to be prepared to move people on if they resist change – seems very likely that boss falls into that category, and hiring someone bubbly like OP to train up in their place seems a reasonable bit of preparation for that eventual probable firing.

      It’s actually a VERY, VERY BAD bit of preparation, unless the person in that position is in on the plan, and action start even before the person starts. But the OP has started and nothing is going on. The place is beyond a dysfunctional mess and the OP has not seen a single indicator that anything is being changed. Which means that even if the upper levels do intend to make some changes they are terrible managers. They are allowing someone without the power to bear a burden that is insane and that they don’t have the standing to carry.

      What that tells me is that nothing is going to change for the better for the OP.

      1. Graeme*

        Three weeks. That’s how long OP has been there at the time of writing, and her direct boss (who’s a big part of the problem) has already gone on this suspicious “extended leave” with seemingly no explanation. We also have no idea what corrective action may have taken place before OP arrived – boss could have been going about their business thinking nothing is wrong, or they could be on multiple warnings and 90% of the way out the door already.

        OP needs to be in the loop on any plans like this of course, this can’t work if she thinks of herself as a pleb with no power and no right to information. That’s why the most common piece of advice is to sit down with grand boss and work out what’s going on. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to sit down with a superior knowing you’re ready and willing to quit if they don’t give the right answers, so take that energy and do some digging.

        Culture change is a gradual process with an engrained negative culture like this. It’s literally impossible to bin off all problem employees and replace them with positive ones at the same time. Someone has to be the tip of the spear. Even if that is the plan, it’s still reasonable for OP to say “I don’t want to stick around long enough until things get better”. But I don’t really see the downside in sitting down with GB, explaining your concerns and seeing if you can make a fully informed decision once you know about any associated secret culture-change plans.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      It’s pretty common for managers to be reluctant to cull problem employees because they would have to do that employee’s job while trying to hire and train a replacement. We read it here regularly; I’ve seen it in my career; and I imagine most of us have stories to tell about it.

      I think the best advice I’ve read is for LW to have another conversation with Grandboss. Obviously, there are limits to what GB can ethically or prudently say, but she may learn enough to make a better judgment about how long she is willing to stay. She might decide it’s in her best interest to get out quickly, or she may see a reasonable possibility that this job has the potential to turn into something good for her in the long run. If she stays a while, she may decide later that the pace of change is too slow and that another opportunity is more appealing.

  58. Make Editing Great Again*

    I’ll lead with that I feel for OP but start looking for another job now. I wish I had known about Ask a Manager sooner to really internalize that a toxic work environment and company culture will completely warp your sense of what’s normal or acceptable.

    I was with a company for over fifteen years, and the company culture got worse, not better. To the point where I was promoted to a mid-manager level with absolutely zero managerial training (“we don’t do that here”). I was also told by words and actions that I was not allowed to say no to projects that detrimentally affected other deadlines my team was trying to hit. I would reallocate my team, only to be chastised for the other project falling off, when I was explicitly told it was no longer as high a priority as the project my team was reallocated to. My team members kept chirping that the company culture needed to change, and expected me to turn it around. How, exactly? I went to my boss and told them all of the reasons why I was ready to resign. They spoke with me of change, I had hope, and then less than 24 hours later, another emergency that I was forced to contend with. Lip service. I resigned two days later. It’s only been two months, and I’m hearing from current staff the empty promise of “it will get better” is still being bandied around.

  59. TootsNYC*

    I have changed the culture of my own small department–as a department head.
    But at that place, I couldn’t change the culture of the larger unit we worked inside.

    Because that stuff always comes from the top.

    I worked at places where everything was always late, and that was completely set by the person on top.

    And I worked at a place where no one worked late, nothing got donel ate–and it all came from the fact that the person at the top turned things around quickly, and tapped on a folder in your inbox on her way back from lunch, and if she didn’t see it by 3pm, she came and asked about it.

    The people on the lower levels of the org chart can’t really do that much against the climate set by the people who have actual authority. Sometimes they can mess it up, but they only really get away with that if the people higher up let them.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, really the only way a person can change the culture is if they 1) have the power to hire and fire and 2) are willing and able to hold the bar for suitable performance and let people go who don’t don’t meet it. Your influence was effective in that it reached those under your direct supervision, and that is the most one person can really do.

  60. Just Another HR Pro*

    OMG I almost want to ask you where you are because this is to a T a job I left finally after 8 years (I was made to feel like I couldn’t do better anywhere else). As someone who has been through that – leave. Don’t become me. I have imposter syndrome as a result, and I still worry about getting feedback, slamming doors always make me shudder (not that I see that at work anymore – but they bother me at home when they never really did) and I never feel like people are being honest. Seriously – I am so sorry for what you are going through. Nobody would blame you for leaving that mess. It wont get fixed – especially as long as the top are not only allowing it but participating. Culture is top down – and like Alison said – damn near impossible to change. at least not in a short period of time.

    I am so sorry you are going through that. New jobs are always kind of exciting.

  61. Elsa*

    Letter writer, you sound like a really nice person, as well as an enthusiastic worker, and some workplace would be lucky to have you. And there’s never been a better time to look. From what I’ve seen happen in other workplaces, the risk that the workplace culture might have an effect on you rather than vice versa is not worth taking.

  62. GoldenHandcuffs*

    OP – I’ve worked at my job for almost 16 years and in that time, we’ve seen quite a bit of cultural shift. But it took a significant amount of time and effort from our senior leaders and we still have a LONG way to go. Don’t wait for 16 years. Also, it’s not your job to fix it. That’s on senior leadership.

  63. Unaccountably*

    “Now I’ve gone full care-bear manic-pixie-girl break-them-with-love mode…”

    Oh, honey. The type of people you are describing do not like care bears and have never even contemplated sitting through 500 Days of Summer. They aren’t going to find you inspiring, they’re going to find you deeply, deeply annoying.

    If people are in a toxic workplace, they’re allowed to hate it. They’re allowed to be surly and negative. You could turn every frown in the building upside down and it wouldn’t make a difference if people are overworked, underpaid, perpetually short-staffed, or saddled with a ridiculous bureaucracy or inept management. You can’t noodge people into being happy just because you want to be around happy people, and you shouldn’t try.

  64. 3.14159*

    I love my job. I truly love my job.

    I’ve worked at my current location almost 4 years and it is one of the most toxic places you could work. Seriously, but if you want to know if you can change a culture of toxicity, the answer is not completely, but you can make a big difference… a seriously big difference.

    At work, I’m a very upbeat person & I wave & say hi to everyone where I work. I will wave through windows that I cannot see through and make a minor fool of myself. I don’t always know if the goofyness gets through, but I don’t care. I still do it.

    I talk to people, check on their day, smile make bad dad-type jokes, puns, and just information about the world.

    Does it work on everyone? No, but I don’t care. I’ll still be happy & positive & slightly goofy.

    Where do I work? I work in a prison. Yes, a prison. I work on the unit in the same area as the inmate housing. I work where the inmates live.

    I’m a teacher. I teach inmates the basics that they need to pass the GED tests. I help other inmates improve their math skills so they can get work. I am very positive & motivating & encouraging. I listen to them even when I can’t help them. I cheer when they get good news. I listen when they get bad news. They know I care about them, even when I can’t (or won’t) do anything for them except be here.

    The staff (security officers) knows that I care about them, too. I won’t speak badly of them & I respect their time & their duty. There are buzzers at many of the doors, but I rarely use them. Instead I wave at the camera or through the windows. I smile & I make bad jokes & I share in getting treats & helping in anyway that I can. They are more than just their uniforms. They have real lives & they all work overtime & do more than the job requires. Their jobs are tough, but they are good people.

    In any workplace, there are people that are challenging to work with & this place is no exception. No place is perfect. You work with the tools you have been given, but sometimes you need to use tools that you have. My tools just happen to be a smile, a wave, and being able to look at the positives of a place like this.

    Yeah, I’m just one person, but I know that in the almost 4 years I’ve been here, I’ve make a difference to the culture here. It still can be a challenging place to work, but I wouldn’t work anyplace else.

    So, to the OP, stay if you can & if you love the work. Your positivity can make a difference. With the bad language, just keep silent & look at them. With the arguments, you can quietly ask them to keep quiet so you can work. I’m a quiet-ish person & I get more accomplished with “speaking the truth quietly & clearly.” Persevere if you can. Leave if you can’t. You can make a small difference, but it may be a big challenge.

  65. Tobias Funke*

    OP, the fact that this isn’t “working” isn’t a reflection on you. This was jacked up before you got there. It’s jacked up now. It’ll be jacked up once you’ve decided to move on.

    When I was growing up and well into my 20s I (literally) did not understand what people meant when they said things were out of my control. I thought what they meant was, you’ve failed to wrangle this into your control and if you weren’t a failure, this would be within your control and the steps you take would make a difference. So I tried and tried and tried to address things that were not mine to address (ignoring all the things that were mine to address in the process) and got more and more and more discouraged and more and more and more convinced that if I just figured it out, it would all be fine. Understanding that no amount of “trying” would change something that was not in my power to change, changed my life. I do not want to make any assumptions about your life but the phrasing of care bear manic pixie hit me like a ton of bricks. Please take care of yourself, OP, and ensure you are not tending to things out of your control at the expense of things in your control. You control whether you stay or go. They control what kind of an environment you’re staying in or leaving.

    Spoiler alert: this did not work. It is only in the last few years I’ve began to understand what “in your control” and “not in your control” actually mean. And this, OP, is not in your control. Not because there are not enough donuts or because you didn’t talk to them a certain way or push a certain button or input a certain code. Because it is in the control of, and it is the responsibility of, the folks on top to take these actions. And when they are choosing not to – whether that’s an active choice or a passive choice, because doing nothing and allowing the status quo to fester is a choice too – that is their choice. No amount of choosing otherwise on anyone else’s part can change that.

  66. Someone*

    During my first job, I wanted to help fix some of the problems in my dysfunctional workplace. What actually happened was that it was impossible to move up because management wanted to be a unified front and didn’t think I would support their decisions.

  67. Lobsterman*

    OP, just leave and go to a company that will appreciate and support you. Take the advice.

  68. Dinwar*

    I once heard that you become the average of the three people you spend the most time with. Unless your job is extremely part-time, at least one, if not two, of these people are going to be coworkers. While one extremely upbeat and cheerful person can tip the scales a bit, sheer volume will overwhelm the effect you have–and remember, your personality is being diluted the entire time.

    I will also say: Cultural change is HARD. The group I work with is in the process of changing some aspects of our program’s culture. We have the full support of upper management, all the way up to the executives. The team leading the charge is empowered to make these changes. We’ve spent hundreds of hours cumulatively over the past few months beating these square pegs until they fit into the company-mandated round holes. We have had internal audits, client audits, agency audits, until the word “audit” has lost all horror for us, and have used those to leverage the changes we see necessary. We’ve whitewashed every sepulcher and polished every coprolite we could. We’re still facing pushback, and “Why do we need this? We never have before!”, and “That’s not the way we did things when I was in your position”, and “That’s going to kill productivity”, and all the little ways people find to make any changes we institute disappear as soon as our backs are turned.

    If company-mandated changes take this much effort, imagine how much effort changes to a company that’s resisting you will take. The name Sisyphus comes to mind….

  69. CorruptedbyCoffee*

    As someone in a really dysfunctional workplace, it feels very naive and pushy to have a new person immediately try to fix everything, especially from the bottom. We’ve had quite a few over the years, and they never seem to grasp the reasons our workplace is dysfunctional (largely top down and out of our control). They have big visions of lots of changes they’re going to make without the buy-in or understanding to make them happen, and they get super irritated at problems the rest of us have already pushed back on, been told to shut up about, and become resigned to. They inevitably burn themselves out and quit. Ultimately, those of us left in this dysfunctional workplace just want to keep our heads down and do our jobs. We’ve seen this before.

  70. Nancy*

    I don’t know what a “care-bear manic-pixie-girl” is but I think you should stop buying donuts and offering to write up procedures and start looking for another job. It isn’t what you expected, and that’s ok. Hopefully you were able to gain some experience in this work since it is what enjoy and can add it to your resume.

  71. SnappinTerrapin*

    On the plus side: Grandboss was frank enough about the working environment not being ideal, which means that, even in her short time aboard, she is dissatisfied with the status quo. (Whether she has the tools and capital to change it is a separate question, as is the question whether the changes she might try to implement will be satisfactory). Misogynist boss is about to take some time off. LW has been approached about being team lead during his absence.

    There are several things we don’t know, which LW might learn if she has the 1:1 with Grandboss as Alison advised. If LW serves as interim team lead, she won’t be able to make radical permanent changes, but she will have the opportunity to model a different style of communication with the team. Being on the same page as Grandboss increases the likelihood of that improving the culture in the long run.

    This isn’t a guaranteed formula for permanent change, but it will at least afford LW, her team, and her Grandboss with some useful information about how a different model of communication might affect the environment and the outcomes.

    Maybe the team is too accustomed to the status quo to respond to a gentler hand on the reins, without the whip and spurs. Maybe they will be inspired to be more productive. Maybe LW will decide she definitely needs to move on; maybe she’ll decide it’s worth staying. Maybe the outcome of this experiment will increase Grandboss’s capital and strengthen her hand to make more lasting changes, and maybe not.

    I think the possibilities are worth considering, but LW is the one in the situation, and what matters is what she thinks and feels about the prospect. Keeping her head down while looking for a new job may be a more appealing alternative.

    Ultimately, she should decide what to do based on her own assessment of her own interests, bearing in mind that there are no absolute certainties about the outcome of her decision. Think it over, make a decision, and do your best is the best way forward for any of us, with the understanding that we can change course as we obtain new information.

  72. Squireel*

    My favorite undergrad psych professor gave this mini-lecture once.

    What happens when we go into a swimming pool full of water? (silence) (weird looks) It’s really a question. It’s not a trick question. I’m really expecting an answer. What happens? (brave student offers “…you get wet?”) Yes! You get wet. It’s a pool of water. What happens if you decide to only go in the shallow end? (students respond “you get wet”) And what happens if you jump into the deep end? (students respond “you get wet”) So, there’s no way to go into a swimming pool and NOT get wet? (all the students are nodding and starting to grumble) That’s workplace culture. You are all soon to be entering different workplaces with different cultures, and, as much as you tell yourself that it won’t change you or your beliefs, and that you’ll be the one who stands firm when you see things being done wrong, YOU WILL GET WET. Some of you will dive into the deep end and drown in it. Some of you will toe into the shallow end and stay afloat for a while. But you will ALL be affected by your workplace culture, often without realizing it. In an ocean, now, the current will take you, or you will exhaust yourself fighting it. Remember who you are today and remind yourself of that five years from now. (And then she gave us an assignment to list and describe five truths about our professional selves and who we wanted to be.)

    OP, you’re in a pool of water, and you’re going to get wet. And you’re trying to fight a rip tide. Get out before you’re too exhausted to get out.

    1. kiki*

      This is such a wonderful and useful lecture. I’ve watched too many wonderful people get swept up and lost in their workplace or industry culture.

  73. Anon For This One*

    It’s taken me three years, but I have managed to transform my small unit from being deeply toxic to being a pleasant place to work. But here is why- I am the boss. Also, I’ve had two retirements and one transfer, which have also been critical in my success. The moral here OP is that while this can be done, it likely can not be done by you and it does take getting “lucky” with people removing themselves (or sadly being removed, which fortunately I haven’t needed to do). You can’t fix this OP. I am so sorry. Maybe your boss can, but I doubt you can.

    Nor should you be beating your head against the wall trying.

  74. CarabinerAssistant*

    Oh wow, I almost could have written this. Excluding the blatant shouting/swearing, I had no onboarding training (and there’s barely any institutional knowledge because of turnover, so 9/10 times when I reach out to ask about a task/process, I can’t find anyone who knows how it works), everyone seems to hate each other, and especially everyone hates leadership (and leadership alternates between being very obviously resentful of staff while also obtuse about their role in these issues. Constant passive aggressive emails. No clarity on who can make what decisions, no empowerment of staff or helping them to succeed. They brought on an outside consultant to evaluate the culture, and boy are the findings bleak. I get they are trying to work on it, but it’s rotten down to even the internal filing system (6 months in and I still consistently have trouble even figuring out if certain procedural/policy docs even exist).

    I work as an assistant to the big boss (so I observe a lot of how leadership works and let’s just say I don’t have a ton of respect for any of them or their attitudes) and in my six months here have spent it cycling between trying to focus on what, if anything, I can do to even minutely improve things, and being completely demoralized when even those small things aren’t able to move forward. There’s a huge schism between staff who genuinely want to improve things and staff who are used to the status quo (even if they constantly complain about things that aren’t working) or figure “I’m leaving soon so it’ll be someone else’s problem” (direct quote from an email I was included on!).

    I know I need to figure out my next move because I have to talk myself out of just giving up and quitting daily, but I am so exhausted just from being there day after day. I moved across the country when I got this position – not specifically for this job but to be closer to my aging parents. And ultimately I’m not sure if the job I’m in is even one I’m suited to, even if I’ve been getting really positive feedback across the board. Going to try this upcoming long weekend to at least update my resume. Baby steps.

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