Beating The System: How To Survive A New Work Culture

In the Philippines, we have a colloquialism for describing people who gave up their personal values for their jobs. That phrase is kinain ng sistema, which translates to “devoured by the system.”

While often said in jest, the phrase has kind of a sad subtext, if you think about it. To be one of the million drones in the workforce today, and forget about your worth or values—well, that’s just depressing.

Work systems and cultures are ingrained in every organization. They largely depend on the company’s corporate values and mission, as well as the managing style of the head of the organization. They also depend on the strengths and influence of the human resource team of your company.

As a new employee, you may be entering a new work culture that is totally different from your previous one. You could be used to an enriching work culture, and transition into one that is not as vibrant and engaging, or vice versa.

Here are some ways on how to survive being new at work:

Keep an open mind.

Manage your expectations. Learn how to be adaptable to your new surroundings. If you think you “downgraded,” then try to adjust your mindset. 

This quality may be key to your overall success in the workplace as well. reports that open-mindedness is “one of the most sought-after” traits by companies in their employees, according to University of California Davis Internship and Career Center Program Coordinator Ken Barnes.

Train yourself to be flexible and be accepting of other people’s differences and opinions. It will do you good.

Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is being present and not thinking about anything else while you’re accomplishing a task. Most of the time, our brain is on autopilot that we fail to step back, and ponder before reacting to what we see or hear.

In a column on, Shamash Alidina, author of Mindfulness For Dummies and The Mindful Way Through Stress, explains: “To be mindful at work means to be consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state.”

“Each time your mind wanders to things like Helen’s new role or Michael’s argument with the boss, just acknowledge the thoughts and bring your attention back to the task in hand. This scenario sounds simple, but many aspects of your experience can get in the way,” he advises readers.

Don’t be too trusting.

Always keep in mind that there are two sides to every story. Take everything that is said to you with a grain of salt.

Todd Smith, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and founder of Little Things Matter, shares a friend’s advice to him on his blog, saying that, in order to lessen one’s disappointment, only believe 50 percent of what you see. In addition, his friend warns him not to believe everything he hears.

Smith recounts the times he and friends have been duped by trusting the money they earned to strangers. He advises people to be cautious, and not to give away their trust so easily. In the end, it makes all the difference, he says.

“You have nothing to lose by being cautious, guarding your trust until people have proven they are trustworthy. At the same time, you have everything to lose, including your savings, relationships, and your reputation, if you give away your trust easily,” says Smith.

Don’t participate in gossip-mongering.  

Gossip-mongering will be the death of you. It is the number one motivation killer in any job. When you find coworkers who try to include you in conversations wherein they criticize other people, it’s best to just smile and keep your opinions to yourself.

Gossiping, whether around the water cooler, or via instant messaging, accomplishes nothing. As HR Hero puts it, “if you’re gossiping, then you’re not working.” 

Set healthy boundaries.

Being the new person at work doesn’t mean you that you have to please everybody. You don’t have to jump on the bandwagon if you don’t feel like it and you can be assertive without being combative. Just state matter-of-factly why you can’t stay for drinks or do overtime.

Sure, you’d be tempted to give in the first time. However, if you end up not enjoying every minute of it, then it’s best to just keep to your limits.

Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, authors of From Stressed to Centered, notes that workers can watch out for three emotions to know that their boundaries are crossed: discomfort, resentment, or guilt.

“You can think of these feelings as cues to yourself that a boundary issue may be present. If a particular situation, person, or area of your life is leading you to feel uncomfortable, resentful, or guilty, and it has happened several times, this is an important cue,” Gionta and Guerra advise readers in a column on Inc.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., associate editor of Psych Central, has written extensively about setting boundaries at the workplace, and advises professionals to communicate their limits explicitly.

She echoes an adage in an article on the website: “When you respect your personal boundaries, others typically will, too. Remember that ‘you teach people how to treat you.’”

Maintaining your own set of beliefs while being respectful of other people’s opinions or actions is the right thing to do. Don’t be afraid of showing others how principled you are. Who knows? Your coworkers may just follow your example.

(Image Credit: and GIPHY 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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