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I recently started a new job as software engineer in a company with 100 to 200 employees. The company is run like a startup (flexibility, flat management, etc) and there are plenty of interesting initiatives, mostly orientated to learn and share new technologies, the salaries, the benefits and the office location are excellent. I also like my colleagues (for the most part ;-)).

However, the startup mindset comes with the "we must be funny" attitude that is bothering me. Just to be clearer, I have to take part in a meeting to present my work "in a funny way" in front of the whole company and probably I have to take part in a funny video too before the end of the year.

I am not against it conceptually, I understand that most of the people like this stuff, and I took part in meetings and I said that they are funny. The problem is that I am not "most of the people", I am introvert and socializing cost me a huge effort that I prefer to avoid. My dream has always been to do my job at the best of my possibilities and go home.

I managed to avoid the Christmas party and the karaoke night by simply not adhering to the invitations, but these other activities are mandatory...and for sure there will be others in the future. I have already made it clear during a team meeting that there is no way that I am going to do some idiot stuff in front of the whole company just because I have to be funny. They did not take it well, and to be honest I think to have lost the opportunity to be accepted in my team.

My questions are, how to avoid to take part in this mandatory funny activities without losing my job (I am still in the probation period)? And since we are here, how to avoid the stress and anxiety that taking part or being forced to take part to them cause me? Management asks regularly for feedback and I could speak with them about it, but is it wise? Should I do it considering that the "we must be funny" attitude is their approach?

A few things I think that are important,

  • I like to work here and I do not want to change my job.
  • I have read many books about socializing and emotional intelligence, but I know myself and I know my limits. There is no way that my brain will accept to do things that I consider stupid/humiliating without react.
  • I am already doing what my character allows me to do, I took part in "funny pictures" (even though it was humiliating)...and in other initiatives where I feel more at ease.
  • I have no problem speaking in front of people when my work requires it.
  • I have no problem to make my point in front of people even if it requires confrontation.
  • 2
    Have you talked with other about those things you think are humiliating? Wearing a company t-shirt is one thing, dressing up as a company mascot is different. – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 16 at 17:54
  • @PeteCon Exactly. – Pampa Nello Nov 17 at 8:28
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    @PeteCon Most contracts say you go to work to do the company's definition of "work", not your own. Particularly in startups which need an all-hands-to-the-pumps mentality (though at 200 employees they should be beyond that stage). Describing things you've been asked to do which everyone else takes part in as "idiot stuff", outside the context of a 1-1 with a trusted manager, is a good way to burn bridges with the team. – Julia Hayward Nov 17 at 11:59
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    If your manager is any good they should understand and find ways for you to participate in the company's culture which are more compatible with your personality. Talk to them about it 1:1. – A E Nov 17 at 20:58
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    @JuliaHayward many years ago I was a management trainee at a bluechip company. They had an initiative that all trainees had to go and run a children's camp for a week. I informed them that I didn't work with children, and that I would prefer to resign. I didn't go, and it never affected my career. I have some hard boundaries that I refuse to cross at work, and there's nothing wrong with that. – PeteCon Nov 17 at 22:14
34

I like to work here

Firstly you need to be honest with yourself.... you do NOT like working there, you don't like the whole culture, you may enjoy your tasks but that's only part of what it takes to enjoy working somewhere.

Once you're honest with yourself you can move forwards and make a decision. Until then the rest of your question is moot.

It's unlikely they'll change their culture for one person.

  • 1
    Thanks @kilisi. I see your point, and I have asked myself the same question many times (do I like to work here?), but I am not sure that it is true. I have worked in many places, and there is not a perfect one, you have to compromise on something in every situation. I am ready to do as much as I can manage to cope with the internal culture, but there should be a way to try to set a personal limit, make it clear to the others and see if it is sustainable by everyone. It does not necessarily mean that it will work, but at least I feel that I should try. – Pampa Nello Nov 17 at 8:34
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    Answers that tell to just run away from the problem and quit are the worst problem on Workplace.SE. Wish I could give you ten downvotes. – Chris Nov 17 at 20:46
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    @Chris To be fair this does not say "You should quit" it is more subtle than that. – Brandin Nov 18 at 7:46
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    @Chris > Well honnestly, people complaining about their job and expecting things to change just because of their whining are a big problem in the workplace. If you don't like it, then leave it, or suck it up and stop whining, or try to change it (i.e. prove your point that these "funny" initiatives are actually negative)... – Laurent S. Nov 18 at 12:17
10

There seem to be two aspects to your objection, one reasonable and one unreasonable.

First, it's entirely reasonable that you don't want "silly things" to be a major distraction from your real work, especially in the form of a time sink.

But a firm refusal to ever consider making light of what you do, or especially to consider how odd it may sometimes look to others, is a serious impediment to fitting into an organization made up of other humans. In fact, the more serious your role and the more highly placed in the organization, the more essential it is that you be willing to occasionally acknowledge the inherent humor of that.

Practically speaking, since you persistently maintain a more serious attitude towards work than your colleagues, the tropes built upon that provide a ready source of the momentary humor demanded of you: Got get something like a lab coat and mad scientist wig, and then give exactly the presentation you want to give, but wearing that. Even just the lab coat or a professor sweater might do.

Don't think of this as humiliating yourself. Rather, think of it is celebrating who you are, by playing up the aspects of it which seems most unusual to others. You are the serious one - so own that.

3

Your situation is somewhat comparable to our office.

Context

We are a small development team and are part of a much larger company, however we have our own office. The company as well as our team has a strong focus on culture. There are summer and winter activities, sometimes we are asked to do promotional videos, or pictures and often we decide to do group activities together, e.g. pre-Christmas-party.

We have however a very diverse group with very diverse members on our team, possibly a little more "eccentric" than the larger company offices, however extremely friendly and cooperative which enables a friendly culture. In addition our manager is interested in having a good work environment, so our preferences, eccentricities, strengths and weaknesses are taken into account.

Sometimes, as mentioned, we are asked to do pictures. Some of us have data-safety related objections, some just don't like their picture being taken - so we say so, and it is simply fine. There are more activities X, where some of us do not wish to participate for reason Y. It is however always verbalized so that it is clear this is no objection to the team, just to that specific thing.

Relation to your case

  1. First of all, you need to find out, whether or not this is actually a problem. When your team does X, as it is their culture, you can state - friendly - "Hey, I very much enjoy working with all of you, however I am not comfortable doing activity Y, due to personal reasons, I hope this is okay." If you have a good relationship with the team, you may also explain what your reason is exactly - since this is a private matter first and foremost, this decision is yours alone. If it turned out that your team fully understands and is fine with your absence from such activities, then there may not have been a problem all along.
  2. However it is possible that your teammembers find you distant because of this. In this case I agree with the most upvoted answer - company culture will not change for you alone and you may enjoy your task, but apparently not the workplace as a whole. In this case it is likely best to move on. This is also the reason we have a strong focus on team compatibility and try setting the frame when interviewing candidates, but obviously it is impossible to see all future personality conflicts over the period of a short interview. Still, interviews are both ways, so in the future you may use the opportunity to ask about company culture, to decide whether or not you are going to be comfortable.

Either way, first of all you need to find out if there really is a problem or not and you should state your discomfort in participating and see what comes off it. If the outcome is not as desired, then you still have the option to leave.

2

In my opinion most company "social" departments are run by extroverts. As this role in the company, usually caters to their needs. Their main weapon is peer pressure.

In my company, it also started out with these "integration activities". Many people had lots of fun with it. But as time has progressed, many like-minded people have opted-out.

A few things I think that are important,...

Maybe talking about your important items to your manager, in a unofficial "light" context, would be in order?

The "top" needs to know how this is affecting some people in the company. The managers have to support all activities initiated by the company. If the activity is bringing negative results, they are in a better position to bring it to the attention of appropriate persons.

Then just do your job as professionally as possible. I doubt anyone can have an issue with that.

And if it becomes unbearable, just leave the company.

0

Your personality and your company culture isn’t a natural fit, so...

a. You adapt and try to fit in the culture

b. Don’t change anything and see if that slides or if you get singled out

c. Have the culture adapt and accommodate you

d. Move to an environment that fits you better

Now assign probability values to each of the options above and see which odds are acceptable to you.

-5

I think without a doctors note you will have no way to get around this except talking to your manager what the problem is and how it makes you feel. If they still insist, make a parody of your boss, get a wig, fake mustache, glasses, typical outfit, typical clothes, whatever makes you look and talk like him. Then you give them a hell of a show and afterwards put in your resignation letter. :-)

Life is too short to deal with crap like that. If you are not comfortable, find a job that doesn't involve such activities. If you look for Steve Jobs quotes, you will find a few around the topic.

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