Culture Fit, Communication Challenges, and Navigating Workplace Interpersonal Interactions


There is a lot that can go wrong at work outside of the work itself.

Maintaining healthy relationships with co-workers who have differing opinions, working styles, or approaches to day-to-day interactions can be a struggle with the ability to limit your potential, be the support you need to thrive or what makes you feel part of the culture in your workplace.

Workplaces are Dynamic, Support is Crucial

Learning how to best support your team is something to be conscious of prior to encountering communication problems or other issues, fostering support is most effective when used in a preventative capacity. Build a team that can tackle challenge and developing effective solutions.

Some employees thrive on developing rapport with others in their office with small talk and casual conversation, yet others way view this as getting in the way of business goals, a waste of time and would much rather dive straight into the matter at hand. Working in an office that does not prioritize the same level or form of interpersonal connection within the company as you can be a struggle and lead you to feel isolated, uncomfortable or that you do not feel aligned with the culture of your office.

Building teams and relationships with co-workers to meet business goals, collectively face challenges and effectively troubleshoot issues is nearly every employee’s center focus given how dynamic and ever changing our workplaces and target metrics can be. How we each go about fostering this kind of support in our working relationships differs greatly…

Struggling to understand how best to support your team? Here are some questions to ask:

  • When assigned a new task or project to take part in, ask “What does done look like?”, this question will ensure everyone knows what the end goal is, not just the process
  • When someone is leading a project or team, simply ask “How can I support you?” and it will go a long way even if they don’t have a need for immediate assistance
  • When a new initiative or process is launched, ask “What metric should we use to track the performance?” to make sure that you are clear on after implementation goals

Diverse workplaces can create diverse problems

Today’s workplaces are more diverse than ever which has ensured more fair opportunities for all and encouraged a culture of  innovation with more different minds at the table.

Some struggle with diversity and tolerance among their team and are left perplexed at how to communicate with someone who is fundamentally different than them and hasn’t had the same working experience. Maybe they come from another industry? Have only worked in another country? Aren’t used to soft-skills or interpersonal lead leadership? Or, more common, how do you overcome cultural or language barriers?

To further foster diversity while also avoiding diversity-related misunderstandings or communication pitfalls, here are a few friendly reminders:

  • Don’t forget to get into the shoes and the mindset of your team members from time-to-time
  • Realize that open-door communication isn’t very common outside the US and other feedback methods may need to be arranged
  • Avoid using culture or industry specific acronyms, slang and jargon
  • Clearly and specifically establish goals and mission to ensure everyone’s on the same page
  • Consistency in messaging is crucial when there is potential for misinterpretation

Over-performers vs. Under-performers

Also common, resentment between over-performers and under-performers who have vastly different approaches to how much of themselves they are willing to contribute to work. Over performers often see under-performers as a threat to interfere with productivity and hanging on only by managers afraid of confrontation. Under-performers largely feel that over-performers are unable to strike a reasonable work/life balance and can also be intimidated or be made to feel guilty by the significantly larger amount of time others are contributing.

Here are some ways you can work effectively with others who perform differently than you:


  • Avoid confrontation – emotional argument, threatening or even questioning will only make matters worse by creating heightened guilt, frustration and polarized ideas of what amount of contribution is required
  • Understand external factors – work performance is almost always correlated to personal life, you may be unaware of personal and often emotional obstacles your co-workers may be facing outside of work such as family responsibilities, loss of a loved one or mental illness. Furthermore proving why these very sensitive situations must be lead with respect and empathy
  • Take a deep dive into what motivates your team and what brings them to work every day. The answer to why they are either an under-performer or over-performer lies often lies here. Ask yourself; what are their long-term goals? Where is their career headed? Are they simply here to earn a paycheck and get home safe to their family? Are they fresh out of college and super eager to give everything to their career and have no distractions in their life?
The Secret to Communication? Flexibility.

Being in tune with everyone who you work with and encounter’s communication preferences may seem like time-consuming waste of time and like you are keeping a mental file cabinet of everyone’s DISC assessment results but having an innate curiosity or open mind to others’ priorities and work communication style can get you far.

Some people are nearly impossible to get a read on and you also don’t need to invest large amounts of energy into tapping into other’s communication style but a general desire to be cognizant of others in this way can help foster support, build rapport and create a culture that everyone truly feels they are a facet of.

An effective and time efficient way to be a bit more conscious of others is to realize that everyone does not have the same work/communication style and no two people should you interact identically with. Some employees would be much prefer a 10-minute face-to-face conversation about a new task or project while others would find this to be a downright waste of time and a simple email explanation would be more than sufficient. Picking up on these small differences and being (reasonably) accommodating to them will not only boost productivity but ensure greater respect and appreciation of others in the workplace.


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