The Importance of Work Culture

One of my Facebook friends is great about sharing helpful tips on how to get jobs. Something she recently linked was a guide to ‘crushing’ a job interview. At the bottom, the author lists five questions that are essential to ask at the end of an interview. The second question, “How would you describe your company culture in five words?” got me thinking about the place and importance of company culture in society and my life.

The culture of the work environment isn’t something I’ve given much thought to–nor have I heard others in my age range (let’s call it 16-23) talking about it. I’m sure older people who have had a variety of jobs could tell stories of hilariously awful work environments and supertasticawesome ones. I’d bet that a lot of them value a good one when looking for new jobs or considering promotions.

How will you be received by your peers? How will your first impression change over time as your boss(es) and coworkers get to know you? Will you have to behave differently to fit in? Will you have to be closeted about something to avoid discomfort?

It’s not something I’ve considered up to this point. In having a not-super-great work environment, it’s suddenly an obvious object of concern. My current work atmosphere is bearable because I know it’s temporary, and I know what field I want to work in. I expect the culture of any secular/atheist organization will be fitting and comfortable for me, and I haven’t given that much further thought. It’s just a given in my mind.

Some guy chatted me up for ten or fifteen minutes at work last night about this company he just started working for (a month ago) and how great it is. Just really trying to sell me on it. Entertaining the thought, I suddenly wondered if being an atheist would disrupt my ability to be completely open in an average work environment.

Atheists are still perceived very poorly by the general public, and even though I know I’m a tiny, adorable female who is generally unimposing and nice, the knowledge of my atheism can completely shatter someone’s good impression of me. I’ve seen it happen before. There are probably tons of stories of ostracism at work or tension between fellow employees thanks to religious differences and atheism.

Further, what about my genderqueerity? I’m most comfortable wearing one of my compression shirts when I’m at work, and other times such as conventions. Generally, when I care about who I’m around and what they think, I prefer to wear one. How would that impact how my bosses and coworkers view me? 

If I work in freethought, I take it as guaranteed that I’d be completely understood at one of those orgs. When I get a mastectomy, would an average company be okay with me taking off the 6-8 weeks for an elective surgery? I suppose it’s none of their business what surgery I’m getting, but again it might impact my reputation and damage my career later on.

From what I know about the leading non-profits, I’d never have to worry about that stuff. I desperately hope I can worm my way into one of them, and it starts with researching the ones I’m most interested in.

Do other people have the same peace of mind, that my chosen field will be inclusive and allow me to be who I am? If I do land a job in freethought, I’ll consider it a huge win and the beginning of a long and fulfilling career. How many other people can select a career they’re passionate about and be confident in their ability to attain said career and be confident that they’ll fit in and be accepted in that work environment? I suppose I should consider myself fortunate.

Have I mentioned that I love the atheist movement? I love alllll you guys.


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