How to find Workplace Allies
It can be lonely in a challenging work environment. When you know things can be better and you have ideas for making that change happen, trying to do it alone is enough to make many people not even bother to try.
There are folks out there who take action to shift the culture within a workplace and then look for who is on their side - but that’s not everyone’s style.
Many folks I work with want to make change happen, and they want some support and help along the way. They’re looking for allies.
Finding those allies can be challenging, especially in work environments where people are siloed, or there is minimal non-task-oriented interaction.
Identifying your positive culture allies can start with some observations such as:
Who will have a candid conversation with you about your workplace culture?
Whose experience do you validate, and then they talk about possible actions to take?
Who will talk about psychological safety and what you see around you?
Who is validating your experience?
Who is already modeling the behavior you want to see from everyone?
Observing who these people are is an excellent first step. A follow-up conversation about the values or mission of your work helps you find aligned allies and will move things forward.
Try starting some thoughtful conversations about your values and learn about the personal values of your potential ally. Discuss how your values overlap with your work’s stated (or unstated) mission.
Some conversation starters for this could be things like:
What part of our work resonates with you most?
How does our workplace culture rank among all the places you’ve worked?
Is the purpose of this work meaningful to you? Why or why not?
Find the words/questions that are authentic to you. Take time to have these conversations before you jump to solutionizing. Building a strong bond with your allies around shared values and a shared mission first will give you a foundation to move forward together (or let you know you’re not in alignment and need to seek a different ally).
If you come across people who won’t even entertain these conversations with you and can’t support this work - it doesn’t mean they’re against you. They may be so disempowered by the situation that they don’t have the energy to engage in changing the culture.
You're not alone if you’re feeling the pressure of a toxic workplace culture. You're still not alone if you want to make cultural shifts happen at your work. It just may take some searching and connecting to find your allies.