How you embrace and fit in with the culture of your company can have a huge impact on your happiness and success. Unfortunately for those who don’t like partying hard, the past few years saw the rise of “brogrammers,” who could easily make an employee feel like the odd person out if they didn’t want to do a keg-stand after a long week of churning out Python code.
For those who’ve forgotten, brogrammer is a slang term that refers to a certain breed of macho, male tech professional. Traditionally, they love to play hard, code hard, party down… well, you get the picture. According to popular lore, they filled the offices of aggressive startups such as Uber.
But over the past several quarters, something drastic has changed. Companies came to the realization that hard-partying behavior can have serious consequences, including executive-suite firings and aggressive re-examinations of corporate culture. As a result, chatter about “brogrammer” lifestyles has declined recently.
That’s not to say that aggressive behavior doesn’t persist at startups. Whatever the situation at your company, though, here are some tips for surviving when the culture doesn’t wholly fit with your temperament and outlook on life.
Befriend Compatible Colleagues
Let’s say a company culture centers on programmers and engineers hanging out after hours to talk shop. But if you pay attention, you may find that some of your new colleagues actually prefer a better work-life balance.
“Make friends with the married professionals who would rather go home after work,” said Patti Wilson, a Silicon Valley career coach and owner of the Career Company. “Most companies have subcultures. You can learn a lot by observing.”
As Wilson pointed out, it’s much easier to assimilate once you understand the culture. Pay attention to verbal and non-verbal cues and be emotionally aware as you observe interactions between members of the staff. You need strong coding skills and emotional intelligence to traverse the ins and outs of certain cultures.
This is especially important for women, who may feel alienated in a male-dominated environment. Ask a female executive or someone who’s successfully navigated the cultural path to share their tips and insight.
“Many tech companies have an open door policy, where it’s perfectly acceptable to establish a relationship with your boss’s boss or the principals.” Wilson said. “Find out how they rose to the top and follow their lead. After all, you can never have too many allies.”
Remember, executives are the architects of a company’s culture, so be careful not to criticize the company’s practices, work ethic and personality as you seek advice. For example, avoid trying to interject your personal issues into a meeting if the company generally likes to keep its meetings tight and streamlined.
Go out for a drink every now and then, and keep up with the latest tech trends or sports news, so you can add value and bring something to the conversation. You don’t have to stay out all night, but in any culture, it’s important to bond with your teammates.
Invite a colleague to lunch or coffee jet-because. A one-on-one conversation is easier to navigate, and getting to know your co-workers on a more personal level can ease your transition, build your support network and help you better understand the group dynamics.
Fit In… Without Losing Your Identity
Being confident and comfortable in your own skin is the key to thriving in a company with a dominant culture. Never compromise your values or stop being yourself. Instead, much like a locksmith looks for a matching key, find a way to work with your teammates without losing yourself.
If you tend to be quiet and reserved, don’t feel as if you have to dominate the conversation. Participate in a way that makes you feel comfortable. If you have to draw the line with an alpha teammate—do it. Once you’ve gained acceptance, it’s OK to subtly lobby for change. Your teammates will respect your sincerity and authenticity.
Reach Outside Your Comfort Zone
You can avoid an aggressive or “brogrammer” culture altogether by choosing to work for a mature company that has a diverse staff and an inclusive culture. Or you can step outside your comfort zone and learn how to thrive in a unique environment without compromising your personal goals and values. Trying a new approach and succeeding can not only broaden your horizons, it can help you appreciate different styles, hone your communication and consensus-building skills, and earn the respect and admiration of the brogramming set.
While it seems that brogrammers are on the wane, hard partying in tech does happen on occasion. Be prepared, and see how you can turn the situation to your advantage.