What to Do When the Job is Perfect, But the Culture Isn’t

The job is the stuff of dreams. The responsibilities are right up your alley, the work is challenging and fulfilling, and the pay more than meets your expectations.

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There’s only one problem: the culture. For whatever reason, you just don’t mesh with this company’s values and overall atmosphere.

So, what do you do? If you’re interviewing, should you take the job offer anyway—even though you’re already concerned about how you’ll fit in? Or, if you’ve had this realization at your current job, should you begin to search for something different—even though you really like the work?

There’s no denying that these can be some murky waters to navigate. Let’s take a look at both situations, as well as some questions you can ask yourself to gain some clarity on your next step.

When You’re Job Searching…

You’ve made it through every round of interviews for this role you applied for, and now you have an offer on the table. You’re thrilled with the position, but you already know the company culture doesn’t check your boxes.

Perhaps it’s very rigid and corporate, when you’d prefer something more laidback. Or, maybe you thrive in a structured environment with a formal hierarchy, and this place is much more collaborative and open.

Either way, you have some concerns about how happy you’d actually be there—despite the job being exactly what you were looking for. Ask yourself these three questions to help determine whether you should accept that offer or continue looking for something different.

1. Do You Have a Good Understanding of the Culture?

For starters, how confident are you in your perception of the culture there? Is it all information you assumed based on online reviews (which, fair warning, should always be taken with a grain of salt)? Or, do you feel like you have a solid understanding of their culture based on questions you asked and what you’ve witnessed during your time there?

Before jumping to any conclusions, ensure that you feel like you have a really good handle on what the working environment is really like. Do what you need to do to get informed, rather than just making broad assumptions.

2. What Other Questions Can You Ask?

What’s one of the best ways to get a better sense of the culture? By asking some additional questions of the hiring manager or your prospective department leader.

You definitely shouldn’t be afraid to find out more about what it’s actually like to work there—that’s important information you need before making a decision about whether or not you could see yourself working there.

So, go ahead and ask your interviewer to describe the culture in three words or ask about his or her favorite part about working there. Questions like those—among many others—will give you a better sense of what life is really like on the inside of that office.

3. What is More Important to You?

Reality is brutal to accept, but necessary nonetheless: Not many of us find jobs where absolutely everything is perfect. In fact, there really is no such thing as a perfect job. You’ll always find something that could be better.

This is the point when you need to weigh your options and determine your priorities. What’s more important to you—a fitting company culture or a position where you feel challenged and satisfied?

This answer will be different for everybody. But, make sure you take some time to imagine yourself in each situation and figure out what feels right for you. Regardless of what you choose, it’s up to you to make the best of it!

When You’re Employed…

You’ve been in your current job for some time now, and—while you enjoy the work and the daily responsibilities—you’ve discovered that you really don’t gel with the company culture.

Now, you’re unsure whether it’s in your best interests to pack up your desk and make a move or to tough it out and see if you start to get more comfortable.

Of course, this is another one of those situations that’s going to depend on your personal circumstances and preferences. But, asking yourself these four questions is a good starting point.

1. What About the Culture is Most Upsetting to You?

It’s important that you identify what exactly about the culture frustrates you, so that you can either make the best of it at your current job or avoid that same characteristic in a future role.

Perhaps you don’t like the fact that micromanagement is essentially built into the culture. Or, maybe your whole office works 12 hours a day when you’d prefer an employer who put more emphasis on work/life balance.

Whatever it is, make sure you pinpoint what exactly is off to you. That will be important, regardless of which way you move forward.

2. Is it the Culture, or Just a Few Bad Apples?

It’s easy to confuse a company’s overall culture with the actions of just a few employees. So, ask yourself: Is it really the culture of the entire company that you dislike, or are there just a few bad apples spoiling the bunch?

If you determine that there are just a couple of team members who are making your life at work difficult, that’s often easier to remedy than attempting to shift an entire culture. Whether you need to have a conversation with a superior or a direct (and polite, of course!) confrontation with the person who’s making you upset, figuring out the root cause of your comfort is crucial.

3. Can You Influence Change in Some Way?

So, you’ve decided it is the overall culture that you just don’t mesh with. But, before throwing up your hands and searching for greener pastures, is there something you can do to start instituting a few small changes?

If you want closer bonds with your co-workers, ask your manager if you could head up a social committee that plans fun after-work events. Or, if you want more flexibility, talk to your supervisor to see if there’s a way for you to work from home one day per week.

You might not be able to alter as much as you’d like. But, you never know until you ask, right? And, chances are, plenty of your colleagues will appreciate it.

4. Are You Happy?

We all know that it can be far too easy to nitpick. However, as mentioned earlier, there’s really no such thing as a completely perfect job.

So, perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself is this: Are you happy? Do you generally feel good about heading into the office each day, sitting down at your computer, and getting to work?

If so, you’re doing great—and, making a change probably isn’t your best option. But, if the mere thought of strolling into the office puts your stomach into knots, it’s likely time for you to see what else is out there.

Finding your dream job with your dream company culture is difficult—and, oftentimes, you won’t get everything on your list in either regard.

If you’re ever struggling to determine whether the job is worth the less-than-perfect culture, remember to come back and ask yourself these questions. They’ll help you put your ducks in a row and choose the best move for you.

Written by

Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

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