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How to Adapt to the Changing Workplace

Confused on directionIf you’re genuinely new to business, you presumably fit directly into your working environment. However, in the event that you’re a seasoned pro, you need to keep up with a changing work environment to avoid costly mistakes.

As an agency account manager, you may wind up with a client roster that defies classification. One day you will be working with a customer wearing a business suit and tie. The following day, you might be chatting with a Millennial in a start-up where everybody is in jeans and work in pods.

Changing the Rules

If you work in a company that is encountering a quickly changing organizational culture, are you figuring out how to adjust by they way you present yourself?  Maybe the company that hired you no longer exists as you knew it. You’re still around, yet that could change on the off chance that you don’t understand the new rules.

A outstanding example is Abercrombie & Fitch. The company did a turn around from its reputation as a stodgy chain with dull sports wear for seniors to selling casual wear for Millennials. It’s risqué advertising and dimly lit stores appealed to a new consumer audience.

Its jeans-clad CEO’s marketing tactics about what employees and customers should wear irritated many individuals, however the organization’s revenues keep on growing.

Tune in to the Culture

The key to adapting is learning how to work within an organization’s culture. Culture is loosely defined as “the manner in which we get things done around here.”

The way we do things may incorporate an unstructured climate where ideas and innovation are the organization’s currency. Just because a bunch of “kids” in sweats are throwing around a Frisbee doesn’t mean they aren’t deadly serious about the business.

How people talk, how they work, how they dress are clues to changing your own behavior.

Maybe you don’t care answering emails at night. However, for some creatives, that is their most productive time. They come in late and work late. So you’ll have to adjust your schedule to theirs.

Of course, you have to set up limits. Examine your client’s communications preferences – email or telephone? – and come to an agreement on a curfew for exchanging information. Perhaps it’s 9 p.m. That is not an unreasonable request.

If you are with an agency, then dress appropriately. Toss your jacket and tie if the client’s dress code is casual. On the off chance that your client’s organization is conservative, then dress accordingly.

In days of yore (read a couple of years back), it would be viewed as rude to appear at a client’s office in jeans and a sports shirt. But now your client at a tech startup may think you were condescending if you wore a business suit to show them how to dress.

Do Advance Planning

On the other hand, it’s smart to check first. If the prospect has an administrative assistant, call ahead to ask about the dress code. One agency once went out to pitch a west coast tech company. The agency people all dressed down but the client team dressed up as the “New Yorkers were coming.” Oops. They didn’t get the business.

Another office was pitching Bermuda and chosen to wear Bermuda shorts to the pitch. The Bermudians were irritated that they didn’t wear business clothing and the organization didn’t win the business either.

Gender matters as well. Quite a while back an advertising agency was pitching one of the “Big 3” Detroit automobile manufacturers. A woman headed the company’s advertising. The agency didn’t get the business. Advertising Age quoted the client who said that one reason was because the agency team consisted of six men and no women. That was insensitive and women purchase vehicles, too.

Some Things Never Change

While the working environment may have changed significantly lately – the virtual office, business casual, 24/7, email rather than eye to eye — some things never change.

Have you adjusted to the changes in organizational culture? What have you found to be the biggest problems in adjusting to the new rules about how things are done now?

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