How To Navigate Working On A Team Where You Don’t Fit The Culture


I beat the culture drum a lot in my Vanderbloemen blog posts. For me, it’s one of those “shout it from the rooftop” things. I spent a lot of years working for companies I loved and respected, but ultimately I just didn’t fit with. I was searching for something in my work that I couldn't put my finger on, and didn’t know what it was until I found the Vanderbloemen team.

While it’s great to talk about building culture within your church or ministry team, what about those who work within an already existing staff culture (good, bad, or in between) and just don’t fit with that culture? Below I’ve outlined a few things you can do if you find yourself in exactly that situation. 

1. Don’t focus on the negative.

When you spend 8+ hours a day in a situation, especially one that is less than ideal, negativity easily creeps up on you and thrives if you’re not careful to dispel its influence. Your frustrations are often on your mind, so make sure to make an equally intentional effort to be positive about your situation. Look at frustrating occurrences in the best possible light. Give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt. Some days, it might feel fake, and that’s okay. But other days, I hope you’re able to find comfort in that your work situation isn't as bad as it feels on the bad days.

The hearts of people are generally well meaning, and although the ways they choose to live may not always be congruent from your view point, it’s worth giving them a little extra grace. Remember that church teams all have a common goal of serving the Kingdom.

2. Manage your attitude.

The second step to focusing on the positive is acting like you do as well. No one enjoys working with someone with a poor attitude, and being that person will only push you further out of the culture. Keeping your attitude in check will make sure your coworkers, differences aside, enjoy your company and want to involve you in things. This could end with you surprisingly discovering you do actually fit in with the staff culture, or at the very least, with some of your coworkers. And let’s be honest: friends at work make every job way better.

3. Review why you’re not a fit.

At Vanderbloemen, all of our employees take a personality test when they start. It helps us understand how to relate to and communicate with each other, but reading the results are also a fascinating look into yourself. I’m a high feeler and am therefore a big proponent of feeling your way through life. Over the years, however, I’ve discovered that often I need to understand why I’m feeling a certain way.

Feeling like you don’t fit in the team culture in which you work is a big deal, and it's one of those things that is very much worth taking time to assess the why behind what you feel. Ask yourself some difficult questions and be honest when you answer. Some I’d suggest are:

  • What makes you different?
  • Is that difference something that is important to you? Especially in ministry settings, is this difference something you feel God has called you to?
  • Did you take this job to fulfill a specific purpose? Is that purpose still valid?
  • Has God placed you in this position/organization for a specific purpose, and has that purpose been fulfilled?

As you review these things, I’d encourage you to enlist the help of a trusted friend to join you as you process and pray. Often, others see things more clearly than we do, so utilize these people to help you find and seek truth. We all have that friend who is awesome at reality checks, and they’ll be excited to join you on this journey.

4. Pray about your long-term plan.

After the reality check, pray about where you should go from here. If you’ve determined you should stay where you are, what do you want that to look like? Set goals for yourself so you can ensure you’re not wasting the time you’re spending in your current position. If you’ve decided it’s time to start a new chapter, start making a list of the things that are important to you in your next job. Then don’t compromise! Find the place God is calling you and enjoy that next season (also, don’t think that one is going to be perfect either, nothing in this life and no church job is perfect).

5. Don’t lose hope.

Not fitting the culture in which you work is a terrible feeling, but God doesn’t place people in hopeless situations. Life and people are shifting and changing daily, as are you. What is a terrible culture one day can shift and be something you actually enjoy the next. Our office recently relocated, and as we were packing the old office, my coworker would say with each room, “This won’t take long. We’re going to be done so quickly with this one.” While he was often overly-optimistic, the hope it brought to us with each box made the process so much better. So trust that God has got your back and keep hoping, day by day. One day you’ll wake up and it will all become clear, and these days of struggle will fade away.

Have you experienced struggle with your work the culture? What have you done to help during that time of difficulty?