How do I adapt to a much more casual environment?

How do I adapt to a much more casual environment?

I have always worked in a very corporate environment. Now I am in a much more casual office. I’ve stopped wearing suits but the lack of boundaries between people’s work and private life makes me really uncomfortable. I like keeping things separate. What should I do? W.S., Nashville, TN

Just as you adapted your clothing to your new surroundings, you’ll need to adjust to how people interact in your new office in order to be successful. You’re uncomfortable right now because it’s new to you and it sounds like you’re going from one extreme to another.

I’m not saying you need to be transparent about your personal life but it’s normal for people to want to know who they’re working with. When your teammates share something about what they did over the weekend, make sure you reciprocate. Share what you’re comfortable with and make an effort to do so regularly. Otherwise you’ll create a power imbalance—your teammates will feel like they’ve overshared and that you’re keeping secrets. Their discomfort can create very real issues for you.

As you get used to your new environment, try to view everything with a sense of curiosity instead of judgment. Instead of, “We always did things this way,” think of it as, “I wonder how this new approach will work?” It will help you integrate and be effective much faster and more smoothly if you use this approach.

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