Company culture for shy people

We all know what being the new guy feels like. It’s exciting, but it can also be lonely. You don’t know everyone in your team, they don’t know you, and the opportunities for banter can be small. Now, in a corporate environment, with hundreds of people in the company, it can be even scarier.

Some companies go through the process of getting fresh blood every few months, making it feel like it’s not worth getting to know each other deeply. Others have people that have known each other for years, and being new feels like walking into a party that already started without you. You might feel like you’ll never have the same level of connection.

Now, imagine you’re not a super outgoing guy. You’re talkative but not the type to be extra funny nor extra loud.

I have been there, and I found that a good way to get to know people is by starting an activity that will engage them, bringing the team together. However, someone has to take the first step and it doesn’t matter if only a few people show up, there’s always someone who will join and help. You’ll be surprised.

Here are some ideas to break the ice. I’ve tried some of them and they always end up being something people remember:

Set up an event you can all work together to organise.

Perhaps you could have a designers meetup. I requested hosting a Design And Banter event at Skype and helped frog Munich with Creative Mornings. It’s a great way to meet other designers outside of your company. Big companies tend to do them but these events don’t have to be big nor expensive.

Design and Banter gathered 300 designers in Skype’s office. It was great for the team to engage in very interesting conversations outside our typical “Skype Blue” lens.

Print an event calendar for a pin board.

Is there anything interesting happening this week? A talk show? A design meet-up? A new cool exhibition at the local museum? Your team can pin suggested events every week.

Set up a casual sharing session, it doesn’t have to be work related.

Everybody knows something that someone else doesn’t. I asked a friend to teach calligraphy in a 2 hours workshop. I also did a little workshop on how to make japanese rice balls. You could even share a list of your favourite typefaces.

Beste Nazili, teaching us the basics of calligraphy. A sharing group can be small but fun.

Get together in a different space and work on a topic that is completely unrelated.

This is one of the events I enjoyed the most, as sometimes it is truly liberating to work without deadlines, or job titles. People feel more open and creative.

Build a team identity

Name your teams, get stickers for your computers. Those are cheap and fun things that make people have a sense of belonging and feel pride for their team.

Celebrate fridays

People are generally happier on fridays because the week is finishing. I’d recommend ordering pizza for a team lunch, pull out a couple of beers and have a chat about how the week has been.

Challenge your peers

You can organise small tournaments around a certain topic, it can be a a little hackathon or designathon. I brought my old Nintendo Wii and organised a Mario Kart tournament, it was a huge success.

Activities outside

This one can be costly as not everybody has the time or the budget. Go-karts and “escape the room” type of events are great ideas, but also a barbecue day outside the office or a pottery course are pretty cool.

(food brings people. always.)

Lastly, don’t forget the small things.

There are new joiners every now and then. Remember that they also need help becoming part of the team.

This made my day when I joined.

The point of doing all this is for the team to get together. It’s easier to speak through actions when you’re not great with words.

Don’t be scared to start something. Don’t be scared to ask people if they are interested in doing something.

If you have any other ideas or insights on how to feel less “weird” and bring together people at work, please share in the comments so everybody can see.