Understanding Organizational Culture And Your Fit
Oftentimes the advice out in the internet, which is not necessarily bad, is to train job seekers to supply answers that hiring managers want to hear. One human resources professional even recommends taking your address off your resume because you might be judged for where you live. These are the unconscious biases that leak into the hiring process.
I often wonder what kind of culture is made of people pretending to be things that they are not? Or worse, obscuring the truth for fear of being judged for it? What does the balance between being who you are and putting food on the table look like?
A little known saying attributed to Jesus is, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
Of course what we might consider what is within us shape shifts based on many things…what we do and what happens to us throughout the day, month, and year. Then imagine that reality multiplied by the size of the organization you are a part of.
That is culture. And also why it is so unwieldy, unpredictable, and completely intangible. Maybe tax laws are not that far off when they assume corporations are people too.
How to understand company culture is like dating. Whether you continue to be acquaintances or continue getting to know each other is always your decision.
When I first meet someone, I always have the tendency to really think the best of them. I get so impressed that it doesn’t occur to me that they may be embellishing the truth. The proof usually reveals itself after I ask a few questions.
So as it relates to company culture, ask yourself:
- What would you tell a friend who accepted an offer here?
- How do people interact with each other?
- How are conflicts resolved or not at all?
- Who’s a hero here and why?
Emotions (good and bad) suggest value. People don’t get amped up about things they don’t care about. The same is true for corporations. Just walk around and see how people decorate their offices. Cubicles overflowing with family pictures are very different from those empty except for a posted print-out of financial targets.
Another data point to consider is how you feel at the end of the day. Ever spend time with somebody who is so negative that you end up feeling down even after saying goodbye to them?
Start tracking this every day for a month. If the negative days outnumber the positive ones, acknowledge it for what it is. What can be done to make the situation even a little better?
A friend of mine at a bank faced this reality and started to proactively get involved in affinity groups to expand her network inside the company (social outings, company volunteer events, etc.). In her words, “to counteract a loss of professional self-esteem.” She soon found her calling in corporate responsibility work and is now pursuing a graduate degree in the evenings.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
As in any relationship, it’s important to cut some slack when times are tough if they recognize their faults and have concrete initiatives to address issues. The question is whether you believe it is going in the right direction and want to help turn the ship around.
There are many reasons to not give up on a person or corporation too quickly. In the case of work, there is the obvious paycheck. But at the same time, do not discount what you’ve learned so far.
Consider adjusting your expectations. Return to your career path and purpose.
If layoffs are looming, what experience/project/task can you get under your belt to upgrade your resume?
Be thoughtful about when to leave a company. The general notion is that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job. However, we all know one-sided relationships are not only not fun, they can also be very damaging. If a company does not have the resources or the faculties to take you seriously, then I would recommend reevaluating your options as soon as possible.
Of course changing corporate culture is possible, but slow and highly dependent on who’s in charge. Just like people themselves. My advice is to own your decision to stay or go and be aware of everything in between.
In the long run, all our lives are numbered. Even corporations.
“Drag is there to remind culture not to take itself too seriously. All of this is illusion.”