Company culture is about how you fit into it, not how a company fits you.
It’s taken me 20 years or so to realize that unless you have a seat at the top table, one person cannot change an entire company culture, and you can get a whole lot of gray hairs worrying about the fact that you can’t.
Of course we all can impact a culture and encourage new and better behaviors. But the hard truth is, a company culture comes from the top down, and it can often feel rather lonely and distressing when you realize that you’re no longer a perfect match for the company you’re at.
Oftentimes the practical and perhaps more tangible aspects of a job are the first and at times only things we consider when stepping into a new company. “I have the skills, big company, great salary, amazing career prospects, great medical” versus “Will I succeed in this environment, do the company’s values really match mine, do I want to take the journey with them, is the business too cutthroat, too warm and soft, what does teamwork and trust really mean to this business?”
Here are six tips for navigating your way through different company cultures and finding the right one for you:
Just because a brand looks sexy on the outside, does not mean you will be the perfect fit. Apple is notorious for “dating” mid- to senior-level executives up to 20 times before offering them a place. Its relentless passion, drive for perfection, and customer obsession sounds very attractive and something you admire as a customer, but for many the stress and at times dogmatic approach can send some people over the edge. Is that Apple’s fault? Hardly. It’s just not the right fit for everyone.
You may have had the perfect relationship with your company, but circumstances change. Sometimes the management team shifts, and you sit there one morning thinking, “Is this the same company I joined five years ago?”
You may have invested years of emotion and hard work to get where you are today, but now you’re not sure what that means anymore, and you have that nagging feeling you might just get dumped or overlooked. If this sounds familiar, you know you really need to face the truth and end it.
Before you marry yourself off to a 60-hour workweek, make sure you really know what you are getting yourself into. Investigate the culture–at interview stage, on the web, via contacts, and if you can by talking to those who have left. Just remember what was not right for someone else does not mean it is not right for you.
A company may have gone through a dip; maybe there were massive staff layoffs managed poorly, or a merger has created a melting pot of differing opinions. But if you’ve weathered through and there is now a new plan in place, a reinvigorated management team, and a new vision, you may want to give it one more go. Forget about the last 12 months and enjoy the ride. It could end up being the perfect culture if you just give it a chance.
This is the most important point. Ask yourself the question, “What environments do I succeed and thrive in, which ones do I not?”
I have grown and changed my preferences over the past 20 years or so, but I now know that genuine, authentic, dynamic qualities along with never standing still are the things I look for in a company culture. What are yours?
Like any relationship you will have periods of ups and downs, but if your values match, you will be able to weather most storms.
—Melissa Hopkins is founder/director of Brand Collective, a strategic consultancy that specializes in brand and marketing transformation, employer branding and training, and mentoring for startups and businesses going through transitions.