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Let's talk about company culture

Culture-fit is crucial for both productivity and happiness - of the company as well as of the individuals.


Every individual has different preferences and expectations on culture. Some people want to work in a hierarchy-free, open and collaborative environment that gives you space for taking over responsibility. Others feel better and safe working in hierarchical environment where someone on the top makes the decisions and tells them what to do, and they on the other hand play the power game. You'll have noticed now that I'm a fan of the former but I know - and find it okay - that many people feel more comfortable with the latter. And there are even more types of cultures but let me keep it simple with the self-organized and collaborative "new" way of working vs. hierarchical "old" way of working. The point that I want to talk about is not which culture is "better", anyway.


I want to talk about what happens when you work in a company culture that doesn't match with your preference and the way you like to work.



Hiring decisions follow some guidelines. One point to consider is if the people you're hiring fit into the company culture. Leadership has a big responsibility in finding and hiring the right people to make sure that the company is successful and - ideally - the employees are happy and stay at the company for a long time. I say ideally because I personally feel sometimes that this point seems to be not important enough for some companies, neglecting that happy employees are more productive by nature.


Now imagine you work in a company with a mix of different types preferences. Again, let's keep it simple and say two types: the collaborative and the hierarchical way.


While collaborative people will always try to work as inclusive as possible, will see everyone as their peers, will try to get to results within the team, and will aim for a good communication flow between everyone, hierarchical people will wait for their managers to make the decisions, will see information flow as a political instrument, and will follow rather an elbow approach instead of a collaborative one.


On the other hand, while hierarchical people will quickly execute on the decision made, will bring expected results, and climb up the career ladder, collaborative people get stuck in endless meetings and discussions while aiming to be inclusive, won't be clear in the results to expect, and will have difficulties to grow in their careers.


These are my own observations after working in two mixed culture companies where the management aimed for the collaborative approach but had employed (and where themselves) people of the hierarchical mindset in key positions and continued to promote them. The hierarchical ones where the successful ones, the collaborative were unhappy or even left the companies one after the other. Your observations might be different, these are mine.


Again, it's not about what is better. It's about finding the fit and standing behind decisions.


As an employee, if you think you're not working at a company that doesn't fit your culture preferences, it's okay to quit. You don't have to play the long game, fearing that it looks bad on your CV. If you apply at a company that doesn't like you having changed the job after a year, you don't want to work for that company anyway.


As an employer, the worst thing you can do to your employees is to not make a decision on the culture you want to have in your organization, and actively supporting your employees to get there. This includes not allowing other behavior and replacing people who don't fit to your strategy of where you want to end up. Be clear on how you want to work and stick to it. Working the "old" way is not bad, really. If this is how you're used to work and have seen success, it's not bad to create your company this way. Only because others, especially organization transformation coaches tell you "it's bad to work that way" doesn't mean it really is. Worse is when you think you want to work the "new" way, think you do it, think you support it, but in reality - without you being aware of it - you don't, and then make those of your employees unhappy who really are of that mindset, and push your company into cross-cultural war, unproductive times, and make all of your employees hate their jobs.


Culture-fit for employers and employees is more important than trying to work this way or that way. Culture-management-fit, culture-product type-fit, culture-industry-fit, and culture-employee-fit.


And if it doesn't fit, leave or let go.



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