At the end of 2014, I will have been in the work force for 15 years. In that time, I’ve worked or consulted for quite a few a companies. They’ve ranged from minuscule to enormous, covered a range of industries and been headquartered in several different countries. I’ve had working experiences that I loved and ones that I’ve hated, and I’ve come to the conclusion that life is too short to not enjoy my time at work.
Over that time, I’ve come to learn what makes an organisation/team one that I’d enjoy working in, and got better at asking the right questions in interviews to reduce the risk of a bad fit. So, I thought I’d write on several aspects of company culture that go a long way to making it somewhere I’d want to be.
I should note that I care about the attitudes of my manager, the immediate team I’m working in, and the wider organisation. I struggle when I get mixed messages, so I will always aim to ensure that they are positive and not at odds with each other.
- I know some people are motivated by competition, but I much prefer working with others, and doing what needs to be done to achieve more as a team. I need to know that I can help my colleagues without feeling like a sucker or them feeling threatened (and that I’ll be helped in return). And I want to feel that sharing and finding new ways of working together is encouraged.
- Next, I look at how the organisation and the manager think about mistakes. I believe that mistakes are an inevitable part of operating a business, and the choice is just whether to recognise them (and the risk of them) or whether to hide them. I am always impressed by organisations and individuals within teams that are happy to own up to mistakes and help others learn from them, and massively discouraged by any effort spent pushing the blame onto others.
- This relates also to an attitude towards problems. Some organisations are keen to recognise and resolve them, creating avenues for concerns to be raised to the level that they can be dealt with. Others effectively blame the person that raises the problem, ensuring that problems build up until they get critical. I’ve experienced both environments and know that a good culture in this respect significantly reduces risk of things going wrong and gives employees an ability to improve the organisation.
- Finally, I like to feel that my colleagues and I care about each other as people rather than as cogs in an impersonal corporation. Most companies will claim they do this, but it really does vary a lot. I look at how people relate in meetings – whether they use language like “IT wouldn’t let us do X”, compared with “Robert had X concern”. I look at how managers respond when someone is sick or chooses to take time off for another commitment, whether with genuine concern or preoccupation with how it will affect the company. And I look at how colleagues behave at the pub – whether they interact genuinely (including with more senior management) or whether they’re presenting a fake persona designed to impress.