When searching for a job, most of us focus on elements like title, position, and salary. Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says we should be equally as concerned with culture, an organization’s values, norms, and practices. Writing in The New York Times, he suggests that the best way to study the culture of an organization you’ve never worked for is to ask its employees to tell stories about their workplace.
In a classic study, a team of researchers led by Stanford professor Joanne Martin analyzed the stories people told about their workplaces, and found they fell into common categories: Is the big boss human? Can the Little Person Rise to the Top? Will I Get Fired? How will the boss react to mistakes?
According to Grant, people judge cultures as just, safe and controllable “when the big boss is human, the little guy can make it to the top, and leaders try to protect employees even when times are tough and mistakes are made.” Grant adds that while it’s ideal to find a great culture, job seekers should at least rule out toxic ones. “When stories suggest that an organization is wildly unfair, unsafe or immovable, cross it off your list.”
We want to hear: What do you wish you had known about an organization’s culture before you took a job there? What story would you tell about your own organization’s culture? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.