The Big Question for Job Hunters
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.
2/16/2016 03:56:49 pm
I started here in 1993. I did not know that organizations had culture. I recognized 'it' when I saw it; Logger - Redneck; Farmer - Make hay while the sun shines; U.S. Navy - Aye Aye Sir!
2/22/2016 01:50:49 pm
You really hit it Cam. When we started our research on culture, people thought it was an odd word to describe what went on in organizations. Most agree now that differences in organizational culture have an enormous impact on what it is like to work somewhere. Thanks for your comment.
2/17/2016 04:45:47 am
Regarding corporate culture--so true. Money is simply that. As many of us consider our success in our careers as a chief attribute of our success in life, the company we work for has a greater depth of meaning. The company I work for, Change and Innovation Agency, is led by sincere and hard-working partners. It is the main reason I came to work for the company, a decision I have never regretted.
2/22/2016 01:43:29 pm
Thanks for your comment, Brian. We so agree with you: Culture can be everything when it comes to work life. Wonderful for you that Change and Innovation Agency has provided that for you.
1/30/2021 11:12:30 am
Our 25 person family business is now in year #17. It has been built by our 3) who you met in Wichita twice when you both spoke for KFBF. Our learning of “culture” has been from your book, podcasts, personal conversations from leaders, they Bible. All remind us to be servants, say meaning thanks often. In 2021, my “one word” is Gratitude. To show it, I attempt to speak words into every conversation, and write snail mail thank you notes. Our team meets monthly and Lance, our son, will find a 2-8 minute snippet of a podcast to introduce to the team. Hopefully-prayerfully the team sees the culture and attempts to buy in!
2/1/2021 02:00:49 pm
Wow Gregg...17 years in your 25 person family business. That is impressive! We are deeply grateful that you attribute part of that to our work with you in Wichita. The time you and your family have put into creating a family learning organization around culture and gratitude has certainly paid off. Congratulations Gregg, and thank you for sharing with our community.
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