Second-Guessing Culture

I read a really interesting article describing how seemingly positive points about a company’s culture can actually be hiding negative, dysfunctional aspects of an atmosphere.

It is not about how much time you have to spend on feel-good projects. It is not about catered food, expensive social outings, internal chat tools, your ability to travel all over the world, or your never-ending self-congratulation.

Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly.

I’ve been in workplaces that have cultural components that seem great on the surface, but actually hide dysfunctional aspects of the company’s environment.

When you’re looking for a job, make sure that your prospective employer is upfront about their culture and they aren’t using it to hide something negative. That’s tough – the best suggestion I can suggest is just drilling interviewers about their company’s culture. Ask in-depth questions: what they don’t say is as telling as what they do.


Posted on February 25, 2013