Talent Tip #84: Culture Matters Part Deux: How Current and Prospective Employees Should Consider Culture
Last month a friend in the liberty movement shared thoughts on how culture can attract (or repel) talent. We must have struck a nerve, as the response to the article was substantial. Because of that, I’m continuing the culture discussion by sharing one of the responses I received from my friend Dan. I hope you enjoy it!
“I really appreciated this month’s talent tip on culture. Fortunately, it’s been a long time since I worked in an “Office Space” environment, but I was nodding in fervent agreement while reading about the importance of a healthy working culture.
Certainly HR and executive team members are ultimately accountable for the culture, but all of us from intern to CEO play a role in maintaining and improving the culture. If I could add one thing to the talent tip, it would be that everyone has a role in shaping workplace culture.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that may be helpful to folks like me who aren’t managing anyone at the moment. The first two are tips on how to avoid a bad situation in the first place (therapy is awfully expensive), and the last one is what to do if/when we’re stuck like a voter in this year’s election.
- It’s not you. It’s me. I accepted one of my first jobs because I liked the hum of the fluorescent lights in the office. Seriously—face palm, right? I didn’t know enough about myself to recognize what a very bad fit I was for that position and how very different my working style was to most everyone else there. You can guess how that ended. I would have saved myself a lot of pain and suffering by taking a look inward and not accepting that position in the first place. After another bad fit, I finally stopped and asked myself: what do I want in a working environment? What characteristics do I want my colleagues to have? What has your best job been thus far? The worst? It wasn’t an easy process, and for a long time I had a U2 song in my head. But, with the help of a trusted friend or two, I figured it out. I’ve been much happier since.
- It’s not me. It’s you. A bit later on in my career, a job opportunity came along, but there were warning sirens going off all through the interview process. I took the job anyway. I lasted there four months—which is precisely how long it took me to find another job. Thankfully I had learned my lesson, and that next gig was a much better fit. Turns out deciding what you want and then ignoring it is almost as useful as a handbrake on a canoe.
Once I knew what I was looking for, it made it easier to research potential employers. I learned to only apply to places I thought I might fit. If I got an interview, I always had a couple of questions about culture. I don’t think it’s a coincidence my work life started to improve when I was more up front during the interview process. When you are real with potential employers, chances are much higher you’ll both make a mutually beneficial decision.
- It’s a bittersweet symphony. After three years, the company where I worked was bought out by another firm. During the merger, the culture changed rapidly. Especially once layoffs started being announced. Every Tuesday morning. For three months. Thankfully, I haven’t been in many situations like that. When I do find myself in a less than ideal situation, I first ask myself if my expectations are realistic. After all, no workplace is perfect. Then, I assess if I can change or influence the culture. It isn’t easy, but minor changes in attitude or going out of the way to be helpful make a big difference. Sometimes, repeating I can change I can change I can change like the little engine that could (or the Verve) is helpful. More productive is teaming up with a trusted supervisor or HR person. Final question: is it worth it to change? I had a coworker at the aforementioned company tell me to trust my instincts, and I would know when it was time to leave. She was right.
Hopefully in our line of work the answer to “is it worth it” is a resounding yes, but that’s no excuse for a lazy approach to our culture. I’ll use something I heard at SPN Annual Meeting during a session featuring Dr. De Hicks. He said ‘If behavior is an iceberg, the water is the culture because it affects everything else.’ There are a lot of dysfunctional corporations filled with talented people. Some of them might even love Mises to pieces. Let’s have the best working cultures to attract and retain the best and the brightest so we can promote a culture of freedom. After all, culture affects everything else.”