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My Medical Device Sales Career

8 Ways To Determine If a Company's Culture Will Make or Break You

You have heard it before, people are miserable in their jobs if they hate their boss.  Funny how that works, because most often that boss is a reflection of the company culture!  Most bosses still are hired and promoted from within the same company.  Someone in upper management liked his work performance and his persona and decided he was a great company employee.  He was deemed worth promoting so he can go forth and hire more people just like himself and train them to be mini-me's.  Right?  After all, that is how company culture is propagated year upon year; like hires like, like trains like and like promotes like. 

We know that not ALL managers reflect the company culture, most of those will be let go or demoted if there is a true culture clash.  They usually don’t live long in the role.  Sometimes people get tricked taking a job because they loved the manager, a manager who was really a culture misfit and nothing like the company they represented!   Never use just one point of reference to determine the company culture!

That said most seasoned managers are a reflection of their company culture, especially a long term manager who has been very successful within a stable organization.  Every person lives and breathes within their company ecosystem.  Those that are in their RIGHT ENVIRONMENT will thrive, those that are in their wrong environment, just won't.  Then there are those that are in-between; they can adjust enough to deal with it, but probably will never thrive within it.  Sort of like a tomato plant that needs full sunlight, but is planted in a spot that only gets partial sunlight and it never really produces top quality tomatoes. They survive, but not producing anywhere near their full potential.  

We have many sayings that touch upon the fact that a company's culture is a living and breathing ecosystem and you either adapt to it or die within it:

Only the strong survive here

He was a fish out of water

He needs to learn how to swim with the sharks

It's a 'dog eat dog' place

He was a misfit

Most people know how important finding a culture fit is when seeking a new job, but few know how to assess a company’s culture.  In fact, many people don't know what type of business environment they would thrive in!  They are the tomato trying to find somewhere they would be happy, but they keep picking a partially shaded area to reside or worse, they select a completely shaded area that will surely lead to their demise.  That's one dumb tomato!  

So how does one assess a company’s culture when you are interviewing for an open position?  

Often job candidates only have contact with a direct report Hiring Manager during the process or, if they are lucky, the Human Resource Manager and perhaps the heads of various departments like Marketing or some other discipline.  They all seem so nice during the interview and we all know that everyone is truly themselves during the interview process, right?  How does one determine what the air is like inside?  It is one thing to visit and interview within it, but a whole other thing to live and breathe within it every single work day.  

YOU cannot assess whether you will thrive within a company culture UNTIL YOU FIRST know yourself.  You need to understand what type of environment you would thrive in.  Perhaps our dumb tomato didn't know he needed full sunlight and was fully aware he was planting himself in a shaded area.  He simply didn't know what type of environment he would thrive in vs. one he would merely exist or survive within.

 

PREPARING YOUR CULTURE-THRIVING CHECK LIST

  1. Know thyself.  What type of environment would you do well within?  Do you like structure?  Set Hours?  A boss who tells you exactly what you need to do each day or one that expects you to run your own show?
  2. Write it down.  Go ahead, write it down BEFORE you begin interviewing with the company.
  3. Remember, this is not a survival list of just your minimal needs to be able to just survive in the workplace; this is your THRIVING list.  This is the list that includes full sunlight with just the right amount of water and fertilizer!

If you think you really don't know yourself that well, then it is time to do some soul searching.  A person with multiple jobs is usually doing a trial by error method.  If you have had previous jobs, really dissect what you liked and what you did not like about each job.  Usually a theme develops.

If you are new to the job market and in that first job hating it, use that job and culture to dissect exactly what you like and don't like before you jump to the next company!  

Young people in college do take advantage of internships or even volunteering your services.  Remember that your parents, relatives or friends parents are great resources.  Many will even let you go to work with them for the day to see what they do at work.  I did it when I was young and I knew the basics of what I would like or not like!  

Once you determine the environment you would thrive within, you have the difficult task of determining if that new job RESIDES with a company that provides that type of culture!  No easy task indeed, but there are some things you can do to get an accurate read on a company’s cultural climate.

 

8 WAYS TO DETERMINE IF A COMPANY'S CULTURE WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOU

  1. The Hiring Manager: how long has he been with the company and is he a valued performer?  If that manager is a valued employee, then listen to how he answers your questions about what he is looking for in the right person for the job.  As mentioned earlier, he is someone who probably reflects the corporate culture if he has tenure and successful.  He will tell you exactly what he is looking for (trust me on this one; I use to be a hiring manager).  If he says he wants a workaholic that work comes first and family second and that is not how you operate then pass on the job!  Good managers will tell you the type of person they are looking for, you just need to ask!  If the manager is new from outside the company or just promoted, you need to make sure you check in with the rest of this list!
  2. Find former, but recently employed, people who use to work for the company.  Get busy on LinkedIn and begin to search for several people who use to work at this company within the past 2 years. Connect to them and ask if you could talk to them confidentially.  Most people will share their experience with a company.  Ask if they did well there and why they quit.  The reason they may have quit may have been their problem (think of the Tomato trying to live in the shade), it may be just the perfect reason why you would want the job!
  3. Find a current employee within the company (but be careful if that person reports to the Hiring Manager). Get back on LinkedIn and do your search, find someone who is doing a similar job as to the one you are interviewing for but best to stay away from someone reporting to the same Direct Report Hiring Manager (too risky if that person is a valued confident of the manager!).  Always best to ask first if the person knows the hiring manager and their relationship to them.  If distant, than good, ask away about their perception of the company culture.  Make sure they understand that it is confidential and then keep it that way.
  4. Review past and current company news. Use Yahoo Finance to watch the current company news and review past articles.  Are they in financial trouble?  Do they have product problems, customer or employee lawsuits pending?  Think of Enron for an extreme example or people hiring into Kodak!  A company not performing well is a real strong indicator that the culture is probably not ideal for anyone working within it and may be impending layoffs.  Looking into a company's financial strength is very important!
  5. Call their customers.  If the company is a service company, then find out who their top customers are and call one or two.  One of those former or current employees may give you a name and number if you ask for it.  Find out how the customer views the organization and their products and services.
  6. Observe behaviors and look around you.  As you are interviewing be aware and be alert.  It is true, what people do is more meaningful than what they say.  You go to corporate headquarters and you hear a conversation between two employee's that they have to get to work by 6:30 am to see who looks like they are the hardest working (ding, ding, company culture).  You go to lunch with a trainer and you are told a raunchy joke (ding, ding).  You overhear the hiring manager talking to his employee over the phone and in a tone you would not like to be on the other end receiving.  Every interview begins late or gets cancelled repeatedly. Ding, ding, ding.  Watch, listen and don't ignore warning signs.
  7. Find out who is running the ship.  Company cultures are formed by groups of people and they are usually created most strongly by those at the top of the organizational chart.  Who is the CEO, President and Vice President running the ship?  Go to LinkedIn and see how long they have been at the current company.  Also review their previous companies of employment; see how those companies did during their tenure.  Listen or read the quarterly earnings report issued to Wall Street on yahoo finance.  You will hear the big guys talk about current earning and future expectations (including possible downsizing's). Be aware of large scale management change-overs at the top of an organization.  If suddenly top people are asked to leave and replaced with a whole new outside team of managers from another company they often will attempt to change the company culture to the one they came from. New CEO's or Presidents will often do this and believe me things will change, right down to salary's, benefits and commission plans.  It may be best to pass on the opportunity until the changes have been made (that can take up to as little as a year or possibly 2 years).
  8. Lastly, and don't ignore this, TRUST YOUR GUT!  Yes, we may have progressed from killing what we eat to survive, but we have not lost all of our animal instincts.  If the job is not feeling right, then something is wrong and I suggest you pass on the job (unless you are unemployed and need to take something to get a check coming in the door).  There is something to be said about fright and flight.  This is not a time to be brave and put yourself in a possibly frightful situation.

They say the leading reason why people quit their job is because they do not like their manager, but now let’s consider the larger picture, the company culture that the manager resides within and one you will share with him if you decide to take the new job.   If you utilized all 8 ways to assess a company’s culture and it appears to provide the climate for you to thrive, then you may have just found what all employees are striving to find; a place they can grow and set down roots. Remember to be a smart Tomato!

 

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