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Salli Figler
Salli Figler

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Company Culture?

So much talk about having the right culture. How to create a positive culture, how to change a company culture, how to fit into the company culture. Executives go to training and have personal coaches to help them create the right culture for their employees.
I recently started a new job at a new company. A bouquet of flowers was waiting on my desk when I arrived on my first day. My manager works so collaboratively. We spend hours together in a conference room on calls, reviewing data and figuring out problems together. The other people in my department are friendly and helpful. We all go to lunch together almost every day.

When I needed to get information that would help me do my job more efficiently, I was welcomed with open arms by the other departments in the company.
The CEO is already shortening my first name and calling me by my childhood nickname, the CFO meets me in the coffee room and teases about how much (too much) coffee we are both drinking. Every other Thursday lunch is brought in for everyone.

The week of Halloween we had costume, cubicle decorating, and pumpkin carving contests. There will be a big holiday party coming up in a few weeks that everyone is looking forward to.
I haven’t worked in a company with this great of a culture in a very long time – maybe even never.
I knew a colleague of mine from one of my prior companies was unhappy and looking for a new job. The perfect job was open, so I recommended her. Within weeks, she had the job. Although we worked in different departments, her desk was close to mine.
I was happy to have her at my new company and she seemed happy as well. She described her old boss at the old company as a “nightmare”. I was so glad she was here now in this new company and new culture. Our lunch group expanded as she joined us almost every day for lunch. She was getting to know other people in the company and came in with a smile every day.
After about a month, she was fired. My manager knew that she and I were friends and gave me the news with sympathetic words. I was so surprised; what went wrong? She seemed happy.

That evening on my ride home, I called her. She told me she was so unhappy and now relieved that she was no longer working for my company. The company with what I think, is the best culture I have ever worked in. And then she said it, “next time you want to bring me in somewhere, make sure you really know the person I will be reporting to”. She then went on to tell me how terrible (even worse than the boss she left) her new boss was. He put up a wall, he wasn’t giving her work and when he did, he did so with no instruction. She felt like he really disliked her. She added that she was already planning on leaving if things did not get better in a short time.

So, what is company culture? Apparently, it is not how the CEO or CFO acts, it is not the free coffee and parties; it is how you are treated by your direct supervisor. The CEO may think they are the one who is setting the tone for all to follow, but not all supervisors and managers do follow. Many probably don’t even realize that they may be making someone’s life so miserable. Your direct boss is the one who is setting the culture for you.
So yes, if you are thinking of recommending your company to someone else, be sure to know more about the boss than the general company culture. And when you are interviewing, ask more than what the company culture is like. Ask about the boss and their management style and their temperament. Company culture doesn’t always get embraced by everyone in the organization and it is often different for two different employees, even if they sit right next to each other.

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