Sticky notes depicting one sad face surrounded by happy faces symbolising someone in the wrong company culture.
Image: Piotr Swat/Shutterstock

How to know when you’re in the wrong company culture

23 May 2018

Your current role ticks every box on paper, yet you can’t fight that niggling feeling that something isn’t right. Hays’ Chris Dottie will help you discover if you’re in the wrong company culture.

You know when you’ve bought new shoes that looked great and fitted perfectly in the shop, only to find that they have pinched, rubbed and slowly given you a nasty blister ever since?

Well, this is how you feel about your current job. You were really sold on the role and the company in the interview, hence why you accepted the job offer. And yet, ever since joining, something doesn’t feel right.

At first you thought maybe it was the role, but you still enjoy what you do, and you’re good at it. No, it’s something about the environment you’re working in, something less tangible. You can’t quite put your finger on it.

You might be facing a personality clash with your company culture, but how can you tell, and what should you do next?

You don’t feel part of the ‘in-group’

Usually you are an outgoing, sociable and chatty person who is more than capable of making friends at work. And yet, in this job, you can sometimes go an entire week without having a proper conversation with someone (or at least one that isn’t about work).

The problem is, unlike in previous jobs, you just don’t feel confident socialising with these new colleagues because you don’t feel part of the ‘in-group’.

You avoid making jokes and adding to the conversation for fear of saying the wrong thing, and half the time you aren’t invited to join in anyway. Consequently, you keep your head down, eat lunch alone, avoid team outings and, in truth, working at this company has become quite a lonely, isolated existence.

If this sounds familiar, then I would class this as the first sign that you are in the wrong company culture. While everybody is different and you can’t necessarily click with everybody, the right company culture would make you feel welcome.

It’s not just personal

It’s one thing to feel isolated on a personal level, but you also feel left out in a professional capacity.

You find it hard to get your ideas across to colleagues in meetings, and you have noticed that people either disagree with you (or worse, ignore you altogether). As such, you have avoided speaking up completely, which you know is damaging to your career progression.

Nobody should feel isolated at work. If you do, then this boils down to the fact that you aren’t in an open company culture where all ideas are embraced and everybody has an equal chance to get their voice heard by senior management. These types of inclusive work cultures do exist – you just need to find one.

You aren’t motivated to do a good job

As I said at the beginning, you love what you do. Anyone who knows you would say you are diligent, passionate and that you take pride in your work. And yet, with this position, your motivation levels have hit rock bottom. Why is this? If it’s any of the below reasons, then this is symptomatic of being in the wrong company culture.

  • You feel uninspired by senior management, and all of your colleagues for that matter
  • The company doesn’t seem to recognise, reward or celebrate success, at least not in the way you would like
  • Your work ethos is not aligned to your employer’s. Either everybody works too much, or too little
  • The company don’t seem very invested in your career development and lifelong learning
  • You no longer care about the values, purpose and overall vision of the company, or the part you play. In fact, you wouldn’t care if they went under tomorrow

A combination of the above is enough to make anyone feel apathetic at work. What’s worse is that this is now impacting your performance, and could hinder your longer-term career goals.

What to do next

Like I said, the company culture is the personality of the company, and you can’t get on with every single personality, which means you won’t fit in with every company culture.

Therefore, it’s important that you aren’t too hard on yourself, but treat this as a learning curve, and think carefully about the kind of culture you will fit into before making your next move.

  • Identify the type of culture you want to work in, from how inclusive they are to how they progress their employees and recognise success. Pinpoint everything you don’t like about this company, and how your next one will be different
  • Talk to your recruiter. Share your ideals as well as your overall career goals with them. They will have a rich client database and a good understanding of the personality of these companies. I would also advise reaching out to your professional and personal connections to see if they have any recommendations
  • Before interviews, check out the company’s social media page and online reviews. These can give a good indication of company culture
  • During interviews, look for clues about the company culture – for example, how the interviewer answers the question: ‘How would you describe the team dynamic?’

You wouldn’t choose to wear ill-fitting shoes every day, so why put up with a poor cultural fit? You deserve to feel a sense of belonging to your organisation, for the sake of your career progression and day-to-day happiness.

So, get out there and find a company culture that does embrace your values, work ethos and personality type, and just watch yourself thrive.

By Chris Dottie

Chris Dottie is managing director of Hays Spain. He joined Hays in 1996 as a consultant, before becoming manager of Portugal and then Spain, where he assumed his current role.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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