August 22, 2010
Avoid culture shock: Determine whether you’ll fit in at a company before you start
The Associated Press
Barry Maher had been at his job as sales representative of a Fortune 100 firm for less than a month when he attended the company’s Super Bowl party.
He walked in, grabbed a beer and a plate of food, and sat down at the nearest table where his boss, division manager and regional vice president were sitting. Turns out it was a bad move.
“ ‘Not here, Barry,’ the VP told me, rather harshly, I thought,” he says. The VP then added, “This is the management table.”
Maher replied, “Oh, corporate strategy and all that, huh?”
“No,” came the response. “No business today. But this is the management table.”
Check out these websites for more insight about company culture.
companyculture.com: Find questionnaires about gauging company culture and learn more about boosting morale and productivity.
glassdoor.com: Read employee reviews and interview assessments of more than 84,000 companies.
quintcareers.comemployer_corporate_ culture.html: Get more questions to ask during an interview, plus questions to ask other employees at the company.
Maher, who now has his own business in motivational speaking, learned a lot in that short and not-so-sweet interaction. In an instant, it was clear that “personal position and power were extremely important to those people” and perhaps “more important to them than creating the best possible company and doing the best job possible,” he says.
This is one of those things you’d rather know before joining a company. But the culture of a place — how people communicate and treat each other, and its overall priorities and attitudes — is not always easy to decipher.
For Kirsten Osolind, the moment of truth came in an e-mail during a job hunt. Osolind, former national marketing director for Whole Foods, had interviewed for an executive-level marketing job at an international company. She received a written offer.
“Interested but cautious, I sent an e-mail thanking the company for the offer with questions about the offer,” Osolind says. She asked about things like title, starting date, benefits and salary.
“I received a terse e-mail response from the president that read: ‘The offer is firm and non-negotiable. Give us your answer by COB (close of business) tomorrow.’ ”
The next day she got a call from the human resources department rescinding the offer. She says she was disappointed and shocked, but also relieved.
“The company president revealed his true colors,” Osolind says. “I can only imagine what would have happened the first time I questioned a decision.”
Pose questions such as these to get more insight into how the top guns think as you go through the interview process:
Do you encourage creative input from employees?
What does it take to be successful here?
What’s your customer-service philosophy?
What is the company’s leadership based on?
How does management communicate with employees?
How important is experimenting and coming up with new ideas?
Listen carefully to the responses. But listen just as carefully to what’s not being said, because the other test for knowing whether a company is right for you is that pang you might get in your gut — that flash of truth that tells you what you need to know. It’s not logical, but it can be where the most important information is hiding.
Where do you get that feeling? Most people experience an intuitive sense as emotion, and most experience emotion physically.
Lynn Robinson, author of “Trust Your Gut: How the Power of Intuition Can Grow Your Business,” says the ancient Chinese believed that wisdom resides in the stomach. But you might also “break into a sweat when faced with a choice you know isn’t right,” or you might “feel a tingly zing” up your spine, she says.
When it comes to making the right career decision, it pays to know what a tingly zing up your spine means when you get one.
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