The culture of any organization is not always very evident at first glance. It is akin to what happens behind closed doors of any family. Is there a mean person on the floor who acts belligerently (just like a family member or two we all might have) – is there a habit of non-communication regarding big changes or other events happening in the organization?
Anytime you interview somewhere, you are getting the equivalent of a Facebook view into the organization and the people. You are only seeing the “good” but every place has good and bad – the idea is to find a place where the bad is not truly bad but just the norm. For instance, any organization struggles as the needs of the company is to make money and there are maybe hundreds or thousands of employees – across the board, there will be some people who are left feeling upset and/or angry about certain management decisions that impact them. But are there systematic issues with the culture? Is the boss in charge a mean person who enjoys making employees cry? Is there a co-worker who is a little off and maybe tries on your shoes if you walk away from your cubicle (yes, that really happened – but not to me). It is important to take a strong look to see beyond what is presented to you on interviews to really see what an organization is like from the inside.
The best way to do this is to ask questions – not just any questions, but the right questions. It is also important to listen to what is being said and also to what is not being said. Can you use your abilities of listening and questioning to get a good idea of the culture before you agree to join the company?
It is also important to get a sense of the culture of the firm through networking partners –you might not know someone who works there but someone you know might and if you have been a good networking partner, you might get introductions and information from the people who currently work there. I am not saying that people will be honest and tell you the full truth but you can get insights about how things work and the real story just be listening to what is said and of course what is not said.
Recently, there has been some news reports about Rent the Runway and how everyone who worked there now suffers from PTSD due to the "mean girls" atmosphere. Sometimes, where there is smoke there is fire. It is important to read the news about the company you are interested in joining and reading between the lines of said news. Do not let things scare you off but as I have said before in other posts, always go with your gut. Sometimes, the gut or intuition recognizes a potentially bad cultural fit or something else brewing in the environment.
Lisa Vento Nielsen