Part 2: Your Company Has A Corporate Culture…Do You?

be differentIn Part 1, “What Is Your Company’s Corporate Culture?” we discussed what a corporate culture is, looked at some examples of iconic companies that have unique corporate cultures, and introduced the concept of a “personal” corporate culture. Full disclosure:  there is no real definition for a personal corporate culture – I made the term up. It seems almost like an oxymoron. Regardless, I believe that your personal corporate culture is a complex combination of who and how you want to be at work. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Oh, if only it were so.

While in theory people are always working in their company’s best interest, the sad reality is that this is often not the case. Anyone trapped in the inevitable web of office politics (that is every person on earth who works for a company with more than one employee) knows this to be true. At our very base instinct, we are constantly focused on building our own Maslow pyramid, which ultimately puts us in the position of placing ourselves in the center of our own universe and putting everyone else, including our employer, somewhere on the outskirts.

We all know that the core driver of every for-profit company is to make money, and your value to your company is measured by how you contribute in a way that helps them make money. As part of that process, your company’s corporate culture hopefully encourages its employees to work harder, smarter, more creatively, etc, so as to make them even more money.

While you may have a good understanding of your company’s corporate culture, do you have a good understanding of your personal corporate culture? Do you put in the extra hours when needed, or are you working at 80% effort most days? Do you put serious creative effort into planning, prioritizing, strategizing, and executing in a way that multiplies your value to your clients and your company? Are your ethics and values unimpeachable, regardless of the temptations of ego, power, and money?

Time to be honest with yourself…

You are not the most wonderful person all the time. Neither am I. The CEO of a management consulting company recently shared his view with me that individuals are constantly at battle with their desired self-values and conflicts over ego, power, and money. We all do this every day; some days better than others. It gets much more complicated when we add these self-conflicts to our job-conflicts. Your best strategy to cope with and hopefully routinely conquer these conflicts is to first understand your own values and morals (honesty, integrity, work ethic, etc.) so that you can understand how they can be compromised by ego, power, and money. This will help you understand how these forces all come together to form your personal corporate culture.

Balancing your personal corporate culture with your company's corporate culture is no easy task.

Balancing your personal corporate culture with your company’s corporate culture is no easy task.

That self-assessment done, it is time for a little comparison exercise. How well does your personal corporate culture align with your company’s corporate culture? Be very careful (and candid) here – there are a lot of moving parts to deal with. For example, you and your company may share the same values, but what about your boss? What about your boss’s boss? What about colleagues? What about your own staff? One small imbalance can have far-ranging repercussions that are often difficult to see.

Messy, messy, messy.

You have most certainly been dealing with all of these issues for a while. And more or less, you have made things work. But if there are conflicts over core issues, either you or your company (most likely both) will be unhappy with the situation. For example, I once worked for a company that was the poster child for the concept of work/life balance. If you called someone at 5:01 PM or anytime on the weekend, there was nobody there to answer the phone. While that made for an enviable lifestyle for most of the employees, my team was working 70 hour weeks launching a new division. Part of my personal corporate culture is that if one of my employees is working, regardless of day or time, then I am working as well. I expected the same kind of support from my boss and the company but didn’t get it. Who was wrong here? It really doesn’t matter – our cultures were in conflict, and the result was plenty of pain for all of us.

Often the problem is just the opposite:  a hard-driving company with a coin-operated sales force that wants you to come into the office for an impromptu meeting and doesn’t care that your daughter is getting married that day. This is why I urged you to be honest with yourself on your personal corporate culture. If you want to make money at all costs, then you will be frustrated with a slow-moving, bureaucratic company that is stuck in the ’90s. If you want to turn off your cell phone on evenings and weekends, then you will be frustrated with a fast-moving, sales-at-all-costs company. There is no right or wrong here…just a need to understand the dynamics of the conflicts and decide if you are in the best place based on the realities of the situation.

My personal corporate culture has always been to work where I can do my best and most creative work, be of the highest value to my clients and company, and be well paid for my efforts and results. If I need to put in a lot of hours or live half my life in airports, so be it. Someone else’s might be to balance family life with limited travel, enjoy job security with a stable company, and manage a group of younger employees who can benefit from their accumulated wisdom and experience. Again, what your personal corporate culture is matters far less than how well it fits in with your company’s corporate culture.

Do the math:  (your personal corporate culture) X (your company’s corporate culture) = (% of alignment)/(% of conflict). Or create a color-coded pro/con spreadsheet with pivot tables. Or scribble down a list on the back of an envelope. But give those four things some careful consideration. Your happiness at your company, your client’s satisfaction with your services, and your company’s appreciation of your value will rely on it.

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