Most big companies have a broad understanding of their own culture and shared values. This is an important tool for company’s leadership, a part of the marketing strategy as well as a guideline to solving any internal issues. But in what specific ways can it influence you directly?
For most of the time on this blog I have been focusing on a national culture and its influences on living and working abroad. There is another type of culture I’d like to talk about which is an organisational culture, or company culture in other words. It’s a set of rules, values, behaviours, attitude shared by (ideally ;)) all employees and encouraged by the company.
Here is a couple of ways in which the organisational culture may have impact on your international career.
I’m not sure that many people actually pay much attention to this when looking for a job. Some will probably ask some culture-related questions, but I have doubts whether it’s a real interest helping to make a decision or maybe just a way of continuing conversation and show off during an interview. Either way, I’d like to encourage you to explore the organisational culture of the company you’re applying to, especially if you’re looking for a job in a different country. The more you know about the way people work in an organisation, the more informed decision you will make to work there or not. No one likes to waste time, right?
You’re more likely to stay within one company and have a fulfilling career there if your values and priorities match the ones of your employer. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes it might even have more value than the actual tasks you perform.
Day to day frustrations
Remember the article about the Scheduling scale of Meyer’s Culture Map? Let’s take it as an example for this part. Imagine a British person coming from a rather linear time culture and doesn’t really tolerate being late, sticks to the agenda, plans the activities thoroughly. Imagine you apply to a British company, where you expect the culture to be just like that – linear timed. Everything goes well, you get the offer, you didn’t even ask many questions about the internal culture, assuming that if it’s a British one there shouldn’t be any issue. Well, assuming can very often lead to huge misunderstandings.
You start work and very quickly realise that the perception of time in that particular global company is slightly different that you expected. People are almost always late for meetings, everyone else treats this as normal behaviour and accepts it. What happens with you however is that you get frustrated, more and more frustrated, because this is something that you don’t like to compromise on neither in life nor at work (if you would agree to just get on with it, that wouldn’t be that much of an issue of course, but it still could mess with your perceptions) and you find it simply rude. There is a great chance that you will just leave that job to find one that matches your values more.
In that scenario the situation is really simple, it’s just about being late. In real life however the frustrations can come from value-related topics and that’s when it gets messy. Values are very deeply rooted in us and we usually look for relationships (private or professional) that match them in a way.
When applying for a job make sure to talk to as many people as you possibly can during the recruiting process to learn different perspectives on the working styles, values, preferences that lie within the company. You can then decide if it’s something you might compromise on. Otherwise your day to day frustrations will pile up over the weeks, months or even years of working there…
If you are to work with a client, it’s also a good idea to do an extra research on the values that this company shares. These information are now very rarely missing from companies’ websites. Why? It might help you lead the conversation to achieve your goal. If you know what is important for the client you might sell them the services that they will most likely need or better tailor your package to client’s needs. If you are working on cutting costs within a company, you will understand why the client doesn’t want to reallocate any funds from the playgrounds they set up nearby for their employees, if they deeply value family and connections. This will simply be nonnegotiable and the sooner you get there, the sooner you will be able to come up with some other solutions acceptable for the client.
Additionally, it helps maintain a healthy relationship with the client. If for them family and personal life is highly valued – you will stop being frustrated that your meeting keeps being pushed back because of ‘personal situation’ and you might stop treating it as unprofessional behaviour.
Understanding the underlying motivations of people’s behaviours is very often the key to having healthy relationships with people and makes you a much better and empathetic leader.
There is one more way in which the organisational culture can influence your career. That one especially refers to a global company that has a number of offices in multiple locations. Assuming (yeah yeah, I know I said we can’t assume anything but that’s different!) that the organisational culture is actually taken care of in that company, it gives you a lot of international development opportunities.
Say, you live in Great Britain like you have for your whole life already and you’d like to try something new. You’ve always dreamt of going to Italy – you even have some A-level Italian somewhere at the back of your head. If you have the possibility of transferring within the company this move can be so much easier thanks to the organisational culture. Moving from UK to Italy is already quite a (national) cultural shock. Changing your work environment in addition to this would be an even bigger one.
Organisational culture can sometimes be as important factor as the national culture for your adaptation after moving abroad. Be sure to work for a company whose values you share and appreciate — and spare yourself many frustrations! 🙂