Company Culture Is as Real as Personal Brands Are

Before JibberJobber, I worked at a company (Varsity Contractors) that did over $200M in building maintenance (janitorial, taking care of big buildings, etc.). I was the first IT Manager, and did things like web development (internet and extranet), networking management, user support, buying computers, upgrading the server room, etc.  I was a jack of all trades.

Before I got there, the CFO managed about five contractors who did all of the IT stuff.  Taking that over was a blast, and I learned and grew a lot.  I am forever thankful for that chapter in my career, where I learned a lot.  One thing that I’ll never forget is the power of a company culture.  Varsity had a rich history, and great contracts.  But the margins were super-thin, and we all know janitors don’t make a lot of money.  But I entered a world where culture was highly touted, and one of the most critical things in the organization.  And the fruits of having a strong culture would be hard to believe, had I not witnessed them myself.

One thing that stands out: watching people do ANYTHING (legal, ethical, etc.) for the company.  Not to the point of giving up their family or integrity, but managers would really do anything for the interest of the company.  They would do it gladly.  It was as if they had ownership in a big machine, and they were immensely proud of this machine.  I witnessed this for years, and was in awe at how powerful the culture was.

Why?  How?  That is for another post.  In this post I want to just talk about the idea of culture… it is real, and it is powerful.

I share this with you because of three blog posts I recently read:

Company Culture Is A Myth, by Laurie Ruettimann. I’ve followed Laurie for years, and love her thinking.  But I don’t agree with her post.  Many of her commentors, who are in HR or recruiting, don’t agree either. Read the comments, and note the big difference between “culture” and “fit.”

Does your job search plan address company culture? by Martin Buckland. I also love how Martin thinks… he’s an executive job search coach in Canada, and puts out great stuff.  This question reminds me of someone I know who transitioned careers and chose to go into a company that paid well (for a while… then they did a bait-and-switch… snakes!), but had a demoralizing, soul-crushing culture.  This was a first-hand example that proved that money isn’t everything, and that money can’t compensate for certain horrible things.  Go after money, and disregard culture, at your own peril.

Why Am I Here? By Kylie Hunt, a new Pluralsight author.  Kylie is in Australia and in this inaugural blog post, she talks about why she left the company she has been at for over 10 years. Specifically, the leadership and the culture pushed her away, to a point of being unhappy, and she had to leave. Is it any surprise that her first course in Pluralsight is titled Boost Productivity Through Employee Happiness? Note: I can give you free access to her course, and to all of mine… just watch the short how-to video on this page. Bonus: watch any of my courses, and you get an additional 7 day upgrade on JibberJobber.

You can poo-poo the concept of culture, but having been there, and hearing from hundreds or thousands of job seekers over the years, I know, and cannot deny, the existence and power of company culture.  That could be at the meta level, or within a small team, or anywhere inbetween.

What are your experiences, positive or negative, with culture within a company?

1 thought on “Company Culture Is as Real as Personal Brands Are”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. My first job out of college was a poor fit, I did a lot of soul searching and found a better one, when I got out of grad school I was lucky to find a wonderful job, I loved my manager, the industry, the work, and I and stayed as the company and client evolved, most of the time pretty happy until the big layoff of 2006 that launched 6 years of very interesting employment times. Landed a new job in a couple of months and the culture there was so different from what I’d known before, by the time they let me go, 8 months later I hardly knew who I was anymore. I had to leave that job off my resume because I couldn’t even talk about it. How the people I worked with who are still there bear it I have no idea. Had a series of jobs some good, one nearly as bad (as a supplier to the company with awful job #1) over the next several years, then I got hired as a short term contractor at what had been my client at the long-running good job. I walked in, started working and the job just fit like a glove, it was a completely different area than I’d ever worked with on the supplier side, but it needed someone with my skillset and their values and goals, the manner of working, just matched what I knew. I felt comfortable with my co-workers right away and was treated as a valued contributor. What was supposed to last 5 weeks lasted 8 months before I got a call out of the blue about the job I now have at a company that had been on my target list for years.

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