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Which Company Culture Matches Your Work Style?


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Have you ever asked yourself, “what is the culture at my place of work and does it really fit me?”

There is a popular show on the Discovery Channel called “Deadliest Catch”. While most would say the show is about eight boats catching Alaskan King Crab in the deadly Bering Sea, I believe the show is really about the cultures that exist on each boat.

While watching the show one night, I asked my son, who was about to graduate from school, “which boat would you want to work on?”

His response was immediate, “the Northwestern!”

“Why the Northwestern?” I asked. “Aren’t they all doing the same thing, catching crab. What difference does it make which boat you are on?”

He responded that the Northwestern’s captain was fair and respectful; the crew worked hard, was happy; and they were successful each season with the same crew. He also added, the other boats were filled with drama.

“Do you think some people like working on those other boats because they like the drama?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so,” he replied.

Here was my moment to offer fatherly advice!

“That is a great lesson in life. As you start your career with your first job, ask yourself, am I on the right boat? If you are not, get off! Don’t be miserable, unproductive, and negative. Life is too short. Find a different boat! When you are on the right boat, things will be easier, you will be more successful, and you will be happier.”

Much has been said and written about company culture. Most of it is quite confusing. My experience has shown the ownership structure of an organization draws different individuals that make up the culture. Remember getting psych tests to determine if you are a logical thinker, abstract thinker, driver, amiable, social, introvert, etc.? These different personalities migrate toward different types of companies. I group the companies into three categories: stock owned, not-for-profit, and privately owned. Let’s take a look at each one.

Stock-Owned Companies 

In a stock-owned culture, individuals tend to be fact-based drivers. Stock price is down? Layoff a division! To heck with the individuals in it! Conversations are something like “the research shows… our market analysis is… the data proves...” Decisions happen quickly here, sometimes for the wrong reason or simply for the sake of change when a new vice president wants all to know that he/she is now in charge! It usually comes down to one person making the decision. The workforce has a higher turnover rate. If you are a linear, logical thinker who has little regard for the emotion, then this is the place for you. I worked at a stock-owned company where the VP had a military management style (follow protocol at all costs). He had done well in his career at this company, and he was a former Naval officer. This culture will have golf leagues and softball teams to foster employees' competitive nature.   

Related Reading: Employee Satisfaction: The Key to Your Financial Institution's Success

Not-for-Profit Companies 

Not-for-profits are the polar opposite of stock-owned companies. Examples of not-for-profit companies include churches, hospitals, places of education, and some health care companies. Abstract thinkers with an empathetic nature tend to be drawn to these type of companies. Conversations here are, “I feel we should… I think we could… I would like to…”  Decisions are made by committee and take a long time (think analysis paralysis). The workforce has a low turnover rate (30th work anniversaries happen frequently) and lower than market pay. If you are an abstract thinker with an amiable side who wants to participate in the annual holiday cookie exchange, you will love this culture. These folks gather on the weekends to do worthy projects for the poor, sick, and needy because they are socially conscious. When you get sick, they will all show up to donate blood! And, Food Day (bringing in treats) happens almost every day!

Privately Owned Companies 

Lastly, the privately owned company falls somewhere between stock-owned and not-for-profit. Privately owned company cultures are driven from the saying, “if this were your money, what would you do?” In this case, it really is their own money! Conversations and decisions are based on gaining and keeping business. Driven, highly-motivated people who have a strong sense of loyalty do well at privately owned companies. Those that desire hiding in the background like a contestant on the TV show “Survivor” typically do not last long. If you work at a privately owned company, you can expect to work massive hours each week, spend time at work every weekend, and love doing it! If you have young children or a dog that needs to be let out at lunch, this will be a tough place to work.

If you are struggling or frustrated in your current work environment, take a look at the culture at your place of work. None of the above is right or wrong. The key for each of us is to match our working style with the culture that best fits us to ensure our own success. Life is too short. Find the right boat, get on it, have fun, and go catch some King Crab!

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