Continuing our series on helping you succeed at work, let’s turn to the question of cultural fit.

So far this month we have covered topics including the benefits of fuzzy Analytics team roles, avoiding VoC program pitfalls and Data Science methodologies. Now let’s take a step back from role specific advice.

In her latest guest blog post, Hanne Sorteberg returns to share her advice on the importance of cultural fit. I’ll leave her to explain how this relates to being a superhero (whether or not you wear a costume).

Take a closer look your work superhero

Who are the superheroes in your workplace? Do you look like them? If not, you may have a culture clash.

Do you have a superhero at work? Someone management always listens to, who always seems to succeed, whom co-workers admire and try to copy?

Do you feel like a superhero at work, or do you struggle with obstacles, feel misunderstood and unappreciated? It may be a sign of a bad cultural match.

Can you work hard enough to become a superhero?

At the beginning of my career, I was convinced that to succeed I just needed to work hard, and relentlessly go for the goal.

After a while, I realized that work is easier if your role matches not only your skill-set but also your behavioural traits and personality. If you are impatient and visionary, the role of a quality assurer is probably not for you. However, you may be great at identifying new business opportunities.

Even if your role is a good match, you may struggle if your attitude and values do not match with your company’s culture.

It took me many years and several job changes to understand fully the impact business culture has for your professional success.

Cultural fit: your job also forms you

Your first job forms you. You have your values from home, your friends and your education. The new role as an employee in a company imprints corporate values, politics and culture on your blank business canvas.

Moving on to the next job, you may realize that values, politics and culture can be very different from workplace to workplace. The behaviour you learned to be highly appreciated in one company may be career inhibiting in the next.

A result oriented, ambitious and proactive attitude may be celebrated in a highly competitive market with tough margins. The same attitude may be deemed as aggressive, uncooperative and cynical somewhere else.

How do you reveal a company’s culture?

The celebrated and communicated business “values” hanging in frames or painted on walls, do often not give a clue to what the culture is like. “Dedication“, “trust“, “people first” etc. are interchangeable across very different businesses that value very different things from their employees.

Cultural traits are the DNA of a business. They are not good or bad but represent what is valued in this organization.

To understand the culture, identify the company heroes. Who are appreciated and have formal or informal power? In one place, the heroes are the ones to speak clearly, freely and even roughly, expect a lot of themselves and others, and always talk of numbers and results. Another place may value the soft-spoken kind, that values relationships and consensus over short-term results.

Preparing for a different cultural fit (or not)

When I changed jobs from a global, competitive, technology company to a national media company, I was unprepared for the cultural crash. The attitude I had developed in my first job did not resonate with my new employer. My skills and experience were not valued in the same way.

It was like having a suitcase full of Japanese Yen, in a country where only Rubles are accepted. Like being a Marvel superhero in a DC Comics film.

Sometimes there is an opportunity to grow and change into the new business culture. Other times the gap is too wide from the person you are, with your values and personality traits, to match your new employer’s expectations. If that is the case, all your effort will feel like swimming against the stream.

For your next career move, consider carefully the cultural match. Identify the heroes, the appreciated traits at your prospective new employer; is it possible that it could be you?

Are you a good cultural fit? What should you do?

Many thanks for Hanne sharing with us on that important topic. I hope her post has prompted you to think about your cultural fit. This is a relevant topic for analysts, data scientists and insight leaders of all flavours.

I also see this issue emerge for leaders whom I coach. Some have discovered the need to change their employer or even their role for a happier cultural fit. Others have discovered how much that can be themselves in their current role.

What about you? Have you checked your work superheroes and your cultural fit? If so, will you do anything different as a result?