Workplace culture

The term 'workplace culture' doesn't really do justice to the reality of the workplace, in many cases. The workplace culture is different in most jobs. Every employer is different and every job has its own related environment. Each workplace section and department has its own culture.

The nature of the workplace is often created by the people working in it. Some workplaces have very nice areas to work, and some places are literally considered dungeons by the staff. Some departments are managed, or over-managed, rigorously. Some are under-managed and considered chaotic.

The workplace culture is one of the primary causes of both job stress and job satisfaction. If you're looking for a job or making a career move, you're well advised to find the sort of workplace culture you prefer. The idea of a Preferred Working Style (PWS) is relevant here, but it's not the whole story. Your preferred style may clash, severely, with some workplace environments.

The fact is that employers hire people on the basis of their Preferred Working Style. Many interview questions are designed to find out if you fit their workplace. This is useful information to you, too, and can save you a lot of time and trouble going for jobs where you just wouldn't fit the environment.

For example:

Your PWS is with a small, informal team. You've worked in these teams for awhile, enjoyed it, and are looking for something similar. How do you find the right workplace culture?

Answer: You research your industry, employer by employer, starting with the ones with good reputations and obvious job and/or career prospects. Specifically, you zero in on the areas where you want to work. The information you need is basic: Which employers have the workplace environment you need?

The best way to check this out is to do some networking. Use your industry contacts and see what they know. This is by far the easiest and most reliable way to find this information, because when you're talking to people who understand your professional position, you get professional level information.

You could talk to the employer's HR department, but they don't necessarily give you what you want to know, but what they think they should tell you. They're also highly unlikely to say anything negative about their own employer, so there's no critical appraisal factor. However, HR can tell you a lot about the workplace in the area you're interested in, even if you have to translate that into the information you need.

If you ask about the office structure and environment and HR tells you they have a huge open plan office, everybody works on the same floor, there are no partitions, etc.; the translation is that there's definitely no 'small team' environment. It's almost the diametric opposite of your PWS, so scratch off one possible employer.

If you check out the workplace culture of potential employers, that alone will tell you a lot of things you need to know.