I’ve worked across a range of financial organizations - public and private, fintech startup and Fortune 100. The most deterministic factor in whether I excelled and enjoyed my job wasn’t factors like size, role, function, or resource level. It was my compatibility with the organization’s culture.
Every organization has a distinct culture with its own idiosyncrasies. It isn’t so much about finding the organization with the “perfect” culture or the one that “fits like a glove.” It’s about finding the one where you don’t mind and actually find your strengths well suited for the particular idiosyncrasies. Understanding this takes some self-awareness, trial-and-error, and asking the hard question on culture - are you compatible?
Here are some of the idiosyncratic aspects of corporate cultures I’ve encountered. Which one(s) would you be able to put up with or thrive in?
1. Steady bureaucracy: organizational preference for certainty, documentation, conservative risk-taking, incremental change, and consistency.
2. Loyalty, ego, and fealty win the prize: where those who know how to build relationships with the right people and play organizational politics to advance. This can be particularly true of many founder-led organizations, though not always, and can be countered with the proper checks.
3. Lack of business acumen: the dark-side of being at a social organization can be the lack of resources and business mentality/processes to execute on the mission, but it’s for a good cause!
4. In the clouds: foggy, unclear, ambiguous is how people describe an organization where there’s constant change, few formal processes, and few structures.
5. Musical chairs: Re-orgs are a stable of many large organizations and come frequently depending on the arrivals, departures, and promotions of executives.
For me, I prefer the ambiguity, constant change, and churn of a ‘in the clouds’ culture. My strengths lay in providing leadership in times of change and bringing structure to places where there is little. I tend to focus on the potential of the situation, rather than all the challenges that surround.
As individuals, we get to move with our feet. So, the next time you’re thinking about making a move, reflect on the kinds of environments you prefer (and don’t).