The interview appeared to go well and she was offered the job in what seemed like a perfect environment, a thriving young company making a splash in the media world. And yet
she was gone within two months. Why? She didn’t like table tennis. She didn’t like the way the brainstorm meetings worked, and the high frequency of Google hangouts. She had a boyfriend and wasn’t comfortable with the high number of social events, but also didn’t like the dinner time arrangements. She didn’t fit in.
It’s impossible to calculate how often the above scenario unfolds, with seemingly perfect staff unable to bend their ways of thinking and eventually departing. Maybe there’s an expectation of 18-hour workdays and constant excellence that takes a mental and physical toll. Perhaps workers are faced with dubious practices. Maybe there are days where everyone goes out for a hamburger in the same place every Friday.
Due to the surge in social media such as Quora, LinkedIn and Twitter, blogs focusing on business structure and working, and individual websites and job descriptions (for example, here), we can compare company culture from across the world. We can see offices with sweet machines and slides and safe spaces that just would not have existed several years ago. The worlds of the small independent business and a Silicon Valley giant are not aligned. Those windows into a company’s ethos and ways of thinking should be researched before an applicant even thinks of applying for a job.
A recent analysis of the world of Amazon opened a few people’s eyes to life inside the retail giant, and it did not make good reading. The New York Times piece, written by an insider, said: “Workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high.’”
One wonders whether this was revealed in interviews. If so, were employees so eager to get on board one of the world’s true heavyweight retail ventures that they didn’t listen or care?
How were such ‘bruising’ workplace features articulated? If the article content is true, and this is subject to conjecture, then Amazon is probably not alone. ‘Jerks’ often succeed at work, because they’re smarter and more creative and better at getting ideas heard, according to Business Insider.
Successful companies tend to have successful company cultures, although defining what that actually means is tough, and passing it on to potential employees is even tougher. Creating a culture might cost money and measuring its direct effect is difficult. According to research featured in HBR.org, the reason there are six main reasons why we work, three of which are positive (play, purpose, potential) and three of which are negative (emotional and economic pressures, inertia). Studies have shown that if a company’s culture focuses on the first three and less on the final three, tend to lead to higher customer satisfaction.
The piece concludes that holding regular reflections within departments, explaining why decisions are taken, and clearly defining people’s roles within the company, tends to lead to success. Therefore, this should be a part of the process for potential employee and employer – the former should be informed of the structure and processes that have brought the company forward, the latter should carry out psychometric tests or ask questions in interviewing, to make sure applicants understand. If both parties agree that the potential worker will flourish, then an acceptance is likely and the costly exercise of running a recruitment again months down the line is less likely.