How to recognise poor culture at a company

Look at the small things. They tell you everything you need to know and they are extremely difficult to hide. But firstly, why do we care about the small things? Because, in the end, the small things reveal the culture of a company and poor culture destroys a company from the inside out.

But what do we mean by small things?

Is there a leaking tap in the toilets that never gets fixed? Is there a door that never opens properly and has always been that way? Maybe a bit of carpet that came up that people trip over but for some reason was never put back down, even though all it needed was a little bit of glue? All of these things (and many more) are signs of a no ownership culture.

So what if people are not sweating the small stuff, all that matters is profitability right? Wrong. If employees are not attending to the small things, you can be sure that they are not attending to the big things either. You see, incompetence and lack of ownership is never restricted to one area. If it is in one place and left to fester, like a cancer, pretty soon it is everywhere. Or, put another way, a leaking tap is the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s not forget that you cannot trump your environment so if you work in a company with a poor culture you have two choices: 1. Stay and become part of the problem or 2. Leave.

It is worth saying too that a company is nothing more than the people that work for it. So if you have a company with poor culture you simply have the wrong people working there. This is because people who are any good either succumb to the poor culture or they leave so in the end no matter what happens the company will be run by the wrong people.

So what is the take away? Next time you start a new job at a company, don’t look at the billboards, the flash offices, the advertising or the corporate events, look for the little things. The signs are always there and if they indicate a poor culture, get out, as fast as you can.

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