More and more, you hear hiring managers and HR professionals talk about the concept of “organizational fit”—the idea that a job applicant’s employment eligibility isn’t just about technical skills or credentials, but also about values, attitudes, and personality traits. In short, it matters that an individual’s culture lines up with the company culture, and vice versa.
It’s an important concept for businesses because when personal and corporate culture are not in alignment, it can actually cause the corporate culture to corrode—or at least, it can lead to some unhealthy tension.
Organizational Fit and Your Career Satisfaction
But organizational fit is not just something for hiring managers to be concerned with—nor is poor fit something that does damage to the company alone. Bad organizational fit can also have an adverse effect on the employee—leading to dissatisfaction and even to stalled career momentum. When you think about it, this just makes sense: After all, how would you like to work for a business with values completely opposed to your own?
A recent article from Forbesis helpful in addressing this topic, encouraging job seekers to ask about company culture during the interview process—and to be on the lookout for any “red flags” that suggest a problematic company culture. “Aside from the unpleasantness, bad cultures are also bad for your career. Successful people tend to work for winners, and a good culture has been shown to drive long term financial performance. Work for a happy place, and you’ll likely do better in life.”
Spotting the Trouble Signs
The question is, how can a job applicant spot the signs of a problematic company culture? Forbes lists 10 red flags to look for, and I think a few of them warrant repetition and explanation here:
- First, the article warns against companies that brag about having a Ping-Pong table. There is nothing wrong with having the table, mind you. The problem is when that becomes a focal point of the conversation about company culture, because it suggests the business has a fairly shallow view of what company culture means.
- A disorganized or dumpy-looking workplace is a big warning sign. It suggests that the company’s culture does not really prioritize collaboration or productivity.
- If nobody even talks about culture, that’s obviously a warning sign—because if they don’t talk about it, they must not value it.
- Also be on the lookout for a company that seems to hold its employees to an unfair or ill-defined standard—i.e., a company that constantly drones on about “excellence.”
Forbes says that some workplaces just seem “weird”—and that’s another red flag. “A happy workplace should hum,” states the article. “Some people should be up, moving around, and talking to one another. They should not seem bored or stressed. So take a look around, and ask yourself if the average person seems happy or not.”
Sounds fair to me. Companies define culture in different ways—and so do people. What’s important is finding a snug fit. The ball’s largely in your court, as far as that’s concerned, so make sure to think about company culture as you interview for different positions.