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Sizing Up Corporate Culture at Your Next Job

Imagine this scenario.


You’ve just started your first job out of college and you get this inter-office mail from
your new boss: “Has our client answered the questions we had for our report?”


Panic sets in. You’re working on a number of reports. Which one? And how should you
respond? You hardly know the new boss — would an in-person update be too informal?
Is inter-office mail too slow?


Effective workplace communication has always been a tricky business. But it’s probably
never been more challenging to achieve in corporate America than in today’s
fast-moving, quickly adapting and evolving business culture, where so much of the
interaction between coworkers and companies and their clients is now done through
computers.


While technology has certainly helped make our jobs easier, it has also made it more
difficult for workers to receive the human connection they need, according to Aaron J.
Nurick, one of Bentley University’s leading management professors and author of
The Good Enough Manager: The Making of a GEM.


“The ability of managers to communicate effectively with their employees and the ability
of employees to form productive relationships in the workplace has always been a
challenge. It’s only gotten to be more relevant in recent years, with so much of our
communications being conducted in emails and text messages,” says Nurick, who has
conducted research and consulted with several organizations in the areas of interpersonal
relations, emotional intelligence and organizational change.


According to the Gallup’s “State of American Workplace: 2010-2012” report, less than
half of U.S. workers employed full- or part-time feel completely satisfied with most of
the aspects of work. Perhaps even more alarming, the same report shows that just 30
percent of American employees said they were engaged — in other words, involved in,
enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.


Since the meltdown of 2008 and the recession that followed, companies of all sizes have
struggled to improve the bottom line while keeping their employees happy. And it’s not
just the older and more traditional suit-and-tie American companies that have labored
over how to strike a happy median between improving their corporate culture and raising
profits. Even the millennial-age entrepreneurs struggle with establishing order in all the
chaos at their casually dressed, often loosey-goosey start-up tech companies.


Surprisingly, no matter what kind of company they work at, most employees still indicate
they would rather be respected and recognized for their good work than receive pay
raises. A recent Inc. magazine article entitled “10 Things Employees Want Most”
concluded that the 10 most important things employees want from their bosses are, in
ascending order:


1) Purpose
2) Goals
3) Responsibilities
4) Autonomy
5) Flexibility
6) Attention
7) Opportunities for innovation
8) Open-mindedness
9) Transparency


And number 10 on the list of what employees want the most from their employers? To be
compensated fairly for their hard work.


So, what should recent college graduates look for when job hunting and trying to find the
right corporate culture? Nurick strongly recommends doing the homework needed before
and after their job interviews to find out what it’s really like to work at the company.
Learning what kind of teacher and mentor your future boss would be would be a wise
first step.


Even then, Nurick warns that a company’s corporate culture can’t fully be understood
until it’s experienced.


“I grew up in a clothing store where we always told our customers that you have to try it
on to see how you like it,” he says. “And we’re not just talking whether the jacket fits.
We’re talking about whether it feels right on you.


“It’s the same thing with sizing up corporate culture. The only way to know for sure
whether a company is the right fit for you, unfortunately, is to try it out, try it on for
size.”

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