The interviewer asked me what kind of work culture I was looking for and the question took me aback. On one hand, I wanted to say I didn’t really give a sh**, just give me the dam* job. At that point, I was obviously an angry person who would have sat between the creepy nerdy guy in the Happy Meal toy adorned cubicle and the lunch room dumpster. Of course, that was just an example of how damaged I was by my old job. I had just crawled off of that Roman senate floor with the knife still protruding from my back, so naturally I had forgotten that choice was an option for me. But, it was . It is. And, it should be paramount for you in your job search.
What is work culture? Good question. To the best of my understanding it is a combination of tolerable behaviors, management styles, beliefs systems and how they are enforced in the workplace. Often, the employee handbook attempts to define the culture through the establishment of written policies but mostly these policies bear little resemblance to actual practice. The written policy is usually a few paragraphs of standardized legalese copied from a workshop text-book and made to fit the company’s needs. You owe it yourself to ask as many questions as possible about the culture.
The workplace is not a family group. These people are not your friends, sisters or brothers. Mostly, they are your competitors who will sell you down the river for the next promotion. So, do your homework before you sign on.
The workplace is more like a neighborhood. If you are a savvy homeowner, you probably researched the neighborhood you bought into. Do the same with an employer. You will be investing your talents and time there so make sure there is room for the appreciation of your investment. With a home, you want to make sure that the HOA enforces the policies that protect your home’s value. Do the same with a prospective employer. Make sure they don’t play favorites, are fair and just in their application of rewards and punishments. Look around the place to see if the staff are diverse and if their opportunities for all genders, races and age groups in management positions.
After you gather your information, assess how they match with your core values. Work culture evolves over time. It can change with new leadership. It can be whittled away by middle management if leaders are not diligent to their ideals. Culture is not only found in the museums, concert halls, and libraries, it is at the rock pile you call work, too. The question is about culture is important and should be an important consideration in you choice of employers.