Company culture – finding the right fit for you

Saffron Wildbore

~ 5min read

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~ 5min read

Have you heard the phrase “quiet quitting” before? It’s what happens when people start to feel disillusioned at work, so they cut back on the effort they’re putting in.

Sometimes it’s healthy to take your foot off the pedal for a while. Especially when you’re at risk of burning out. But if the problem persists, it could be because the company culture is killing your motivation.

How do you find a workplace culture where you can really thrive? Read on for our advice.

> What is a company culture or organizational culture?

There are hundreds of definitions for company culture, including:

“How you do what you do in the workplace” (Great Place To Work)
“A set of shared core values and practices that define an organization, both internally for employees and externally as part of its public image” (Indeed)
“The proper way to behave within the organization” (Society for Human Resource Management)

The simple answer is that company culture is what it’s like to work somewhere. It’s impossible to pin down a specific culture in words – despite lots of organizations waxing lyrical about their company values. 

Company culture exists in all the highs, all the lows, and all the awkward crevices in between. From the way meetings are run to the way redundancies are handled.

> Why is company culture important?

It’s important in two ways. 

Firstly, even if you’re comparing employers that all have a positive company culture, there are always differences. Different types of working environments suit different types of people. The question is, where would you be happiest and most productive? Company culture has a big influence on this, so you’ll want to try to suss it out.

Secondly, sometimes a company culture is just… bad. You’ve probably come across stories in the news about what happens when things go really wrong. Bullying, scandals, cover-ups, discrimination, nepotism, whistleblowing, law suits and more. So you’ll want to identify the warning signs for an outright negative culture.

> Company culture fit: how do you know what you need?

At the start of your career, it’s tricky to predict what sort of company culture suits you best. You need to experiment a little. But the good news is that you can get a feel for the differences by doing your research. 

Talk to friends and family about what it’s like where they work. What do they love and hate about it? How do the people feel? How does their current employer compare to past employers?

You can then build on this by applying to a wide range of companies. Their hiring process reveals a lot about the corporate culture. 

For instance, does the head of department take you out for lunch, or does everyone seem to eat at their desk? Is the vibe of the office calm or chaotic? Do you get any helpful feedback after the interview? 

Take note of their employee retention, if people stay for years this is often a tell tale sign of a strong company culture.

Be open minded. There’s more than one soul mate out there for you. As anyone who changes jobs every few years (i.e. most of us) will attest to, you could find yourself equally happy in two very different company cultures.

> Big companies vs small companies

It’s true that there are some cultural patterns across working environments, and one factor is the size of the company.

In big companies, you’ll tend to have access to vast amounts of knowledge. You’ll meet people from a range of specialisms, and you might get exposure to international operations. The atmosphere can feel somewhat impersonal. You might know everyone in your direct team, but you’ll also bump into people in the kitchen who you never see again.

In small companies, there’s less anonymity. You’ll have the chance to get involved in a broader scope of projects. You’ll get to know all your colleagues (and you’ll need to get along with them too!). 

There’s often a family feel, but be careful of companies that explicitly advertise this. Ultimately you’re still an employee and businesses have their own interests at heart.

> Well-established companies vs newer companies

The age of the company is another factor that tends to influence the culture.

In older and more established companies, you’re more likely to be encouraged to continue down a well-trodden path. That’s not to say you can never shake things up, but you may find that there are certain expectations about how things are done. 

Newer companies, on the other hand, are still figuring out their playbook. You’re more likely to have wiggle room for trying out your ideas. On the flipside there’s often a touch more ambiguity to deal with. Startups are a typical example of this.

> Psychological safety

Whichever sort of company you join, psychological safety plays a role in creating a supportive company culture. (This relates to the warning signs we mentioned earlier.)

Harvard Business Review defines psychological safety as “a shared belief held by members of a team that it’s OK to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences.”

Can your team collaborate well? Do you feel like you can ask for help if you need it? Is everyone able to give and receive feedback constructively?

Do employees engage with one another in a positive way? All of this contributes to a sense of psychological safety in the workplace. 

Again, how much this matters depends on your personal preferences. Some people enjoy the adrenaline of a more competitive and cut-throat atmosphere (although they’re in the minority!).

> Interview questions for gauging company culture

There’s no harm in checking out a company’s official claims in their marketing, but you’ll want to do your own investigation too. Sometimes the reality behind the scenes doesn’t quite match up. Also, bear in mind that company culture encompasses much more than just free breakfasts and dress codes. 

In your interview, ask the hiring manager one or two of the following:

Could you tell me a story about working here that illustrates what the culture is like?
What’s your most favorite and least favorite thing about working here?
How do decisions get made here?
How is knowledge shared between departments? 
How are goals set across the company, and for teams and individuals?
How do employees make progress within the company?
What are you looking forward to over the year ahead?
How would you describe this company’s perspective on work-life balance? 

> Outside of the official hiring processes

Detective hat at the ready? Check out Linkedin to see if you have any connections who work at the company you’re interested in joining. Send them a message to explain that you’re interviewing and you’d love to get their honest thoughts on their experiences.

Most people are happy to share a few notes in writing. They might even offer to have a chat with you. 

> Thinking of applying to our graduate program at mthree?

We work with leading global employers in technology, banking and business, so you can expect an engaging working environment with plenty of opportunities for growth. 

As a mthree employee, you’ll be a part of our culture as well as the client organization you join. We’re always here behind the scenes to support you throughout your 24 months on site. 

Following on from your training at our Academy (which is free – in fact you get paid while you train), you’ll get an ongoing learning program to help you keep developing your skills. We award performance-related pay-rises after 6, 12 and 18 months to recognize your hard work. You’ll also have access to mthree events and socials such as our yearly Alumni event, bringing together Alumni from all disciplines to celebrate in style! 

Want to find out more about what the culture is like at mthree? We’re excited to hear from you. Learn more about your journey on our graduate program and apply to mthree today!

Saffron Wildbore is a Senior Marketing Executive at mthree. She has worked in marketing, specialising in creating content for over 4 years. Saffron focuses on writing tips for graduates, Alumni interviews and more!


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