The reading level for this article is All Levels

Each and every organization in existence possesses a unique culture.  An organization’s culture can and will dictate the way a company operates, who it hires and fires, and the way it is perceived by the rest of society.  An organizational culture rot with deception, backstabbing, and negative politics will fail quickly – Enron pops into mind rather quickly.

New employees find themselves, as I’ve done in the past, attempting to integrate themselves into this culture.  Depending on the culture, the process may be long and painful or short and sweet.  Regardless, it’s essential to your success to make sure you’re comfortable with this organizational culture and you understand how it works.  Knowing how to play the game of your company is half the battle towards promotions, raises, and job satisfaction.

The first step in this assimilation process might seem rather silly – go out to lunch, and don’t go out with the same people every day.  As I’ve seen from personal experience, the barriers people put up at work seem to dissolve ever so slightly when they’re outside the building and able to relax, even if only for an hour.  Engage your coworkers in conversation; learn a little bit about everyone.  You’ll find out not only what similar interests you may have with the people around you, but also what they do and don’t like.  Eventually, as time progresses, you may find yourself being supervised by this person or supervising them.  Knowing how to avoid conflict and play to their strengths will make your job a lot easier.  You will also inadvertently learn the details of the organizational culture and what its like from the inside out.

Don’t be afraid to speak up, either.  Not only are you trying to figure out where you fit culturally within an organization, so are your coworkers and supervisor(s) trying to figure out how you will affect their own niche.  Every new person to an organization affects the cultural balance within, and you will need to find what your affect will be in order to truly complete the assimilation.  Are you going to be the one that everyone goes to complain to?  Are you going to be the one people look to for a joke to lighten the air?  The first couple weeks in a company will decide where you fit, so you must manipulate your impact so that you find yourself comfortable within your niche and the organizational culture as a whole.  Cracking jokes the entire first week will determine your place for a long time – whether you want that place or not.

Organizational culture is a difficult topic that many scholars still debate over.  In my opinion, it’s all just a really big, never ending game.  Knowing how to play the game, and when you’ve won or lost, will determine your success within a company.

This Young Entrepreneurship article was written by Christin Gulick on 5/4/2006

Christin Gulick, a graduate student at North Carolina State University in Technical Communication, works for Virante, Inc. as a Web Marketing Intern. She is an experienced website designer, veteran traveler, and avid reader.