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Culture – The #1 Reason To Stay Or Leave

, November 21, 2014, 0 Comments

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Brian Chesky of Airbnb wrote a stimulating letter about culture to his employees, recounting the advice he received from Peter Thiel. This is old news, but lately I’ve been thinking about what makes the difference between a job and a passion and how one can transform employees from one side to the other. I reflected back to my own career transitions and keep coming back to one thing – culture.

One of the sound pieces of advice I got from a mentor, when I was considering taking up positions at a couple of startups, was to really evaluate a cultural fit. If I didn’t see it, that was the wrong place to be. Especially at a small company where everyone knows each other.

I see several people struggling with figuring out the right jobs. Middle management is roughly when this unsettling feeling comes to the forefront – not junior enough to escape the politics and not senior enough to have drank the coolaid or be in the game! But, it increasingly seems to happen even earlier than that.

It takes a lot of effort to find the right job. Amidst the myriad of things surrounding this – be it area of work or financial benefits – culture tends to fall through the cracks often. But, I believe that ultimately, the thing that makes or breaks a job is culture.

So, what exactly is culture and how do you look for a fit?

  • Listen to your gut, it doesn’t lie about misfits.  If something doesn’t seem right, it likely isn’t right!
  • Would you want to be a senior leader in that company some day? If you are already in that company, would you want your VP’s job or run that place someday?  If you find yourself saying no, that’s not a fit!
  • Do you share the core principles of the company? How the company hires, what fundamentals its executive team subscribes to, etc. – do you feel completely inline with those? It is worth taking some time to understand this.  Mozilla ex-CEO Brendan Elch’s resignation following his contributions to a gay marriage ban campaign may seem extreme, but this is about culture.
  • Would you unconditionally pitch to someone that they should be working at that place? Great validation for a fit!

If you catch yourself uncomfortable with any of these principles, you are in the wrong place! A place with a culture fit evokes respect for its leaders – the good employers also look for this fit to keep it together.

Occasionally, other things get in the way of working at a place, but if all else is good, you still must ask yourself whether you subscribe to the company’s philosophy and culture – this is job satisfaction at a completely different level!