Adapting to Corporate Culture


It can be tough to adapt to a new corporate culture after starting a new job or even changing departments at the same company. Corporate culture includes the company’s official policies and what day to day interactions are like for an employee. Your company could have a mission statement that defines the value system, a story that embodies the corporate outlook, or a symbol that shows what its ideals are. The official policies and tone set a pattern for how things are handled on a smaller scale and inform your office culture. Try to match what you think is important to what a company identifies with itself and then figure out how to navigate the office culture. Learning to successfully communicate within a specific corporate structure is one of the difficult but important ways to adapt your environment.

Read up on your company’s official policies. Companies often publish their corporate philosophies on their website and will give employees protocols on how to handle different issues. Make sure to also observe how they are actually put into practice and talk to your co-workers about how things have been handled in the past. The official outlook may not quite match what is actually happening on the ground and you want to be aware of what actually takes place. Keep in mind that the day to day office culture may vary from department to department within the same company.

Communicating effectively within your co-workers is important. Observe how communication is handled company-wide and within your department and understand how and when to speak up.

Notice how meetings are run and who is talking. Some companies have a flat hierarchy where junior employees are welcome and expected to speak up and contribute. This may be intimidating at first, but reviewing the topics of a meeting ahead of time can help you start to prepare yourself to contribute at meetings. At other places, management might prefer to see your performance before adding weight to your assessments and you might want hang back during meetings until you get your feet wet.

It’s important to know how your company handles potential problems. Prevention may be highly valued and managers are open to criticism of approaches early on. In these situations, it can be best to bring up a variety of possible scenarios early on and brainstorm on different ways to deal with them. On the other hand, management may not want imagine possible problems until there is more evidence. Observe how your manager handles input and develop a rapport so that you can complete projects successfully.

Successful communication requires you to think about what you will say and also how it will sound to the listener. Put yourself in the listener’s shoes and think about how the topics are generally handled by your company.

Pay attention to what your co-workers are telling you. Communication is not just about what you are saying but listening to others. Pay attention to the ideas your coworkers generate in meetings and what feedback they are giving you. Some of the feedback may be informal-a coworker comments on a plan you present at a meeting. Or it may involve a formal review. Make sure to notice both kinds and evaluate what you are being told.

Once you are communicating well, you are well on your way to adapting to your company. Learning to communicate effectively is a big part of fitting into the corporate and office culture.

This article was written by Sara Stellfox. After working in contract and pharmaceutical laboratories, Sara changed her career path and is now a free lance writer and chemistry instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.

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2 Responses to Adapting to Corporate Culture

  1. Jack Hipple says:

    Organizations have “cultures”, made up of the personalities of the individuals of which it is made. We do not pay enough attention to the fact that individual behaviors and preferences are relatively hard wired and are measurable with assessments such as Myers Briggs, HBDI, and Kirton KAI. Too often we administer these assessment to “help” individuals in career planning and better understanding of themselves and then totally forget how important these can be in assessing culture.

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