Coping With Corporate Culture Clash

You've decided to leave your company. Not because you're failing, not because you're maxed out in your career, and not because you want to earn more money. You're leaving because you just can't deal anymore with the culture.

You've been living with slow decision making, weak leadership, and panicky colleagues who hide from accountability and nod eagerly to even the most absurd requirements. With each business challenge springs a new committee until every resource is tapped and zapped with cumbersome project spreadsheets and endless action plans. You learned from some of the best leaders, but they've now retired and you're horrified by how the business and teams are being managed.

You thought about leaving three years ago. So why are you still there? Are you a martyr? Are you enacting the fable of the frog, failing to recognize things have changed even when the water is coming to a full boil? Are you just too lazy to make a move?

It's been an uphill battle, but you've kept at it because you think you can make things better, and you know at least ten -- no, twenty or more colleagues and senior executives who stand out among the crowd. You continue to believe that together, you can rise above the oppressive culture. After all, you're one of the strongest leaders in the organization and you work with terrific managers. You can expedite the nonsensical work, make room for the visionary work, and refresh yourself on weekends for the energy needed to block the dysfunction and protect your team.

Until you realize you can't.

Because the thing about culture is it's bigger than any one of us, and bigger than the factions who stand tall and try to break through for what's right and reasonable. The weight of "the way things work around here" is more than just a slogan, it's the pounding reality of how large groups of people operate -- the policies they follow, the processes they tolerate, the behaviors they allow and promote -- all of these factors create a culture and majorities of people who are happy to align, or who go along to get along.

But there's good news in this concept of cultural domination. For when done right, corporate culture is a powerful force for good. Organizations that value quality, fairness, diversity -- organizations that tend to one another, their customers and communities -- these organizations welcome like people. And the weight of their culture overwhelms and crushes anyone who tries to act out against such fine qualities. The negative naysayers, the blockers, the schemers simply cannot endure much less prosper in a strong and positive environment.

It's easy to identify a culture clash when you're new to an organization. It's more difficult to recognize culture shifts that happen over time due to management turnover, new business start-ups, buy-outs or business downturns. Signs of culture change come in the form of new policies, revised communication practices, and new reward and recognition standards. Also, watch who gets promoted, and which departments receive most resources and organizational authority.

Now, back to you: You've watched these changes, you've had your go at it in a culture that does not reflect your values and management beliefs. You see that no matter how hard you try, you can't improve the culture; there simply aren't enough of you rowing in the same direction. So you've decided to stop coping with culture clash and start looking for a cultural fit. Congratulations! You can find a great job and culture that aligns with your values. Fine organizations are out there and they're looking for you. Make the jump. Jump high and jump fast out of that proverbial pot of water.