Saturday, March 31, 2007

Culture, Work Hours & Finances

I've worked for several companies in my relatively-short career, but I've reached an interesting conclusion: The culture of a company is absolutely critical to your success and mental health.

The company of my current employment has seen a massive culture shift in the past few years... and alas, not for the better. Creative thought, flexibility and day-to-day Innovation are being replaced by an old-school, "cut-to-and-then-through-the-bone" mentality.

Many of the folks I've admired most have left for greener pastures (always a strong warning sign). And a results-oriented work environment has been replaced by a "face time" culture that prizes how much time you're willing to spend in the office & other corporate events.

So what does one do? Well, if you're a lower-level person, my advice is: leave. Unless you have some pretty hefty access to the upper echelons, you're not likely to change the culture, and so the easiest way to advance your career is to find a company whose style & expectations are more in-line with yours.

If you're an executive (like me) it gets a bit more murky. I joined this company when they were completely on the ropes, at an all-time stock low. I was a pivotal player in helping the company to recover, and now have a vested interest in trying to continue to company's growth.

That said, I'm debating just how much impact I can have. Culture is almost always top-down in a company, and in my case the entire executive team has turned over during my tenure (yes, every single person). Some of those folks were not strong performers, but some were exceptional.

Even more concerning, the turnover rate at the executive level has accelereated... rapidly. Many of the new folks brought have, themselves, left. One executive (C-level) office has had four people in the position in as many years! Troubling to say the least.

The bottom line is: if you're not an executive or someone with significant pull & the culture is going south, leave & find a place where you can grow and better influence the culture. If you have the pull to change things and a strong desire to do so, you may stay, but be prepared for strong resistance. Otherwise, you will (reluctantly, no doubt) come to the same conclusion & search for an environment more conducive to business success.

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