Imagine your first day at work
You walk inside the big office building where you will start your new job today. The receptionist tells you that your manager will be waiting for you upstairs and points you towards the nearest stairs. Your manager is waiting for you and so is your new team. Everybody walks up to you and introduces themselves. You shake a lot of hands, receive a lot of well wishes and hear some of the office jokes.
Your manager gives you a list with pass words and introduces you to your mentor. This mentor is one of the most senior and knowledgeable people in the team. He points you to your workstation. It is the only empty one left. It is near the corridor and far from the window, so there is little natural light.
You switch on your computer and look up the necessary passwords. Your mentor tells you that it will probably take a couple of weeks to get access to every system you need. The mentor provides you with some information about time sheets and work requirements. He also hands you a well used instruction manual. He tells you to come and ask anything you want whenever you need to and than goes back to his own work.
You spend the first couple of hours on getting the systems you need to work and asking access to the ones that are lacking. You spend an equal amount of time on small talk with team mates. They walk up to you to get to know you a bit better and to offer their help. They also give you some tips about how to be productive in this environment. It is a big office space you share with about 200 people, so there is a lot of noise. The managers have their own private offices in a separate hallway. They are usually in that office all day having meetings. Your new team mates also tell which desks belong to the team an who will be sitting at which desk. Apparently people who have worked here the longest have desks closest to the window and they have their own closet space for their belongings.
You are asked if you want to contribute to a gift for a colleague who just gave birth. You are invited to lunch by the team. No members from other teams join the group. They talk about family and friends during lunch. Some of your coworkers do sports together, in other cases their children go to school together. A lot of your team mates have contact outside of work. You ask them how long they have been working together. Most of them have been working together for over a decade. They always do lunch together, you are more than welcome to join them. You are informed that everybody takes turns in getting coffee or tea for the entire team.
You are finally ready to answer your first e-mail. But you have no idea what the answer should be, so you start by consulting the written instruction. Unfortunately the answer is not in the instruction, so you go to your mentor. Your mentor comes with you to your work station and opens some new systems. He explains to you that for certain products the answers can only be found here.
Next up is the weekly team meeting. Here you see the team manager again. The team manager opens the meeting by stating the order of business:
- News from the guys upstairs/the board of directors
- Policy changes
- Deep dive in a specialist topic in order to share knowledge.
How can you get an idea about the culture of this company?
If you look at the diagram above you can see that we already have some important clues about the corporate culture, but also that we are still lacking quite a lot of insight. What do we know so far:
- The workspace and storage room are contingent on seniority
- You have little to no room to choose your own work station
- There is one definition of the group already clear: Us (team) and Them (Management)
- In behavior you are expected to take your turn in getting coffee or tea for the entire team
- You are also expected to go to lunch with the team
- Personal knowledge and seniority are valued
- There is little knowledge written down
- People are very welcome to newcomers on a personal level
Very interesting is the lack of interaction with management and other teams on this first day. It is also to early to get an idea about language, success and failure. When you look at the team meeting it is interesting to note that performance if lacking as a subject. It has also been lacking in the introduction today. This may be a conscious choice, but it may also mean that KPI’s are of little importance here.
To analyze culture i usually use both the infographic above and below. The infographic below challenges you to look further than the team you are currently in. It can also help you in finding (mis-)alignments in culture and company goals.
How to reduce stress during change
It is important to map behavior on values. Some behavior may be unwanted in the new culture, but maybe you want to keep the underlying values. If so than be sure to check whether the new behavior still matches the values. Have your change story ready and your reward system for good behavior. I am purposely not naming punishing bad behavior, because once you start doing that the culture change will most likely fail. The pull and advantages of the new behavior have to be such that people will not want to miss out.
If you do want to change the underlying value you are in for a real challenge. Here you need to be ready to explain why this change is needed and you need to specify how people can recognize new good behavior. This sounds easier than it is. I will get back to this subject in later blogs. But for now just focus on being explicit about what you expect people to do and about your reward system for good behavior.