Compromise on culture?

Every day after work I was going home. My home was cold, filthy and horrible to be in. I would buy “take-away” food on my way back, as my hob was not working properly. I also had neighbours who would sometimes steal food from fridge, leaving me without food. I would come back home, have my semi cold “take away” and immediately go onto sofa under a blanket. I would usually watch TV, so that I switch off from miserable experience and the time would pass quicker. Until next morning, when I go to work again.

Does it sound like a horror movie? Would you live in such home only because you have no courage to change? I guess, the majority of answers would be “No!”. Having cozy home is usually one of the biggest priorities we have in life. So that it is nice to go home, so that we rest, so that we are developing as people. Especially, if we think about children – connection and a safe home are some of the most important factors for successful development. 

However, even though the majority of us would agree on the above, we are not that clear with reasoning about an “organizational home” – culture. Have you met people who would stay “on the sofa” at work, so that they can go home in the evening? Some of us find ourselves in cultures we don’t like, but we are still chosing to stay – as change is too risky, too scary, too demanding, too uncertain… We chose to stay in “homes we do not like” and develop avoidant and defensive strategies – metaphorically – staying under blanket on our own and watching TV to distract us. And we think we are doing well. But let us think what we do to our own and career development? Do we think we will boost in culture we do not like? I believe that unfortunately not.

While chosing to stay in unhealthy cultures we restrict our development and our career. Especially when we are “career children” – if we will grow in unhealthy environment most probably it has effect on our later careers – we will learn unhealthy norms, ways of working, we will identify with the wrong role models and learn adaptive behaviors. So I think it is extremely dangerous from the career perspective to make compromises on culture. Better to compromise on job or role. And I am not suggesting that the only way is “to leave such cultures”. No. Everyone is part of a culture and the first try could be to act and talk about it, voice it, shift it. It is easier for the ones who have leadership roles (as they also have culture building responsibility), but it is not that forming of culture is just a leaders job. However, if the unhealthy culture is solid and there is no possibility of shifting it to one you are more content with – don’t stay “under blanket”. As by staying there you are literally signing on “blank career” contract. 

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