Culture and personal integrity

Let’s say you are not much of a joke teller and you join a small organization where everyone has a blast sharing hilarious jokes. Chances are you’ll start paying attention to jokes you hear outside of work and will share them with colleagues at the office. You want to fit in. We all want to fit in. A few thousand years ago, not fitting in and being an outcast meant a certain death. So we are hardwired to fit in.

Let’s say you do like telling jokes and you keep your materials very clean. Now you join a small organization where they laugh loudest at mildly inappropriate jokes. Might your repertoire change a bit? It probably will. After all, everyone seems to think it’s fine and they’ve been telling these jokes for years.

You see where I’m going with this? What jokes are acceptable, how we recruit talent from competitors, how we keep our books, how we discipline, what gifts we allow our employees to accept from suppliers or give to customers – all we do is greatly influenced by the culture of the organization. The culture has such a strong pull that the best of us will change our behavior to conform. The longer we stay in orbit, the more normal certain things will feel, even if those things would have shocked us a few years ago. And when we assimilate, we reinforce the culture for everyone else.

When our livelihood depends on fitting in, it is very difficult to stand against the machine. So for those (college seniors) out there looking for a job, my advice is this: place the highest importance on the culture of the organization you are considering joining. Your happiness, your integrity, your sense of self are at stake. You want to join an organization that shares your values and whose sense of purpose is aligned with yours. With such an alignment, all your energies can be focused on growth and contribution.

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