January 13th, 2012
One client of mine was invited to be an Executive Director of a small not for profit agency that frequently dealt with newcomer immigrants and low income members of the community. She came to me for coaching because she had never been an Executive Director before, and wondered what she could do better to fit in. My client came to the job with values that suggested she should encourage people who are disadvantaged to gain confidence, become volunteers in preparation for employment, and learn skills to encourage independent functioning. The organization she had joined demonstrated values of doing charity and good work to help their immigrant and low income clients, by providing gifts and services, including baskets at Christmas, for which they were expected to write thank you letters.
In other words, the Executive Director embraced values of social justice and developing independence, which was in complete opposition to the values of doing charity and good work for others. There was no way that the Executive Director could thrive in an organizational culture that was in complete opposition to the innate values that she espoused. Once she realized this, she began to seek other employment, and stopped feeling so frustrated and angry.
Organizational culture can be broken into three different types:
Constructive cultures encourage members to interact with people and approach tasks to help them meet their needs.
Passive /defensive cultures are those in which members believe they interact with people in ways that will not threaten their own security.
Aggressive/ defensive cultures in which members are expected to approach tasks in forceful ways to protect their status and security.
In positions where people do complex work rather than a simple mechanical one, it is helpful to look for a constructive culture. A constructive culture encourages people to be in communication with their co-workers and work in teams rather than as individuals. Such organizations encourage people to work to their full potential, and result in high levels of motivation, satisfaction, teamwork and service.
Quality is valued over quantity, creativity is valued over conformity, and co-operation is believed to lead to better results than competition.
If you are feeling like a misfit in an organization, do a culture check and if you find a real conflict in basic values, move on.
Valerie Elliott Hyman is a Toronto career consultant for Hyman Associates Learn more about Valerie.