Asking The Right Questions: Researching Company Culture

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Part 1 of our 3 Part Company Culture Series

Imagine it’s Monday morning, you have just adjusted into your slightly uncomfortable desk chair and you are waiting for your computer to boot up when into your cubicle walks your boss. Take a deep breath, you remind yourself. It’s not that you’re nervous as much as you were not yet mentally prepared to deal with her at this point. “Tameka, I need you to do …” and she continues to rattle off a list of mundane, busy work for you to accomplish for the day as she does every day, all day. If you are like me, what do you do? You scroll your favorite job site as soon as she walks away in hopes of finding something more fulfilling, but before you jump to apply to that cool position that seems to utilize your gifts, be in line with your purpose, and pay you a salary worthy of the talented and skilled professional you are, STOP. That’s right, do not collect twenty dollars and do not pass go. It’s time to research your prospective company’s culture. Here are three questions to consider when researching a company’s culture.

1.What necessary traits must my next company have for me to feel like I belong?

This may sound simple, but as minorities, we have all been somewhere where we just didn’t feel we belonged. A big part of creating a sense of belonging and community is feeling completely comfortable being yourself, uncompromisingly in your environment. Does this new environment embrace your differences? Do you need a community of others who look like you to feel at your best at work, or are you perfectly fine with being the only person of your background in your department or company?

2. Does this company fit my lifestyle?

This question kind of piggy backs off of number one. Are you a parent? Do you need an employer who is understanding and flexible given the needs of your child or children? Maybe you are a caretaker for a parent and you occasionally need a late start or to leave early to take your loved one to an appointment? Maybe you need to work evenings because you have other responsibilities during the day. It is important to think of our careers as a part of our full life, and not as our life.

3. Does this company respect my boundaries?

Some of us have no problem working late with little to no notice, others? Not happening, and guess what? Both responses are right. Your boundaries in the workplace especially how far outside of your job description and duties you are willing to go is completely up to you. How often do we hear that voicing the infamous 4-word phrase “That’s not my job” is career suicide? Or makes the person saying it the worst type of employee? There’s reasoning behind these beliefs .Employers want employees who are as invested in the company’s success as possible. They want people who can cover all bases, and have a great attitude while doing it, and while this makes complete sense, it is not to say that we, as employees, don’t have the right to set boundaries. After all, we are defined by more than our jobs. The problem falls in not choosing companies that will respect our boundaries. A great example of this is a company in my past that really valued work-life balance. Although salaried, with this company I was able to come in late on days when I was expected to work late. There were also a variety of employee time-off benefits such as flexible scheduling, comp time, vacation time, company holiday breaks, and Summer Fridays. In this position, I did not have to make a stink about working long hours because the company culture reflected my value of work/life balance.


Whatever is important for you to work at your best and be at your best are all things that you should consider when researching a potential employer. Like families, neighborhoods, cities, and different groups, each company has a unique culture. Because you don’t feel “apart” of a certain culture does that make it wrong? Not necessarily, it can mean you need more time and to be more open to adjust, or it can simply mean it’s not the best place for YOU to thrive. There is so much more to consider in regards to company culture including politics, mobility, and communication structure. Although we will cover those areas in future posts, please check in next week for the 2nd part of our Company Culture series to learn of 3 great research tools, and to answer the question of “How do I get the real deal about a company’s culture?”


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