When I started my career after college, the idea of finding a company culture that was aligned with my values would have been considered somewhat strange. A job is a job, right? And companies are mostly the same, right? I would later find there are really scary companies out there with voodoo-like cultures.
My life lesson of finding a Feng Shui company culture would go all Jackie Chan on me by kicking me in the head, chest and a certain sensitive male organ. Sometimes the best lessons in life hurt the most.
I became very depressed because my friends with accounting degrees were being picked-up by accounting firms as fast as hookers in Las Vegas.
My First Job Offer
With a management degree in the mid 1980’s it was very difficult to find a job during a recession when good people were being laid-off each week. I became very depressed because my friends with accounting degrees were being picked-up by accounting firms as fast as hookers in Las Vegas. Evidently, during a recession accounting firms need fresh talent to audit companies in financial trouble.
Finally, that long-awaited first job offer came from a construction company based in Florida. After months of holding a sign at busy intersections that said, “Management major will organize your Rolodex for food,” I could not turn down the job offer. After my wife and I were relocated to the southern U.S., it quickly became evident the company’s leaders in the South lacked integrity in their business practices and construction methods. These were not minor or petty issues. Executives routinely cursed, yelled and threatened middle managers in front of other coworkers for not meeting sales goals. Manager meetings were designed to be feared, making turnover outrageously high and the morale depressingly low.
“Holy crap,” he thought to himself. Everything on the outside seemed normal, plus she was so amazingly hot.
Getting Married to a Voodoo Doctor
Once there was a 40-something single Methodist minister who had never experienced a romantic relationship. He was desperate to find a wife. One night in New Orleans he met a beautiful woman who had this alluring, magnetic attraction. He was immediately hooked and they began dating. Convinced she was his soul mate, after a short engagement, they were married. During their honeymoon the groom shockingly found out his beautiful, attractive wife was a voodoo doctor. “Holy crap,” he thought to himself. Everything on the outside seemed normal, plus she was so amazingly hot.
What is the point of this story? A Methodist minister/voodoo doctor marriage would never work. An ethical employee/unethical company relationship would never work either.
Learning a lesson from the Methodist minister who fell in love with a woman who stuck pins in voodoo dolls, how do you avoid accepting a job offer from a company with a scary, voodoo culture?
5 Ways to Avoid a Voodoo Culture
- Know Yourself – So many of us simply don’t know what makes us tick. We go through life without questioning our motivations, what makes us simply survive vs. purposefully thrive. Take the time to begin your path to self-understanding. There are excellent psychometric tests that accurately reveal our undiscovered likes and dislikes. Your trusted family and friends can also lend observations about yourself that you have not realized.
- Know Your Environment – Take time to understand the types of work environments that work or do not work for you. Maybe you need an environment fueled on adrenaline where the everything must move fast. A workplace where project timelines are short, compact and crazy. A place where there are no chairs in meeting rooms to prevent long wasteful meetings. A place where people even walk fast down the hallway. Heck, even the bathroom stalls have three-minute timers, then the toilet paper disappears and the toilet automatically flushes. Bottom line, we each are different and need a diversity of surroundings to move us into the zone.
- Know Questions to Ask – When interviewing with HR, mess with their minds and turn the tables. Although you may not get verbal answers from the following questions, you will likely receive non-verbal answers that will scream the truth. Ask these questions posed by Marc Cenedella*, writer for the Ladders:
- If you could describe your company culture in three words, what would you say?
- What are the most common complaints employees make about your culture?
- May I speak with a few veteran employees or new hires?
- What do you love best about the culture here?
- Know the Type of Boss You Need – This is one of the most important aspects of avoiding culture voodoo. You have surely heard it said, “People do not leave companies, they leave bosses.” I receive numerous calls every year from employees who are at the end of their rope with the classic horrible boss. Your boss has the ability to make your worklife rewarding or revolting. Before working for a new boss, investigate why people have left him and his reputation among current and past employees. It will be worth your time.
- Know the CEO – Company culture cascades down from the top. That is why it is imperative that you obtain as much information as possible about the CEO. Not the information printed on brochures or their annual report, but the real information that is discussed among employees who have seen him when the cameras were off, the reporters nowhere to be found, and where he feels free to be himself. This will reveal the real CEO. Sociopaths tend to gravitate to these types of positions and are experts at hiding their true selves from the public.