Listen; if this is the thing that will get me disinvited from the metaphorical cookout...

Gene Demby
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Gracious reader,

"Write a thank you” is on my list of “how to have a job” rules

It's not on my list because people need to be thanked, or because "manners." 

Or because of magical gratitude theories you can find via Pinterest, IG, Oprah, and the entire self-help industry.

It's on my list because some people, at least in the US, expect to be thanked.  Some of them are people who would hire you.

When you don't meet those expectations, you may get ruled out. 

Culture is code. 
What is "Culture," Really?

An organization might write about their culture on their website.  Or communicate about their culture using images, architecture and design.

Web copy might be branding.  An open floor plan might be a way to manage real estate costs.  Free food might be a way to keep people from leaving the office for meals.

Unless it's brutally honest about how people act and interact, any description of an organization's culture is incomplete.

  • "Raymond Williams...writes that 'culture' has three divergent meanings: there’s culture as a process of individual enrichment...culture as a group’s 'particular way of life,' as when we talk about French culture, company culture, or multiculturalism; and culture as an activity, pursued by means of the museums, concerts, books..."  The Meaning of "Culture" by Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker.
No, thank YOU

There was a recent brief online controversy:  an editor at a media company wrote that she only hired people who write thank you notes.  Discussion ensued on and offline.  

Fact:  manners can include or exclude

When you're a hiring manager, be aware of the skills, competencies and behaviors required in a role. 

  When you're a candidate, you're selling.  Any sales professional will tell you that you have to ask for the business.  To be effective, you must figure out the culturally appropriate way to make this ask.

Cultural norms may not be fair, just, or obvious.
Performance Anxiety
  • Some expectations used to judge your performance are unwritten -- and unique to a culture.  "It turned out she was expected not only to give her all in the office but also to demonstrate her commitment to her company by socializing with her superiors and colleagues after hours."  What do do when you just don't fit in at work, by Susan Adams at Today.
  • Some elements of cultural fit are not about job performance.  “...What most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with. But people with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done...”  Stop Hiring for Culture Fit, by Patty McCord.
I started my business career in a very formal environment, and became used to dressing accordingly.   Business casual arose.  Then, the 21st century startup world took business casual to simply casual.

Wearing jeans to work was a huge leap for me.  Yet more formal clothes made me look like an outsider.  That said, I've learned to ask a client about their dress code. 

Last year, a founder responded,  "You'll be fine!" she said, "Of course I know that you wouldn't wear jeans or anything." 

I had to laugh.

In the end, the best way to learn about an organization's culture is to talk with current and former employees.  And if you can swing these conversations outside of the interview process, as research, you'll broaden your perspective.

This way, you can learn what's really required to be a "cultural fit," and whether that effort will be worthwhile for you.


Anne Libby

P.S. From the archives:  #27, Manners, Civility and Code
P.P.S.  The Devil Wears Prada is one of the best movies about cultural fit.
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