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Very recently, I quitted my job in the agency i had worked for a little over a year. Reasons can be complicated, but big part of why I left is due to my confusion with the culture changes happening  within the agency.

My agency is small, with about 20 full time staffs. From my limited experiences of working for small companies, or even start-ups, I notice that leadership tends to always be the key in forming the company culture, sometimes the influence can to be inevitable, in situations where the leaders may not want to be so dominant in the culture.  The CEO of the company has a very complex personality and I think his uncertainty of what types of leader he wants to be lead to a more difficult process of building the company culture.

I think he was trying to shift the culture from introvert (how the company was when I first joined) to a more extrovert, dynamic culture. I understand his motives, as sometimes “introvert” can be seen as boring. As a digital advertising agency, the least you want the clients to think of you is being boring and not fun. So he started to bring in people who are more extrovert in an effort of building the culture he visioned. However, his vision wasn’t articulately delivered to rest of the company. Therefore, the issue became the change of culture was so sudden that most people didn’t expect it and  didn’t know what exactly the culture was becoming. Some of the oldest staffs started to leave the company, especially those who were more comfortable being introvert. We just kept hiring new people. What was more interesting is the new members all had different personalities. So, yes. it was very “dynamic”, but something was missing. The “core” culture was somewhat missing. Who are we as a whole? What defines us as a company?

Therefore, I was very shocked when the CEO came to me for a talk one day and told me he was not sure whether I am a good fit for the company culture. I was very lost. I held the urge of questioning him what the culture was, as I knew he would be upset by that question. But it bothered me, because I worked very hard and my manage was super satisfied with my performance, but the CEO obviously had doubt in me. Bummer, right?

So, on top of many other reasons, I decided it was the best choice for me to leave the company and to find some places that I will be a better fit. During my last day in the agency, I had an “exit interview” with the HR. Towards the end of the talk, I asked her how she defines the culture of the agency. She stumbled, and then she told me it’s still in a process of forming. Clearly, I didn’t get an answer from her, one last disappointment I had in the agency.

I guess, changes are always hard. Not just within the management, the structure, but the culture as well.  No  company has a perfect culture, but great companies have strong culture that distinguish them from others. You either love it or hate it. But that’s what makes them unique and attracts people who share the similar culture and value to want to work there. They feel belonged, they feel like home, they are bonded.

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One thought on “Lost in Culture

  1. Berry, this is a really good blog–thoughtful reflection on your personal experience–and I’m sorry to hear you had to go through this kind of “culture war” dynamic at your job. Culture is a difficult concept to define–and it sounds fairly unethical for a leader to “hide” behind “culture change” just to bring in people more to his/her liking…and to get rid of people he/she doesn’t think “fit”. You raise a lot of big question here — more than I can respond to…but I really appreciate your sharing the story and your personal evaluation of the situation. Only suggestion–do try to bring into your blog the class material (although we haven’t studied “culture” yet! you are ahead of us!)…as appropriate to bolster your arguments/reflections.

    Prof J

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