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Can I Have Your Attention? by Jonathan McKee, Curt Steinhorst

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Chapter 21Individual to Institutional

A friend of mine who works at a large tech company describes a romance familiar to many of us.

A new employee, aglow from the courtship of recruitment and multiple interviews, can't wait to start the relationship. The company culture is exactly what he's been seeking. “Energized” doesn't begin to describe how he feels about his new role and its place in the organization.

The honeymoon ends abruptly. Faced with bureaucracy, politics, and inertia, the employee soon realizes that he faces three options:

  • Become a zombie who ignores his instincts and makes decisions based on ease and convenience instead of what best serves the company
  • Buy into the nonsense, becoming ultra-competitive and political while ignoring the actual work and his own professional growth
  • File for divorce (i.e., quit)

None of these options bodes well for future work relationships.

Culture is the internal script that shapes behavior and expectations in a workplace. It determines what's appropriate and what's not, what's laughable and what's fireable. For example, drinking too much at the holiday party will get you a promotion at one place (been there) and fired at another (friend whose been there). Put aside rafts and sailboats for a moment: Culture has the turning radius of an aircraft carrier and a very small rudder. Changing course can be extremely difficult.

Great ideas can quickly drown in the chop of this ship, even when they would benefit everyone.

One of my clients ...

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