Corporate culture is one of the most important elements to any organization’s success and prosperity. Inc. has an excellent definition of corporate culture (http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/corporate-culture.html):
“the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.”
A valuable exercise is to stop and think about what behaviors you experience in your organization. In so doing, you must face the fact that the behaviors—good or bad—exist because the corporate culture permits them to exist. That is a wonderful situation if the behaviors are good. It is a nightmare if the behaviors are bad.
We are each going to embrace and affirm a good corporate culture or we are each going to embrace and affirm a bad corporate culture. That is a pretty clear choice in my mind. Let’s embrace and affirm good corporate cultures wherever they may be found. When we come upon bad corporate cultures, let’s challenge them and aim to change them. This is a professional, ethical imperative.
Now, the question arises, how do we change the corporate culture? And before you even try to answer that question, first you must ask the question, can the corporate culture be changed? Because the how makes no sense without the can. Finally, you must assess your role in changing the corporate culture. You have many factors to consider such as:
How big is the organization?
How large is the inertia?
Who are the influencers?
What can you do?
Should you stay or leave?
Let’s consider that last question, should you stay or leave? The question is intensely personal and corporate culture change is never easy. You will have a lot to analyze. Nevertheless, your answers to all the prior questions will provide most of the resources you need to make a good—albeit not easy—decision about staying or leaving. By understanding the size and inertia of the organization, by identifying the influencers, and by knowing your ability to contribute, you will have a rich resource reservoir to build your solution.
This is all you need with just one exception. The one exception that trumps everything else is the issue of your integrity. Although all the previously described analyses are necessary, you must let your integrity be your final arbiter on whether you stay or leave.
In some cases, the quality of the people, the timing, the need, the opportunities, and a sense of calling will overwhelmingly affirm your decision to stay with your integrity intact. You are part of the glorious solution. In other cases, certain aspects of your findings will clearly confirm that for your integrity’s sake, you must leave. When a situation will compromise your integrity, you have two choices:
- Leave the situation and thereby preserve your integrity.
- Stay in the situation and thereby destroy your integrity.
Remember, leaving an organization is not the worst thing that can happen in your life. However, preserving your integrity is one of the best things that can happen in your life. Corporate culture challenges will always be there. Not every hill is a hill worth dying on. In some cases, your best choice is the choice to live to fight again another day.