Are you bamboozled by your company’s culture?

by Jan 24, 2024

Your first day at a new job is a lot like embarking on an adventure. You step through the doors, eager and optimistic, your mind filled with expectations set by the promises of the company’s values and mission. For some, these principles are more than just words on a wall—they’re guiding lights, especially when one core value resonates deeply within. 

But what happens when the reality within those walls seems to be in stark contrast to the culture you anticipated?

The first cracks in the façade might appear during meetings, where voices are drowned out or ideas dismissed without consideration. 

Perhaps it’s the subtle exclusion in casual office conversations or the absence of diversity in decision-making circles. Suddenly, the promised inclusivity feels like a mere façade, leaving you bewildered and questioning your initial impressions.

This experience is not uncommon. 

Many individuals find themselves in similar situations—bamboozled by a company culture that contradicts its proclaimed values. It’s a paradox that can shake your confidence and challenge your trust in the organization.


So, what’s the way forward when faced with such a discrepancy?


Reflect on Reality

Take a step back to assess the situation objectively. Notice the difference between what the company claims its culture is like and what you’re actually seeing? Think about specific times when it’s obvious that there’s a gap.  

Express your observations to HR or department leaders respectfully, seeking clarification on how the company embodies its stated values. 


Contribute to Change

If you’re passionate about the stated values, consider how you can actively contribute to fostering the culture you expect. Throw out some ideas or start off with some small changes. Your input could make a real difference.


Consider Your Options

Take a moment to think about whether the difference in the company’s culture lines up with what matters to you personally and where you see your career going.  If the company’s environment consistently opposes your beliefs or causes discomfort, exploring alternative opportunities might be a viable choice.

In an ideal scenario, a company’s culture would authentically reflect its stated values. Yet, the reality often presents a different picture. How you respond to this dissonance can shape not only your experience but also contribute to the gradual evolution of the company’s culture.


Advice to Organizations

If you find your organization in a spot where the company culture doesn’t quite match what you’ve promised, it can be a bit of a bummer for the team. We get it—keeping everyone on the same page is key to a happy and productive workplace. To address this, consider the following steps:


Regularly Revisit and Reinforce Core Values

Ensure that the company’s core values are not just words on paper but are actively integrated into the organization’s practices and decision-making processes. Regularly revisit and reinforce these values through internal communications to keep them top of mind for all employees. 

Take a peek at our checklist for some cool ideas on how to make your core values come alive!


Conduct Culture Assessments

Periodically assess the company’s culture through assessments to gauge the alignment between stated values and actual experiences. Take those findings and turn them into action: launch specific initiatives that fix up the places where your walk is a bit different from your talk. 

Since 2009, we’ve been measuring culture through climate assessments and we’re convinced that culture comes down to these five dimensions. Check this out and rate your current culture.


Engage in Transparent Leadership:


Leadership should lead by example, embodying the values the company professes. Transparency from the top down creates a culture of trust. When changes are made or challenges arise, communicate openly about the reasons behind them and how they align with the overall mission and values. 

If concerns stem from systemic issues within the organization, be willing to acknowledge and address these challenges head-on.


Provide Training and Development:

Conduct training programs that educate employees on the importance of a positive workplace culture, diversity, and inclusion. Provide tools and resources to help employees navigate and contribute positively to the company’s cultural dynamics.

By proactively addressing employee concerns about the company’s culture, you can not only retain your talent but also create a workplace where employees feel valued, included, and motivated to contribute their best.


Written by: Cleo Tubon and Jennifer Areola

Many organizations ignore employee engagement because it feels elusive and expensive. Rather than getting caught up in the fear and doing nothing, download our eBook on employee engagement, and get started.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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