Job description sounds good. Check!
Salary is a-o-kay. Check!
Commute is easy. Check!
What more could you want? Take the job! Right?
Hold up – let’s pump the brakes. While the role may sound great on paper, the values and culture of the company you are considering will have a significant impact on your job satisfaction, ability to succeed and personal well-being. And yet, values alignment is such an undervalued criterion for most people when selecting a job… if they consider it at all.
The difference between a good and bad day at work usually isn’t because your job description changed. Sure sometimes you may work on something you’re more passionate about, but within any given week, where your work remains fairly consistent, you can have extremely good days and extremely bad days based solely on the behavior of those around you. And that behavior is a reflection of professional values.
Professional values are more than just the inspiring words written on the office wall, the themes in your employee handbook given to you on day one or the words rattled off by executives in town hall meetings. They are the observable behaviors of your colleagues. Of leadership. Not just what they say but how they act. They are what drives decision making and Are their behaviors ones you want to be around? Ones you want to emulate? Ones that inspire you to do your best work?
Values have the ability to drive culture and behavior so much more than rules. It’s the difference between doing something because you believe in it and doing something because you’re told to. When strong, positive values are instilled at a company, and when those values align with your own, you are highly motivated to work and achieve. The environment brings out your best qualities, and you are excited to work toward the company’s mission.
On the flip side, conflicting values can be so damaging that you are unable to work for the company. Perhaps you don’t agree with the way the company treats its customers or the environment. Perhaps the company values achievement so much more than work/life balance that you have to put your family second. Perhaps the company shows no value for innovation and so your new ideas are always turned down. Values alignment is the difference between empowering and suffocating. Between energizing and demoralizing. Between inspiring and unsettling. It is the key factor behind your ability to be proud of where you work.
So when you’re interviewing, here are some things to be on the lookout for:
- What do people wear?
- How is the office arranged? Where does leadership sit? On their own floor, in offices, with the staff?
- What does the energy feel like?
- What time are people coming and going?
- How many people are in meetings versus working independently? What are people’s emotions as they exit meetings?
- What kind of amenities does the office have?
- What type of equipment do people have on their desks?
- How are your interviewers and the employees treating each other?
And here are some things to directly ask in an interview:
- What are the company’s values? And what are some examples of how those values show up?
- How would you describe the culture here?
- What are the characteristics of people who typically succeed here?
- How is performance evaluated? What behaviors get rewarded? How are promotions determined?
- What do you like most or dislike most about working here?
When it comes to our happiness and motivation, the way we do work is often much more important than what we do. When you’re interviewing a company, you may have to read between the lines. Study the behavior more than the words. Seek out companies which promote values that align with your own. When it’s a match, you’ll be on the fast-track. When it’s not, it likely won’t be long before you’re on the hunt for a new job again.