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When You Start a New Job, Pay Attention to These 5 Aspects of Company Culture

Starting a new job is one of the most important — and challenging — parts of any professional’s career.  At ACMP we came across this post and thought we would share a snippet.

When you join an organization, you have a short window of time to adapt to its culture. It’s the old 90-day rule. And we know too many talented individuals who have stumbled in their new company because they failed to read the cultural tea leaves.

This happens because most organizations don’t explain the cultural rules to newcomers, and new hires are so focused on the job and the new boss that they overlook the rules’ profound influence. Yet understanding them plays a big role in your initial success. Being cognizant of not just what your colleagues do but how they work matters if you want to be effective and be perceived well.

In our work, we have noticed five dimensions of culture that require your attention. These have the greatest impact on your ability to navigate a new job:


Companies differ in how they cultivate relationships, in how much they value collaboration, and in how much face time is required to get work done and make important decisions. In some organizations, the only way to influence others is by spending time with them in person. In others, emailing, texting, and video conferencing are preferred over in-person meetings. When you arrive in your new organization, ask insiders how you should approach relationships. For example, do you need to spend time building a relationship with someone before asking them for help or input on a project? Or is it acceptable to gather a list of “go-to” individuals whom you can simply email for assistance when you need them?

Observe where and how your colleagues get work done and make decisions. Do they spend much of their time meeting with one another, or do they tend to be at their desks or work from home? Are people friendly and open to meeting with you? Or do they appear to be nice but repeatedly cancel “meet and greets”? You may need others to help you make the necessary connections.


When you start a new job, look at how people tend to communicate with one another. Is it through formal channels, like meetings that are always set in advance, and to which everyone comes well-prepared? Or do individuals more often communicate spontaneously with little or no documentation? (Maybe your manager frequently stops by and says, “Can you come join this meeting now?”) You should start by asking your boss what the expectations are. Personal assistants and your teammates are other good sources of information.

Hierarchy often determines when and where it is acceptable to communicate with senior colleagues. For example, in more-hierarchical environments, you might have to “pre-clear” any communications upward in the hierarchy with your boss. In less hierarchical organizations, people may be encouraged to email senior leaders to chat with them. The best way to figure out these rules is to ask around. Your peers and direct reports may be well positioned to tell you how to proceed with your manager and those above. Ask about recent successful initiatives and how colleagues influenced senior leaders in their communications.

You should also note how information tends to be presented. For instance, do meetings revolve around formal presentations, or can individuals informally share issues, debate topics, and engage in real-time brainstorming without being judged? Some organizations and departments prefer 50-page presentations with reams of details and analyses, while others prefer to work from a simple emailed agenda with a bulleted list of topics. Pay attention to how information is typically packaged for meetings, the extent to which issues are debated versus “checked off,” and how deferential people are to those in positions of power. Observe how senior leaders in the room respond to formal decks and strong recommendations, versus informal discussions. Which style consistently results in a decision coming out of the meeting?


How companies make decisions also varies in important ways. Some companies make real-time decisions in formal meetings, while others tend to finalize decisions offline. Even if formal meetings are the norm, you may find that the real decisions happen by the coffee station, in the hallway, or over lunch. Watch for whether the decisions made in the meetings get implemented. If you see people agreeing to some set of actions in a meeting, and then notice that other things happen afterward, that suggests there are strong informal decision-making mechanisms at play that you’ll need to uncover. For example, a decision to invest in a new product might ultimately rest in the hands of two pivotal individuals even when there is an entire senior leadership team reviewing the decision. You’d want to meet with these two key leaders far in advance of any formal meetings, and convince them of your point of view. Or perhaps everyone in the room appears to agree to invest in that product collectively, but you notice that several individuals chose not to voice their disagreements in public for political reasons. You will need to circle back and influence each of them after the fact to ensure they don’t derail your project.

Another aspect of decision-making to understand is whether your company culture has a bias for action or a bias for analysis and consensus. In organizations where the bias is for action, time and attention spans tend to be more limited, and decisions are made quickly. If you’re pushing for an initiative, you need to present your position clearly and give key stakeholders the information they need to make a decision. Other company cultures prefer a more protracted discussion of options, models, and strategies. More patience is required on your part, especially because this bias for consensus often means sending more supporting materials and analyses, and redoing the same presentation several times, before reaching a final decision. The question you want to ask is, what is your own bias for action, and how does it fit your new culture?

To read more on this article see the Original Post Published here

Content and Images Published by Allan H. Church and Jay A. Conger