Navigating the Culture of Global Organizations
Whether you are working in a large enterprise or at a small startup, organizational culture will impact your day-to-day experience in important ways. Many companies have very strong cultures and expect employees to embrace their values and view of the world. Sometimes corporate culture is the glue that helps everyone achieve success, and sometimes it results in some pretty dysfunctional behaviors.
If you want to navigate an organization that has a strong culture, you need to understand the factors that influence its goals and desired behavior, which are often based on the company’s history and greatly influenced by its surrounding environment.
Noted psychotherapist Carl Jung describes the concept of a collective unconscious, in which every human being is endowed with knowledge of the environment in which he finds himself. When you are part of an organization, you may perceive the company as having a very strong culture indeed.
My first work experience was working in the IT group of an organization that served the blind and disabled. I was born with a severe visual handicap and had grown up using Braille and a white cane; due to the miracle of laser surgery, I was just starting to be able to experience the world around me in a visual way. The American Foundation for the Blind had a strong culture of empowerment and promoting equal rights for those who are blind and disabled, which I experienced the whole time I was part of that amazing organization. Those are values I continue to live every day.
Understanding the corporate culture where you find yourself may require that you learn a little bit about the company’s history. You may need to ask yourself how you fit in and whether or not you can successfully navigate the expectations of those around you. I recall working in a Japanese firm with a very strong corporate culture. In some ways this was challenging, but overall it was a delightful experience, and I found myself adapting to and enjoying their customs and behavioral norms.
More importantly, most organizations today must operate in a global world where they may find themselves interacting with colleagues all over the world at any hour of the day or night. Understanding cultural norms and communication styles is essential. Being blunt and upfront may work great if you are in New York, but it could really harm your relationship with colleagues who are not accustomed to this type of communication.
With all these considerations, operating in a global world certainly can be exciting as you begin to understand how different cultures operate. If you want to be successful, you need to understand the culture of your organization and the behavioral expectations of those with whom you will interact on a daily basis. Organizations that learn to value and accommodate cultural diversity find themselves with an empowered workforce who can navigate across any culture—including those of your customers.