This month we’ve been tackling an all-too-common dysfunction: “This is NOT the right corporate culture for me.” We’ve all been there. We accept a job that looks great on paper, only to find out that the culture is not right for us. So, are you in the wrong culture and if so, how do you find the right culture for you? All good questions. Here’s your prescription to a long-life of healthy corporate culture fit.

SELF – DIAGNOSIS

Are you wondering if you are in the wrong corporate culture? There are some significant “tell tale” signs – and they aren’t pretty. Being in the wrong corporate culture for an extended period of time can cost us our health, sanity and in some cases our very soul. Here are four questions you can use to diagnose if you are indeed in the wrong corporate culture:

• How are you sleeping? So, how is your sleep these days? Is your sleep not what it used to be? Look closely, this could be a sign that you are in the wrong culture. Whether it’s the inability to sleep soundly or troubled dreams, sleep is a great clue to something bigger at play.

• How is your physical health? Has your health taken a turn for the worse recently? Are you suffering from chronic or mysterious symptoms? These could be a result of your work environment and not just your poor exercise regimen.

• How would others describe your recent mood? Are the people close to you commenting that you just aren’t acting like yourself these days? Are you snapping at the ones you care about on a more regular basis? Are your personal relationships on the rocks? Any of these could be a product of a bad corporate culture fit.

• Are you losing who you are? Are you becoming a different person? If we are in the wrong corporate culture for too long, this is the heaviest cost we can pay – our very soul. Have you noticed that you are two different people – one person at work and one person at home? How much longer can you keep that up?

Listen closely to your mind, body, heart and soul. They could be giving you an important message. And in my experience, they don’t stop complaining until one of two things happens: either you listen and leave or you are forcibly removed. I like the first option the best, don’t you?

IDENTIFYING THE “CURE”

Those are some of the big questions to answer as you are looking for the “right” culture for you. If you want to try to gauge if a culture values what you value before you “marry,” follow these steps:

Step 1: Find out what they “say” their values are. What are the values the organization says it’s all about and do those fit with you? Check out the website for a good easy start, but don’t stop there. Just like dating, others can tell you what you want to hear. Actions speak louder than words.

Step 2: Figure out what REALLY goes on. Get coffee with current or former employees and ask what it’s like to work there. And find out how much voluntary turnover is going on in the organization. An organization with low-turnover is more likely to be living out its values with everyone on the same page. An organization with high turnover is a warning sign for instability. The culture is either unhealthy or in the middle of culture change. Like Forest Gump, a high turnover organization will be more like a box of chocolates… you’ll never know what you’ll get.

Step 3: Check out the background of the senior leader. A culture always represents what the senior leader values so take good notes. Research everything, from where they grew up and their major in college to their career path. That will tell you a lot about what he or she values and what’s really getting rewarded and reinforced at the organization.

DETERMINING YOUR TREATMENT PLAN

There are several good “treatment plan” options available to you depending on the severity of the mismatch and the overall level of dysfunction present in the culture. Note: if you believe your culture is amongst the top 4 worst corporate cultures: cut-throat, political, abusive and unethical, read the prior posts for more specific treatment plan strategies. These cultures are cancerous and require more aggressive approaches.

1. Try to change the culture – This is not a viable treatment plan – IT DOES NOT WORK. Don’t kid yourself into believing you can change the culture if you just stick it out. Those beliefs are dysfunctional in themselves. Imagine the abused spouse that says, “I know he/she loves me. If I just do things different/better next time, it will be different. He or she will change.” You can’t change another person – only they can do that. The same goes for cultures. Unless you are the senior leader, culture change at best is a decade long process. At worst, it never happens. Do you really want to give up that much of your life with such a slim probability? Are they really worth it? We both know that answer to that question.

2. Stick it out – You may look around and say to yourself “it’s not that bad.” Only you can be the judge. I will say this, no culture is perfect. All cultures are going to have some level of dysfunction. But if your culture is truly a dysfunctional sight to behold, you run the risk that the longer you stay, the more likely the culture changes you for the worse. Look around and ask yourself if that is the treatment plan that will yield the best results for you.

3. Form a coalition and wait for regime change – One treatment plan option available to you is to go underground and form a sub-culture of like-minded colleagues. Think of this as your own personal rebellion. Meet regularly and plan how you can support and help each other both with information as well as results. This could be a temporary strategy or one you use when you hope to either wait out leadership change or overthrow the current regime. Overthrowing a current regime is a particularly dangerous gamble, but believe it or not, I’ve seen it work.

4. Pack up and leave – If you are in a poor culture fit, this is your best treatment plan strategy. But it’s not as simple as that. Many dysfunctional cultures will try to punish you for leaving. So what can you do? Get a “safe house.” Have another job lined up, move to another city, or spend time with friends / family. Just get away. I would also recommend changing industries. If an abuser thinks you’ve gone to a competitor, they will make it a personal goal to hurt you even after you have left. If the culture is particularly cancerous, don’t just leave – disappear.

5. Look at yourself – Finally, if you have found yourself in an extremely dysfunctional workplace, be gut-level honest with yourself. Are you drawn to these situations in your life? Do you have a history of this type of dysfunction with your past employer and / or personal relationships? If so, you need to seek professional counseling to break this unhealthy and destructive pattern. It is not something that is to be taken lightly.

There you have it. The quick-and-dirty approach for diagnosing your culture fit assessing your treatment plan options. Life’s too short. Finding the right fit for you, could make all the difference in the world.

Stay tuned for June’s Dysfunction of the Month: “Is this it? Finding fulfillment at work.” Good stuff.