Competitive Vs Inclusive Culture

A company will more than likely describe their culture to the outside world in one of two ways; competitive, “we only let the special people in” or inclusive, “we’re a melting pot, good people can come from anywhere.”

These two approaches are designed to do the same thing, attract and retain good talent. So it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be on either end of the spectrum for this one, but you should be cautious of companies that are on the wrong end of the spectrum because that’s likely to cause some trouble for everyone. Let’s take a look at how you can spot those mismatched company cultures so you can avoid them like the plague.

I want my sales people, surgeons, and astronauts to belong to competitive cultures because those professions expect the best-of-the-best to rise to the top through internal competition. If you belong to a competitive profession, then you should be looking for companies that start competing early in the hiring process and expect competition to continue long after you’re hired. That’s the nature of the beast and the company culture should support that.

If, however, you’re looking to take on a profession that involves collaboration, and success can only come through such collaboration, then seek out companies with cultures that are more inclusive. I like my coders, creative professionals, and project managers to belong to inclusive cultures because that’s where they can achieve the highest level of success in their profession.

It is dangerous to a healthy culture when there’s a mismatch — and here’s why. If you’re working for a company that really should have an inclusive culture, but it’s clear they have a competitive one, you’re going to be joining a workforce that obtained their position within the company through the act of competition. Once in, they’re going to feel compelled to keep competing. It was difficult to get in, so the culture is going to feed the notion that it must be equally difficult to stay. They’ll invent ways to compete with their peers if they have to and the culture will become contaminated.

Similarly, if you’re a competitive person, and you join a company that includes non-competitive people who will be sharing responsibility with, you’ll have no one to compete with. At first you might enjoy the rise to the top, but you’ll get bored quickly.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are not drawing a hard line here. Competitors have to collaborate, and collaborators must in fact compete. But on balance, these differentiators in cultures should be paid attention to, and the mismatched culture should be avoided if you want to enjoy your job.

Remember to look at the company holistically and the department that you’ll be working. Take solace in the fact that these two distinctly different kinds of cultures can be easy to spot and avoid if you know what to look for.


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