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Avoid Becoming a Casualty of Cultural Conflict

In the world of academics, we see a great deal of career changing and retirements at the end of an academic year. Change does occur but are you ready for the consequences? If you fit into the category of career changing, and you are considering a job at another institution, the key is to ensure not only that your skills and abilities match up with the needs of the new institution, but that you fit well with the organizational culture. There are two things to consider: the culture of the organization at large and that of the team of which you will be a member.

Following are a few suggestions for reducing the risks of becoming a casualty of cultural conflict:

Know thyself – It is vital to understand yourself as fully as possible, especially your business-related beliefs and decision-making processes. It is also helpful to identify those aspects of different cultures that you relate to and those you don’t. Write them down and refer to them as you gather data about the opportunities under consideration.

Inquire about the culture at hand – Do people treat it as “that soft people stuff?” That in itself tells you a great deal about where and with whom you will work. This could be the reason for high turnover and lackluster employees.

Use your network to verify what you have observed about the institution’s cultures –
Former employees, suppliers, or consultants can shed light on what you will actually encounter. You can also ask to obtain permission to talk to a few potential peers or direct reports. Think through the questions you want to ask about “how things get done around here” to get a sense of how much agreement there is about the makeup of the organization’s culture. 

While a new situation may appear to be a perfect match, failing to fit adequately with the organizational cultures you encounter may impede your success. What’s more, the higher up you go in any organization, the more important fit becomes.

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Source: The Marshall Goldsmith Newsletter, July 2021.

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