How Organizational Culture Can Impact Your Career Growth

A graphic of an unbalanced scale with a man working on the lower end and icons of a heart, a clock and money on the higher end

Whether you work for a small design agency or a large corporation, organizational culture can have a big effect on your overall job satisfaction and possibly your long-term career path. Organizational culture can be particularly important to creative staffers, who often invest themselves personally in their work. So if you're seeking a new position, be sure you understand how organizational culture can impact your career. Here are five critical factors to consider.

Basic job satisfaction

Say you arrive at work every day just to hear your colleagues complain about the boss. Or your manager doesn't entrust you with responsibility. Or client needs are disregarded. If these behaviors make you miserable, that's a problem with the corporate culture. So assess an agency's corporate culture as you're considering employment opportunities.

When you're interviewing for a position, be sure to ask team members what they like about working there. Try to tactfully find out whether employees support each other and whether employees are given opportunities to grow. (If there's no chance to have these discussions, that also gives you an insight into the organization's corporate culture.)

Work-life balance

In the best office cultures, employees work hard because they believe in the company's mission and gain recognition for their efforts. So they're willing to put in a few extra hours on occasion. Some companies, however, expect employees to routinely work overtime, which often leads to high turnover. If you want to avoid that churn-and-burn treadmill, quietly consult with people in your network to learn about the company's reputation for work-life balance before applying.

Collaboration and productivity

In a positive organizational culture, teammates value collaboration and understand how to work well together. Communication is clear, transparent and honest, from the top down and among team members. When searching for a job, think about what a collaborative environment means to your creative career. It can help you do your best work, perform at a high level, develop leadership skills and serve clients well.

Leadership that walks the walk

Organizational culture has two components. First, the company has to establish its cultural identity. Then, managers have to get everyone on board. That means an agency or department needs to be unified by a common set of values, beliefs and goals that support productivity and innovation.

Look for signs that management adheres to its own corporate culture touch points. For example, does the creative director you interview with speak with respect about her subordinates? Do you catch anyone complaining or gossiping? Can you ascertain that the people you interview with support their clients?

Effective work environment

Creative workspaces come in all shapes, sizes and styles, from buttoned-up to fun-and-games. Office space is part of organizational culture, and it affects how people do their jobs. Be sure you're comfortable in whatever workplace you choose, whether it's an office where you can bring your dog and play pinball at lunch or a quieter, more professional environment. After all, you'll be spending a sizable chunk of your time there.

The right organizational culture fosters creativity and productivity so you can do your best work and grow in your career. When you enjoy going to work every day, the organizational culture you chose to work in probably had something to do with it.