How to Uncover the “Hidden” Company Culture to Be a Successful New Hire

Subscribe on iTunes  |   Google Podcasts  |   Spotify

When starting a new position, it is important to uncover the “hidden” company culture so that you can transition successfully.

Every company has ingrained cultural rules that are second nature to employees, but because they are habitual and well-known, they often forget to inform new hires about them.

There are four things to focus on when beginning a new position to make your transition and understanding of the company culture smoother.

Inductions Address Official Company Culture, But Not the Unwritten Culture

Very seldom does new hire training provide an orientation to the culture of the company.

Some companies are excellent at this. The Ritz-Carlton really drills into its employees the fact that they are “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” And employees are empowered to make decisions to improve a guest’s experience or provide service recovery.

But there are still cultural rules that are present in every company that are second nature to employees, so they don’t think to tell the new kid on the block.

Most new hires are so focused on their job when they first get started, they forget to observe what is going on around them. This is unfortunate because acclimating to the unwritten rules quickly can help them become successful. Meanwhile, failing to adapt can make new employees an outcast.

Determine the REAL Decision Makers and How Decisions are Made

First, look at the organisational chart. Then find out who the REAL decision makers are.

Just because someone is a designated leader does not mean that person is really making the decisions.

There may be another individual with significant influence and power working behind the scenes.

Do what you can to find out who holds the power to make decisions ASAP. This is important so you don’t complain about a recent policy change they were responsible for.

Similarly, observe how decisions are made.

Do they take a long time? Do multiple meetings take place to make minor decisions? Where are decisions made in real time? Are they quickly discussed and implemented immediately? Is there a formal process?


How communication occurs impacts decision making.

Are a lot of formal communication channels used? If a discussion needs to occur, can it be done informally? Or do you need to prepare a presentation and call a meeting with an agenda?

Believe it or not this can make a significant difference in how you are perceived. Whether or not you follow informal protocol is noticed by those around you.

Behaviour that doesn’t meet the status quo is often ignored, not pointed out directly. It is likely you will be expected to figure out the right way to do things through osmosis.

Failing to conform to social norms and company culture is noticed, but seldom corrected, so the more observant you are and able to adapt, the better off you will be long-term.

Relationship Building

Similarly, look at how relationships are formed. If you overlook these intricacies you can appear to be isolating yourself or ignorant.

How do most interactions take place? Is it a lot of face to face in the hallway? Is it typically via technology? Is everyone on a group chat and continually responding?

Find out if people typically take lunch or coffee breaks together and join in accordingly. If your new colleagues attend regular happy hours, make sure you are participating in those unofficial, yet crucial social interactions.

Consider the Legacy

Consider the entrenched practises, values, and legacies that have been in place in the organisation over time.

This is particularly relevant for any outsider coming in, but especially if that outsider is a new leader brought in to institute change.

Sometimes organisations want to change and think they can do it, but there’s only so much they are comfortable with and willing to take. If you push too far or too fast, it can backfire.

If you are a leader hired for the purpose of initiating change, the relationship piece is going to be even more important. It will be imperative to enlist supporters. Building those relationships is necessary to get people to back your decisions.

Finally, avoid the tendency to compare your new company, boss or job to a previous position. Your new colleagues know you have a history, but they don’t want to feel as if they are trying to measure up to what you consider a benchmark.