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Adapting To Corporate Culture Changes In A Downturn

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The recession caught many senior executives off-guard, use this time to safe-guard against the future!


We have heard it said, “The lay-offs caught me by surprise” or “I just didn’t see the re-organization coming”. Have you ever been blind sided by an employer’s decisions and been unprepared for the consequences? Weathering an economic storm requires careful attention to change and decision-making within our organization. It requires that we be in tune with the corporate culture of the moment.

The organization or company has a style of operating that is not articulated in the public policies, procedures and human resources manual. This is called a corporate culture, or corporate politics depending on how well aligned we are with it. Often times we are blindsided by organizational decisions when we have somehow become out of sync with the corporate culture.

Being perceived as a good cultural fit within an organization can bring better opportunities for promotion, increased responsibility, and more income. Being disconnected from the corporate culture can stall or derail a promising career, resulting in being at the top of the downsizing list.

How well we respond to cultural changes can make the difference between getting along or being shown the door. There are foundation questions to answer about the company to assess our understanding of the current culture. Here are some areas to be on the alert for that will improve our ability to weather the economic storms in place:

  • Are the unspoken behavior expectations aligned with the stated organizational values? If they are not, then assume the unspoken behaviors supersede everything else. For example, we may have interpreted the company’s telecommuting policy liberally and at face value with no push-back from management during good times. However, we may notice that our peers are now at the office on a daily basis regardless of the policy or their prior behavior. Watching the behaviors of others 360 (above, below and around), will provide valuable insights to cultural adjustments taking place.
  • How do things get done? What has been the decision-making style? The answers typically show managerial variations and differences across divisions and business units as well as between levels. We can be caught unaware and surprised during a re-organization when the managerial style of another business unit suddenly supplants the one that we have come to expect and understand. During a merger or buy-out, executive level turn-over changes company culture. The executive team of the acquiring company will overlay their organizational style onto our present company’s culture. Proactive sleuthing into the background and style of the new management will allow better preparation to blend with their style.
  • How does our organization recognize and reward people? Is everyone included or do some groups and levels absorb a greater share of attention? What positions and people have been seen as key talent? Any downsizing will accommodate that hierarchy. What moves can we make now to better connect and build relationships with those considered to be among the inside hierarchy? What internal job moves can we make to reinforce those connections by changing our reporting chain?


In summary, a company’s stylistic as well as business approach in the downturn will adjust due to new management, demands of the board, creditors, or the market. What steps can we take now to better fit into it and align with the organization? Do we need to look at making a move before the company does it for us?

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BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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About the author

Patti Wilson is a career coach and advisor for the BlueSteps Executive Career Services team. She is a well known Silicon Valley-based executive career coach who, in 20 years, has advised literally thousands of executives on growing their careers, building their personal brands, leveraging and optimizing their networks, effectively making transitions and succeeding in their goals.  She is considered an expert in online career branding and networking, and providing insightful career management strategies across borders and sectors.

Learn more about the BlueSteps team of career advisors and the services they provide to help you improve your career trajectory here.
 

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