Understanding Workplace Culture: Key to Finding Your Ideal Job


Defining your ideal workplace culture is a helpful step in preparing for your job search because it can assist you in finding a role that provides a work environment that aligns with your values and supports your overall well-being.

What is Workplace Culture?

Workplace culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, assumptions, and expectations that define how an organisation operates.  While there exist various definitions of workplace culture, there are four generally agreed attributes.  That is, that workplace culture is shared, persuasive, enduring, and implicit. 

Why does Workplace Culture Matter?

Workplace culture impacts both your happiness and success at work. To perform well at work, you need to be in an environment that will allow you to do so. 

While workplace culture is often intangible, it can be very powerful.  You can be influenced by a workplace culture without being consciously aware and begin to adopt shared behaviours and values. 

Therefore, determining your ideal workplace culture, and assessing a potential employer’s culture against this, is important.

Remember, evaluating the culture is about deciding if it is right for you. 

Types of Workplace Cultures

The culture of a workplace is shaped by many elements, including leadership style, management practices, procedures, policies, employee personalities, the mission, vision, and values of the workplace, the physical workplace environment, and how communication takes place.

Here are some broad definitions for different workplace cultures:

Hierarchical culture

This culture is characterised by a clear chain of command, with decision-making power concentrated at the top. Hierarchical cultures are often formal, rigid, and bureaucratic, focusing on rules, regulations, and procedures.

Collaborative culture

In this culture, employees are encouraged to collaborate, share ideas, and contribute to decision-making. Collaborative cultures are often informal, flexible, and innovative, focusing on teamwork, communication, and empowerment.

Competitive culture

This type of culture is focused on competition and achievement. Employees are motivated by the desire to succeed and outperform their peers and may be driven by a sense of competition or a need to prove themselves.

Innovative culture

In this type of culture, workplaces place a strong emphasis on innovation, creativity, and taking risks. Employees are encouraged to think outside the box and experiment with new ideas, and the organisation may focus strongly on research and development.

Customer focused culture

This culture is centred on meeting the needs and expectations of the organisation’s customers. Employees are trained to prioritise customer service, and the organisation may focus strongly on customer satisfaction and feedback.

Results-oriented culture

This culture is focused on achieving specific goals and objectives. Employees are held accountable for their performance, and there may be a strong emphasis on efficiency, productivity, and results.

Work-life balance culture

This culture values the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance for its employees. The organisation may offer flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flexible schedules, to help employees manage their work and personal responsibilities.

Family or clan culture

This workplace is characterised by a close-knit community of employees who function like a family. This type of culture is often found in small, family-owned businesses where the emphasis is on creating a supportive and inclusive environment.

Purpose-driven culture

This culture is focused on the organisation’s mission beyond profit. It creates a sense of meaning and fulfilment for employees. There is an emphasis on values such as social responsibility and ethics. This leads to increased employee engagement and a positive reputation for the organisation.

Creative culture

This culture values and encourages creativity and innovation in the workplace. Employees are encouraged to take risks and think outside the box. This type of culture fosters a dynamic and innovative work environment.

It is important to note that workplace culture can change over time, and some workplaces may have elements of multiple cultures.

How do I determine my ideal workplace culture?

Determining your ideal workplace culture involves reflecting on your values, needs, and preferences and then considering how these factors align with different types of workplace cultures.

Here are some questions to help. These questions are meant to be thought-provoking and help you better understand yourself and what you’re looking for in a workplace culture.


  • What motivates you to do your best work?
  • What are the most important things to you in your life and career?
  • What values do you look for in the people and organizations you work with?
  • What are some situations in which you have felt the proudest of your work?
  • What kind of impact do you want to make in the world?
  • What kind of work would you do even if you weren’t getting paid for it?
  • What is a cause or issue that you care deeply about?
  • What are some principles that you refuse to compromise on?
  • What are some situations in which you have felt like you were making a difference?


  • What type of work do you find most fulfilling?
  • What are your preferred work hours and work-life balance?
  • How much structure and guidance do you need to perform at your best?
  • How much guidance and support do you need from your manager or colleagues?
  • What are your preferred modes of feedback and recognition?
  • What kind of work schedule or flexibility is most important to you?
  • What type of work do you find most challenging and stimulating?
  • How much autonomy do you need in your work?
  • What are your preferred methods of learning and professional growth?


  • What type of work environment do you thrive in?
  • What communication style do you prefer from colleagues and managers?
  • What type of leadership style do you work well under?
  • What kind of physical work environment do you enjoy most?
  • What kind of communication style do you find most effective and comfortable?
  • What kind of relationships with colleagues do you find most satisfying and productive?
  • How important are teamwork and collaboration to you?
  • What are some traits or behaviours that you find toxic in workplace culture?
  • What type of leadership do you respect and admire?

Finally, consider what you are willing to compromise on, as well as what’s non-negotiable for you.
Remember that there is no one “right” or “perfect” workplace culture – it’s all about finding a fit that works for you.

Assessing Workplace Culture

It can be difficult to assess the workplace culture from the outside, and simply going through the recruitment process may not be enough to determine a cultural fit. Here are some suggestions for gaining insight into a workplace’s culture.

At Interview

When attending your job interview, ask questions. Do remember that you are being assessed when you ask your own questions, so make sure you don’t appear too critical.

You can take a very direct approach and ask, “How would you describe the company culture?”.

This might offer some insight; however, you also may not elicit much more beyond the organisation’s vision statement.

To get a true sense of the culture, you will need to uncover what the workplace is actually like; the procedures, policies, personalities, rituals, and symbols.

Suggested Questions

Can you provide an example of how the company responded to a challenging situation that affected its employees?

  • How do the company support employee growth and advancement within the organisation?
  • Can you tell me about the company’s values and how they are reflected in the workplace?
  • What professional development opportunities does the company offer to employees?
  • What is the team dynamic like? How does the team collaborate and communicate?
  • How does the company recognise and reward employees for their contributions?
  • How does the company promote work-life balance and employee well-being?
  • Can you describe the management style and how decisions are made?
  • What are the company’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • Why do you like working here?

Listen for clues in what your interviewers are saying or not saying. 
Do you feel comfortable during the interview? Do you have a good rapport with your interviewers? Do they conduct the interview professionally? Are they prepared and start on time?

Take in the work environment

Look for clues in the workspace.

Is it messy or neat? Is there a great divide between the offices provided to managers and the space for the rest of the staff? Does the workspace project the image that the workplace cares about its staff? What is displayed on the notice boards, opportunities for professional development, social events, motivational posters or directions to staff?

Research the workplace

Start with the workplace’s website; find out what you can about the goals and vision, policies and procedures and structure.  Then look beyond the workplace website to find what has been written about the workplace online and in print. For example, websites like Glassdoor offer reviews and other workplace qualities to help you obtain honest information. The personal responses from employees may also determine your desire to pursue the workplace further.

Follow the workplace on social media

If the workplace has a presence on social media, it can provide insight into the workplace’s personality and the way it engages with its audience. Read the content they post and pay attention to the tone of their interactions with their followers. This can give you a sense of the workplace’s values and the type of work environment they cultivate.

Word of mouth

Talk to people who have had first-hand experiences with the organisation, such as customers, suppliers, and former employees. Ask them about their experiences and what they think of the workplace culture. This can provide valuable insight into the day-to-day work environment and the type of people who work at the workplace.

Personal connections

If you have personal connections who currently work at the workplace, reach out to them for their thoughts and perspectives on the workplace culture. Having a direct connection to someone who can speak to the culture can provide a more in-depth and personalised understanding.

How to Demonstrate Your Cultural fit to a Potential Employer

Figuring out if a workplace has a culture that aligns with your values, needs, and preferences is one thing, but then you need to convince your potential employer that you are a cultural match.

Here are a few ways you can demonstrate your cultural fit:

Provide examples

Give specific examples in your resume and at the interview of how your values and experiences align with the workplace culture.

For example, if the workplace places a high value on teamwork, you could share an experience where you worked effectively as part of a team to achieve a goal.

Match your language

Pay attention to the language used by the workplace and try to match it. This shows that you are in tune with the workplace culture and can fit in well with the team.

Be authentic

It’s important to be yourself during the interview. Don’t try to fit into a culture that is not a good match for you. Be honest about your values and interests, and let the interviewer know why you believe the workplace is a good fit for you.

Overall, demonstrating your cultural fit to a potential employer requires a combination of research, preparation, and authenticity. By showing that you understand and align with the workplace culture, you can increase your chances of landing the job.

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