What Makes A Company Culture Good or Bad for You?

Linda Le Phan

If you’ve been reading up at all on career opportunities or career development-related stuff online, you may have come across some talks about the importance of company culture. And even if you haven’t, you might still be able to guess why company culture matters for anyone looking for a job these days; the culture of an organization is directly related to the employee experience and whether you’d actually enjoy working there.

But how can you – or anyone in the position of looking for their next job – differentiate a good company culture from a not-so-great culture? Is there any way to make that determination before you accept the offer?

While there’s no guarantee you’ll ever know exactly what a company culture is really like until you’ve fully experienced a company firsthand as an employee, there are ways to gauge whether it’ll likely be good for you or totally bad. To start, get to know the difference between a good and a bad company culture:

The difference between good, great, and never-again

There are seven main characteristics that makes a company culture a positive one for anyone, according to Dr. Michelle Rozen, an expert on leadership & personal and professional motivational who holds a PhD and a Masters in Psychology:

  • Successful companies establish a purpose-driven culture.
  • The best company cultures are characterized by effective communication that’s clear, courteous, and proactive.
  • Great company cultures are all about feedback.
  • The most successful companies seek out and embrace diversity.
  • The best company cultures encourage teamwork and community.
  • Great company cultures provide ample opportunities for growth and development.

Gauging company culture in your current position

These questions can help you determine whether your current company culture is good or bad for you. Count the number of times you answer yes and no.

  1. Do you understand the role you play in the organization and how your work impacts other members of the team?
  2. Do you believe your work is meaningful?
  3. Do you feel comfortable communicating honestly with your leader(s) and peers?
  4. Do you receive honest feedback that’s courteous without being sugar-coated?
  5. Do you know whether you’re meeting expectations or not?
  6. Do you know what you would need to do to advance in the organization?
  7. Are you surrounded by diversity at work? Does your company welcome diversity?
  8. Do you have people you can trust and confide in at work?
  9. Do you feel like you belong at work?
  10. Do you have opportunities to learn and grow in your company?

If you answered yes to 7 or more of these questions, you’re in a great company culture. Even the best cultures have opportunity for improvement. If you answered no to more than 3 questions, you should consider how you might be able to initiate improvement within your organization or consider other opportunities.

Gauging company culture before you accept

Once you’re already employed at a company, assessing the company culture is pretty easy. However, measuring it as an outsider (especially when your best source of information is a hiring manager or recruiter who gets paid to get you hired) poses a greater challenge.

Review online reviews on an anonymous employer review platform prior to accepting an offer. While you should take into consideration that highly disgruntled reviews often come from people who were terminated for due cause, you can find a plethora of valuable inside information from current and former employees on these useful platforms to help determine whether the organization really practices what it preaches.

Additionally, you can ask for telling metrics during your interview, such as turnover and retention rates and the top few reasons employees leave the organization.

Finally, bring a few interview questions to help you learn more about the organization, such as:

  • How does the company approach performance management? Can they share an example of a time this approach was successful?
  • How often and from whom can I expect to receive feedback?

In conclusion, when it comes to understanding a company’s culture – from both an insider AND a job candidate perspective – it’s important to look for signs that the company is self-aware and always open to improving. No person or company is perfect, so what matters most is the open-mindedness and willingness to make the workplace better for everyone involved.


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Linda Le Phan is the Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.