Micro-managing bosses.  Back-stabbing colleagues. Unrealistic performance expectations. Favoritism. Unprofessional behavior.  Unfair, capricious practices.  Lack of respect for expertise.

These are some of the reasons people want to leave jobs.  And these are a reflection of a company’s culture.

In fact, bad fit with organizational culture is one of the key factors in someone’s decision to leave a job. Yes, people leave for more money or more responsibility. But the push out the door is usually something to do with culture.

What is company culture? Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values (personal and cultural values) of an organization.

If you’re leaving a job because you hate its culture, you’ll want to make sure there’s a good culture fit at your next place.  So how can you identify the culture in a potential employer?

Before answering that question, let’s back up for a moment.  To have a good culture fit, you need first to know your own values and the environments in which you work best. In my e-book, I take you through a Values Identification process. And in several of the questionnaires in that book, you’ll have the chance to clarify optimal work environment.

Once you have a list of your core values and have a “must have” list for culture, you’re ready to evaluate potential employers’ culture.

Some companies make it easy for you by citing their values right on their website. While practice doesn’t always live up to promise, there’s a better than even chance that a place that says it respects people will strive to respect its employees.  Here are just a few of the many companies that list their values on their websites:

Do you like those values? Are they congruent with yours? Then there probably is a good culture fit.

Talk to current employees to find out what the culture is like right now. Go to LinkedIn and see if you can find people in your network who work at the company. Send them a message asking what the culture is like. Ask if they like working there and why. Most people are willing to give you a clue. If not, that would be a red flag for me about the company. I’d suspect the culture is very closed, secretive, and perhaps punishing of people who “break the rules” or “go outside.”

Former employees may have valuable insight if they left very recently. If they left more than 6 months ago, their information may be out of date. Also, take with a grain of salt the feedback from someone who was laid off or let go. Often, their emotions are coloring their perception of a company culture.

When you get an interview, get more information by asking directly: “What is the culture here?” If they answer, you’ll get a sense of what the place is like. If they don’t have a good answer, it’s probable that the company doesn’t give a lot of thought to culture. To me, that would be a red flag because I know how important culture is to retaining great staff and delivering great service or products.  New companies may be an exception as they are in the process of forming a culture.

Do you have any other ideas about how to ensure you find a great culture fit with your next employer? Share them here.