As a career coach, I emphasize the importance of choosing a job that maximizes your skill set, fits well with your personality type and preferences, and is on your Top 50-100 places to work. However, it’s important to know how well a company’s corporate culture will support your personal workplace values so you’ll perform to the best of your ability.

So, what exactly is “corporate culture”? Journalist Linda Ray refers to it as “the collective attitudes, beliefs, and codes of behavior that prevail among the staff, from top to bottom, of any business. The culture is generated by individuals and their relationships with each other, and by the basic goals, orientation and context of the business.”

Ms. Ray describes four types of corporate cultures; perhaps you’ve worked in one or more of these during your career:

  1. Traditional: promotes clearly-defined roles and relationships between co-workers;
  2. Highly-skilled: focuses on recruiting top talent and staying ahead of the curve, with high turnover as a trade-off;
  3. Innovative: encourages creative initiatives among employees; evaluates risk versus reward of new ventures;
  4. Social: values collaboration, teamwork, and healthy, trusting relationships among the staff.

Before I became a career coach, I worked in the corporate world for several years. My favorite jobs included working in the curriculum office of a medical school and in the HR department of a social service agency for special-needs adults and children. I enjoyed these jobs because I could work independently, my contributions were valued, questions were expected, and everyone was treated equally. Most likely, these corporate cultures were “Social” in nature.

The jobs I disliked were in a market research firm and in an apartment complex rental office. The atmosphere in both companies was dictatorial, favoritism-driven, and negative.Training was nonexistent; those who didn’t catch on the first day were not treated very well. Clearly, I didn’t last long in those toxic settings, regardless of what the corporate culture was.

Looking back, I learned through trial and error how my personal workplace values factored into choosing ideal workplace environments. As a career coach, I encourage my clients to be more proactive in figuring this out. Here’s a list of 40 Personal Workplace Values – see which ones resonate for you.

When you know what your top workplace values are, you’ll be more attuned to a corporate culture where you’ll thrive, whether it falls within the four listed above or somewhere in between. Even so, a corporate culture isn’t always easy to decipher, nor are hints of toxicity obvious from the outside. Here are some research ideas to help you get some good clues:

  • Company website: Check out the “About Us” section; read the mission and vision statements to get a sense of how customers, clients and employees are treated.
  • Employment interviews: Observe how everyone you meet acts toward you, including the receptionist; note how their behaviors support the company’s mission and vision.
  • Internet research tools: Websites like and offer candid opinions from employees about their experiences in specific companies.
  • Networking: Reach out to your networking contacts; get referrals to people who work in your target companies and ask them what it’s like to work there.

Choosing your ideal workplace environment is a marriage of your personal workplace values and a corporate culture that supports you.You’ll find that these values will serve as an internal compass to steer you in the direction of a company where you’ll be the most productive and valued.

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2013