The Workplace

Getting a read on corporate culture

By Colleen Sabatino, The Intern Coach

You’re off to a great start at your new internship—you complete your assignments on time, you like your co-workers, and your supervisor seems pleased with your work. But to be truly successful at your new internship, you have to understand and “fit in” to the corporate culture. Corporate culture is the personality of an organization or “how things are done around here.” It guides how employees think, act, and feel. The culture of an organization is based on the values of senior management.

Here are our top 5 tips on how to understand corporate culture:

  1. Assess the values, standards, and behaviors of the corporate leadership. Start by reading the company history and the biographies of the corporate leaders. Annual reports are also an excellent source of information on the company’s achievements, challenges, or changing values. The corporate mission statement and the slogan also reveal company values.
  2. Evaluate the company standards. Does it sponsor charitable events or champion local sports teams? Employee newsletters will also reveal company standards in terms of how employees are treated. Look for articles on employee award, bonus, or incentive programs as well as company holiday events and number of vacation days.
  3. Explore company behaviors, including dress and language. The age of employees is also another guidepost to behavior. Study the dress code, office space, and onsite perks, such as a cafeteria or fitness center. Does your company take a parental approach to its employees or does it encourage independence?
  4. Analyze your supervisor’s leadership style. Many leaders possess a combination of styles, including mentor, advocate, voyager (introduces change), inventor (forecasts futures), sculptor (takes action), curator (clarifies goals), orchestrator (organizes), or detective (compares situations).
  5. Model company values. Your ability to fit in to the culture will determine whether or not you enjoy your internship. During your internship, the company is your community, and your happiness in that community affects your job performance. Companies hire people who fit in, so model your professional appearance and behavior to reflect the corporate culture, ensuring your success.