what kind of company do you work for?
leadershipiq, a washington, d.c.-based consulting firm, identified four distinct workplace cultures, defined as the way an organization functions internally, in everything from communication to decision-making to how it handles promotions: "hierarchical" companies are built on tradition and rely on clearly defined roles; "dependable" companies are process-oriented, where change happens slowly; "enterprising" companies are creative, competitive and meritocratic; "social" companies emphasize collaboration, trust and relationships.
turns out, employees engage differently in different workplace cultures, too.
leadershipiq had expected to find that employees would be most excited about being in a social environment where everyone gets along, says mark murphy, the firm's chief executive. not so.
enterprising cultures fostered the highest levels of employee engagement—the degree to which employees give 100% effort and recommend their firm as a great place to work. on a seven-point scale, engagement at enterprising firms was rated 5.1. at social companies, the engagement score was 4.8. dependable firms came in at 4.6, and hierarchical companies had engagement scores of only 3.9.
"employees wanted meritocracy and competition more than they were concerned with everything being very collaborative and harmonious," says mr. murphy.
in total, most executives surveyed (1,463 total drawn from u.s. companies) said their work forces were under-engaged (43%) or disengaged (10%). of those who said their employees were disengaged, the majority (52%) were at hierarchical firms.
leadershipiq also found that hiring an employee at any level—from ceo to rank-and-file—who doesn't fit into a firm's culture can spell disaster. for example, a lawyer who is risk-averse and thrives on rules might loathe working in the legal office of an enterprising firm that values new ideas and creativity.
the costs can be far higher at the executive level. when new leaders don't explicitly grasp their firm's culture, they often work at cross-purposes and then wonder why change is so difficult. "when you see a real ceo flameout, it's often a cultural mismatch," mr. murphy says, citing, for example, bob nardelli's rocky tenure at home depot inc. home depot declined to comment.