The relationship between managers and corporate culture

My friend sysadm1138 recently wrote a post titled “managers are more important than company culture.” I don’t disagree with anything she wrote, but I wanted to “yes, and” on it a bit. An employee’s immediate supervisor has the most impact their experience. This is true for everyone, but particularly for underindexed folks. But I would go on to say that managers are a reflection of the corporate culture.

I’ll grant that some people are better managers than others (indeed, some people are better people than others). Well-intentioned managers can still result in hostile and damaging work environments. But just as actions speak louder than words, the behavior of an organizations management at all layers is a more accurate reflection of corporate culture than anything else.

Even if 99 out of 100 managers are terrific, that one bad manager can taint the whole culture. If the organization doesn’t improve or remove harmful managers, then the culture is clear. Similarly, if the organization doesn’t enable and support employees identifying harmful managers, that says volumes about the culture.

This isn’t to say that you should only work at companies that have perfect management. I doubt any such place exists. But you should be aware of what the bad managers say about your culture. Corporate cultures, as expressed in words, are always aspirational. And when something is aspirational, you expect to fall short of it. Probably frequently. The question is how short do you fall? And what are you doing about it?

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