Culture elicits an emotional response. We aren’t always aware of the emotional response, but it’s there. If the emotion is one of contentment, it feels so neutral we barely perceive its existence. When the cultural norm is in our face and it flips our switches – for good or bad – then the emotion is much more obvious. It depends on which side of a culture you stand as to which emotion you may experience.

judgeI have lived internationally for five of the last eight years. This journey has had me living in three very different countries, other than my country of origin. The cultures of each country couldn’t have been more different from one another. Each one of them elicited a different emotion around various social aspects and behavioral norms. Some differences I liked; others made me what to tear my hair out (to coin a phrase).

The most interesting part – common among all the cultures – is the response to someone communicating those frustrations and difficulties. Each person immersed in that cultured felt judged by my commentary and had a defensive initial response. There was an erroneous assumption made that I was passing judgment on the culture, when I was merely pointing out the differences of my personal culture and the national culture of that country.

Organizations are no different really. This “judgy” feeling seems to go both ways between the individual and the organization. In one instance you have a great candidate who has the perfect mix of skills for your organizational needs. They are exactly what you want; then they decline the offer based on the “not a good fit” feelings. Business goes on, of course, but there is a feeling of being judged and it elicits an emotional response. The same is true for an individual. You have your personal and professional priorities and you’re told that your not a good fit for an organization. You feel judged and excluded for what you view as arbitrary reasons. This interaction elicits an emotional response.

These aren’t as much blatant acts of rejection, but rather healthy acts of culture. Individuals have priorities that they refuse to sacrifice and so that dictates their personal culture, as well as the type of culture with which they are willing to align. Organizations have priorities they refuse to sacrifice and so that dictates their company culture, as well as the type of individual culture with which they are willing to align. One feels judged by the other, but in reality both are simply protecting and choosing their culture. It’s our emotional response to this event that distracts us and creates all the unnecessary “poor me” drama.

Just like the national cultural norms that have different priorities than I have as an individual mean there are some countries which are not a good fit for me to reside long term, the same holds true for individuals and organizations. The organizational cultural norms, and subsequent priorities, may not be a good place for an individual to reside. So be it.

The less vanilla your organization looks and feels, the sooner you will begin to attract the talent that shares your cultural norms and thrives under your cultural priorities. It is a natural relationship in which an authentic approach to expressing their talent is possible and mutually beneficial.

Make your culture work for you. Skip over the “judgy” feeling and embrace the fact that you are selectively creating the most profitable atmosphere possible while still giving opportunity for like-minded professionals to unleash their potential in your organization. Human-centric business wins AND is profitable.

What has been your experience in this area?