Monday, March 10, 2008

Understanding Corporate Culture

If you think it would be nice but not necessary to know the rules of corporate etiquette, consider this remarkable statistic from three separate research projects by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Stanford Research Institute:
Success in getting, keeping, and advancing in a job depends 85 percent on people skills and only 15 percent on technical knowledge and skills. Needless to say, then, mastering the rules of business etiquette can help your career. The first thing you should know is that these rules do not have the same foundation as those you may have learned as a child. Your childhood rules evolved from the code of chivalry, which called for deference to others on the basis of gender and/or age. However, relationships in the business world (or corporate culture) have always been based primarily on rank, much like any military system. Rank, or the degree of power vested in different individuals, gives a business organization the structure it needs to function effectively.

How you behave toward a peer or toward someone of another status varies with the kind of business and the style of the individual business. Corporate and social behavior in a bank, for instance, tends to be more formal than it would be in an advertising agency. And behavior in a newspaper city room makes an advertising office seem severely structured.

Don’t worry if you’re confused. Some basic rules will help you adjust to various business and professional situations. And behavior that is grounded in good manners—which means having respect for others and concern for their feelings—will allow colleagues to forgive (but maybe not forget) many inadvertent breaches of business or corporate etiquette.

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