In my experience, managers and entrepreneurs love to talk about company culture while recruiting talent. Boasting about corporate transparency, social responsibility or free employee latte bars with bean bags lounges are often front-forward selling points.

Unfortunately, I believe the idea of company culture is oversold, misrepresented, and sadly diluted by countless cliches.

For as long as I have been in business, I have always prioritized one key consideration far higher than culture -- chemistry.

By definition, chemistry is "the complex emotional or psychological interaction between two people." These interactions, while perhaps influenced by company culture, are far more influenced by an individual's culture and personal condition.

It is how we get along.

Luckily, I have been fortunate to work for great companies that had great cultures, but what I remember and cherish the most are the relationships with my managers and peers, which were derived not because of a company policy but because we had chemistry.

Even with these lessons, I have been guilty in the past of putting too much emphasis on company culture in my own businesses, which led me to hire based on fit with this perceived culture rather than chemistry with my team and me.

Not coincidentally, this was also the time when I had an embarrassing record of bad hires -- lessons I never forgot and have forged into the following distinctions:

  • Culture sets expectations about how people work together.
    Chemistry is how people work together.
  • Culture instills a sense of community.
    Chemistry draws people together to a community.
  • Culture sets the attitude in the workplace.
    Chemistry creates the attitude in the workplace.
  • Culture tells you how long and diligently to work.
    Chemistry encourages a team to work together to accomplish goals.
  • Culture is allowing people to work remotely with a flexible schedule.
    Chemistry is about finding time in a flexible schedule to work together.
  • Culture is about providing an open-office space with a latte bar.
    Chemistry is about finding open space in which to share a latte with a colleague.

Sure, culture is important for setting expectations and creating a work environment conducive to the outcomes desired by management, but no amount of free lattes or remote work can make up for when nobody gets along.

Of course, I do not want to discount too much the importance of culture, but rather to say that it is important to find a balance between a meaningful culture and recruiting individuals who get along. 

What do you think? Is chemistry or culture more important? Share your thoughts with us on social media.

Published on: Aug 31, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.