230+ resources you need to learn the ins and outs of company culture.
Haley S. Anderson
▪︎ 26 minutes read time
This post is part of The Holloway Syllabus series. We’ll publish new Holloway Syllabi every other week, and you can read and search the contents of all of them in one place in The Holloway Modern Work Library. To create this Holloway Syllabus, we put in more than 40 hours of research and worked with Tom Eisenmann from Harvard Business School, Nadia Eghbal from Protocol Labs, and Dasha Maggio from Felicis Ventures to pull together and vet great resources. We believe this is the most comprehensive and authoritative list (over 230 resources!) to help you master the ins and outs of company culture.
"Culture is the tacit social order of an organization: It shapes attitudes and behaviors in wide-ranging and durable ways. Cultural norms define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive." Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng, The Culture Factor*
The concept of “company culture” often seems to be something between a buzzword, an enigma, and a feeling, so what is it really? Company culture is an expression of shared values, a reflection of leadership, the way colleagues relate to and treat one another, a sense of safety and belonging, a question of how a company reacts to the challenges it faces, and more. As demonstrated by the resources in Why does company culture matter? and the case studies in The Risks of Getting Culture Wrong, company culture can be a source of profitability and a reason excellent employees stay, or it can lead to wrongdoing, disaffection, and even criminal investigation.
This syllabus draws together resources that will help you learn about the many dimensions of company culture, as well as tips and tools that can help you build, change, and scale your own. While all of its sections could easily expand into their own deep dives, we have selected key resources that will give you the overview you need to grapple with the main concepts and controversies in each. If you work at a company, are thinking of starting a company, or even just interact with others, this syllabus is for you.
There’s a lot of good advice out there on how to give feedback effectively. We consider this a net positive. That said, readers may find it more daunting to read each and every one of these resources, and we suggest that you take a look through, focusing now on any that apply to particular situations in which you find yourself and returning to this list as you face new challenges or seek to grow.
Tech Leavers Study — Kapor Center for Social Impact — Finds that “unfair treatment is the single largest driver of turnover affecting all groups, and most acutely affects underrepresented professionals.” Recommends that “diversity and inclusion initiatives can improve culture and reduce turnover—if they are done right.”
Delivering through diversity — Vivian Hunt, Lareina Yee, Sara Prince, and Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle (McKinsey & Company) — demonstrating that gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability
audiologinWorkplace Culture Conflicts — Dan McGinn, Alison Beard, and Alicia Tillman — Note this episode from the “Dear HBR” podcast is freely available from various podcast streaming sources. It was published on August 8, 2019.
We’ve included articles here that you might see cited for their takes on organizational culture. We’re sure the authors have the best intentions, but we’ve found their advice to be counterproductive. In particular, we recommend that readers think twice before asking colleagues or employees to work for equity only, at all hours, in explicitly non-diverse cultures, and so on. Such expectations can undermine an inclusive culture.