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Understanding Company Culture: Questions to Ask as a Temporary Employee

As a temporary employee, especially for those on a short-term contract, getting to know the company culture may not seem important. Why get to know the company culture if the assignment will be completed in a few weeks?

The most valuable employees are the ones who work well within the organization’s culture. Company culture isn’t just about events and recognition. It determines and shapes daily interactions, work expectations and priorities. It’s critical to understand how to function within the organization to maximize effectiveness.

Ask these questions to better understand the company culture from the beginning.

What characteristics are most valued?


What the company values most in an employee usually reveals the organization’s priorities. For example, if innovation is highly valued, the company probably places priority on constantly improving their services. Whether enthusiasm, honesty, speed or diligence, be sure to lean into the characteristics that are most valued by company or team leadership. It will show a commitment and ability to contribute to companywide goals.

How are problems handled?


When a problem arises, whether it be a tech issue, a disagreement or a miscommunication, it’s important to know what to do next. For work-related problems, find out what kinds of resources are available. Get access to manuals and best practice documents. Get contact information for the operations or IT team. For interpersonal problems, find out who to contact, whether HR or management.

How are decisions made?


When at a crossroad, find out where to turn. As a contractor, responsibilities are typically limited to a specific task or project, but that doesn’t mean process improvements, questions or other ideas won’t come up. Find out how decisions are made before running with a new idea. Often, decisions have to be brought to leadership for review and approval.

How is feedback delivered?


Is it through one-on-ones with management? Is it on the employee to ask? Are there metrics in place? Receiving and acting on feedback is critical for succeeding in any role, so find out where to get it.

Don’t stop at these questions. There are plenty of other ways to understand company culture.

Look around the office. What types of posters or messages are posted on the walls? Check out any company-wide communication channels like Slack or Teams if you have access to them. What types of messages are sent? Whether posted physically or digitally, these messages can reveal the type of culture the company tries to foster. Maybe they value individual accountability, or perhaps they try to maintain a positive and uplifting environment.

At the end of the day, this all comes down to not only understanding company culture, but also respecting it. Regardless of personal opinions or feelings toward the setup of the culture, make every effort to lean into it. It will make you a better, more successful employee.

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