A couple of years ago, when I was at the beginning of my career path, I faced a common dilemma: what kind of workplace should I choose for my first job? I was considering different companies, but one question bothered me: should I choose a small company or look for a corporate job?
I thought that I would find my niche right at the beginning of my professional journey. After years of working in different middle-sized and large companies, I can confirm that this dilemma appears in people’s heads not only at the beginning of career path. We might be continually looking for our perfect place during all of our career development.
Ultimately, whatever type of company we select, we need to understand our needs and expectations in order to make such a decision wisely. So, how can we facilitate the decision-making process? What are we signing up for when we choose a corporate job?
In Warsaw, we have a large district, affectionately known as The Mordor. In this district, almost all large corporations with the brands that are recognizable worldwide have their offices. I work in one of them.
Recently, I was coming back from my corporate job in a tram full of other corporate workers. We all got off at the same tram stop and headed to the entry of the metro station. Out of the blue, a funny situation occurred.
From the opposite direction, two young college students were approaching, obviously surprised by the amount of people which got off the tram. One of them asked the other:
– What is happening? Where did all these people come from?
The second one responded loudly:
– Oh, it is nothing — these are just “corporats” who have just finished work.
Involuntarily I started laughing to myself when I heard that. Look at me — in one instant I became “corporat”.
I began to recall all the stereotypes that I’ve heard about the corporate world before actually joining it. People said to me: they will use you, you will feel like a cog in a wheel or you will be stuck in one position without the possibility to try something new and quickly adapt to changes.
Undoubtedly, like everything, the corporate job has it pros and cons. However, these completely depend on factors such as the environment and the particular circumstances.
It is true that in a large corporation it is harder to significantly influence the company
because of the large structure and long decision-making processes. This is also the reason why we need a lot more time before we can see the results of our work. For sure, it is harder to be noticed among thousands of other employees.
But, are these always the most important obstacle for us? Or can we find other strengths of working in a large corporation?
The scientists who’ve been studying motivation have found that our desire to do things is concentrated more on intrinsic motivation. We like to feel that we are a part of something bigger. We want to feel that we are creating value.
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All of these conditions can undoubtedly be met in a small company as well as in a corporate job.
A large company might bring with it prestige, a well-recognized brand and big initiatives which might engage employees and make them feel like they are a part of something bigger and more important. Also, the sheer size of the company may allow it to invest in employees for the personal and corporate development.
So, under some circumstances you can start your career at the entry level, take advantage of defined processes and structure and gain practical experience working on large-scale ventures. This experience later on might be used by you also in a small company on the condition that you will stay open-minded and ready to wear “multiple hats”, even outside your job description.
Snakes in suits
The advantage of being employed in the large company might be also the possibility to work with experienced managers and team leaders who have often gone through structured training on personal management. But here also the biggest threat is concealed. The environment in such a company can become a lot like a high school. Workers will stab each other in the back, spread nasty rumors and even form alliances and rivalries.
Additionally, recently I’ve read an excellent book, “Snakes in Suits”, which confirms that the modern corporate world, in which high risks result in high profits, may attract psychopaths. They may enter as rising stars and corporate saviors, but soon they may start to abuse the trust of colleagues, manipulate supervisors and destroy the positive atmosphere at work.
Working with a dysfunctional group can bring down the quality of your work, despite your best efforts. It may even affect your ability to move up in the company.
So, we can clearly see that your co-workers and managers can be the source of great opportunities, but also greater threats in a small company as well as in a large corporation. But paradoxically, in the corporate world, where processes and structure should be more mature, it is hard to eliminate such problems with the antagonistic culture. This is all because of the diffusion of responsibility.
The diffusion of responsibility
In case of an emergency, most people would probably want to be in a busy area so they have a higher chance of receiving help. Contrary to popular belief, being surrounded by people doesn’t guarantee anything. A psychological phenomenon called the Bystander Effect states that people are more likely to help someone in distress if there are few or no other witnesses. If there are more people around, one usually thinks someone else will stop to help. Scientists call this the diffusion of responsibility.
This diffusion of responsibility is a major problem in large companies as well. The large number of employees in such firms may result in the situation in which many people will wait until somebody else will take care of a particular issue. Such an attitude may be intensified by bureaucracy and wasting time due to compliance with too many rules and attendance at too many meetings. On the one hand, being continuously occupied, and on the other the inability to see the positive results of your work, might cause a lack of motivation and fulfillment, and consequently burnout.
If you are person who is strictly goal- and result-oriented you might feel overwhelmed by a formal, corporate office culture in which there is less space for improvisation and creativity.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
Undoubtedly, we can now observe a trend in the media that applauds the courage to become an entrepreneur and a creator of the startup. In magazines, we can find articles describing stories of people who left a corporate job for fulfilling work as an owner, for example, of small coffee shop.
I am not against this trend, but I think that it is important to choose what is right for you. For example, there are plenty of companies that are medium size (about 100 to 300 employees), where you can get both visibility and the ability to make a difference. Additionaly, they can provide you with some stability and career mobility, and also with enough people to learn from and network with. You don’t need to become an entrepreneur and you don’t even need to leave a corporate job, which might work for you perfectly anyway.
When we look at the top reasons why usually people leave companies we can see grounds such as: they don’t like their boss, they feel a lack of empowerment, or they are turned off by internal politics and the lack of recognition.
Honestly, these experiences can occur in any place, so it is much more crucial to understand your needs and expectations in order to wisely select the type of company in which you will fit in.
So, what is right for me?
When I wanted to find out what is best for me, I created a SWOT analysis for working in a corporate job. I discovered that my present job has a predominance of weaknesses, which are strongly intensified by surrounding threats. You might think that this is a quite harsh diagnosis, but it actually correspondents with my own feelings. Moreover, I discovered what the positive and negative sides of this job are, and what I should take into consideration during looking for a job in the future.
These weaknesses which you can see above are strongly connected with threats which in my case are lack of influence on the company’s future and lack of motivation. The picture below shows how predominant the relationship is between weaknesses and threats, and how little the strengths of this job allow for the use of opportunities.
After this SWOT analysis, I discovered what my needs are. I also now know that I should concentrate on finding a job where my influence on the company’s future will be greater, and at the same time, ideally in a company that cares less about structure, bureaucracy, and rules.
What about your preferences about your future?
You can find SWOT analysis with features that describe working in a corporate job in our SWOT Library. You can use it and transform it as you like in our application. Do not hesitate to do this right away — don’t waste time. Understanding your needs and expectations is crucial to your future development.
If you would like to read a more detailed description of the SWOT analysis processes, you can find it here.