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Professional Cultures 1/4 💼 Culture at Work

Try Catch Essentials
Professional Cultures 1/4 💼 Culture at Work
By Kerry from Try Catch • Issue #23 • View online
Morning, Friday.
It’s Kerry from Try Catch, sending out another newsletter from dreary Amsterdam, it feels like we’ve rounded the corner though - the days are less and less endlessly wet and grey as the clouds are occasionally stabbed through by sunlight. 🌦
A different variety of sunbeam is gracing us this month: I am joined by Paul Musters, Founder of Amsterdam-based Fortify - a company culture consultancy, we’ll be co-authoring this month’s newsletters!
The March topic of Try Catch Essentials is Professional Cultures.
Try Catch Essentials are:
  • For HR leaders, recruiters, founders and hiring managers
  • Handpicked essential reading on important topics in HR and Tech
  • Sent to you in 4 easily-digestible issues per month

To begin,
During my Medical Anthropology undergraduate at the University of Washington, I studied a variety of topics adjacent to Professional Culture (cell phone cultures, the anthropology of institutions and urban ethnographies to name a few).
So I was very excited to talk with Paul about this topic, we share an enthusiasm for considering culture, and interestingly Paul’s understanding of “culture” comes from a unique background in performance measurement.
Paul has been considering performance since his teens.
He had already started a few businesses based on monitoring and applying physical performance R&D with athletes before shifting his lens with Fortify to how culture and performance are linked.
On Fortify’s blog, Paul details what his work defining company culture his understanding of company culture:
“Company culture is defined by: what goes on in the company when the founders and managers are not at the office?”
In other words, when there’s no one around telling people what to do and what not to do, how do they navigate their environment and handle interactions?
Those observable actions and behaviors can be interpreted as the company culture.

But there’s different levels to any company, there’s ‘micro,’ ‘local’ and ‘macro’ heights of every situation.
During our conversation this week, Paul and I found it was useful to create shared working definitions of the relevant altitudes of perception.
To keep the issues light-weight, we’ll focus on our shared distinctions between various scales of Professional Culture, defining the differences between Workplace Culture, Company Culture and Corporate Culture - at first glance (read: search results) they might seem like different flavors of the same thing, but we’ll clarify the nuances.

Check out our definitions of the three levels of Professional Cultures we’ll be tackling for the rest of this month and to learn more about what insights might be gained from being able to name the nuances between them.
💌 Give us a share 📥 you reply, we reply.

Culture at Work
We like to think that the title of this issue is a clever one.
Because of the ambiguity leant by the intentional word order: in this issue we’re talking not only of culture, at work; culture-at-work; but also culture at work - in case punctuation helps establish our readers distinguish differences.
Let’s unpack.
Outside of the other intersections of geographical, neighborhood, ethnic backgrounds, work history, et cetera - there are multiplicities of cultures at-work, at work.
Perhaps some of our readers have learned about cross-cultural communication through trainings or classes, maybe you’ve read about it in our series on Diversity and Inclusion, or maybe you’ve learned about it organically in your life experiences.
What makes Professional Cultures unique is that they are not exempt from influence from any of the intersections mentioned above.
They are, however, intentional in the goals of cultural behaviors a la professionalism, whereas other cultures can formulate organically as a bi-product of human interaction.
Ultimately, Professional Cultures desire a professional outcome.
Because of the nature of ‘face’ in professionalism, this dictates the design of some aspects of its associated cultures - but let’s take a look at our glossary for this month’s issues.

Workplace Culture:
A set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize a location of work. Related to the mundane and day-to-day aspects of behavior and actions shared by the overall workplace community - local groups: teams, departments, lunch groups, resource groups, clubs, et cetera, all contribute to the workplace culture. A company may have multiple offices and thus might have different workplace cultures associated with different locations. To consider things in a classical anthropological example: the workplace is the village. This is our ‘micro’ level.
Company Culture:
A set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize an organization. How the company expresses its values and beliefs through its communication, dress-code, policies, management practices, employee/client/customer treatment, et cetera. If the workplace is the village, then the company is the kingdom. A kingdom may have multiple villages, or it may just be a castle or it may be just a flag flown in various locations, a la remote work. This is our ‘local’ level.
Corporate Culture:
A set of shared values, goals, attitudes and practices that characterize the organization of an organization. This includes generalized beliefs and behaviors, company-wide value systems, strategies, communication, policies, work environment, and attitude. Corporate culture involves the origin of myths, symbols, phrases, logos, slogans, products, design. If we have villages and kingdoms, the corporate culture is the interpretation of the holy book that guides it all. This is our ‘macro’ level.

The last series, I admit I was guilty of referring to concepts by capital letters which is actually just referring to their attempted quantification.
Culture, by its nature, is unquantifiable - so I asked Paul if he could help elaborate on a few abbreviations he uses in his line of work.
To avoid the newsletter resembling spoonfuls of alphabet soup, Paul has created a page on Fortify’s website that we’ll link to in each issue as he updates the list for reference.

Read on about the effects of modern technology has had on professional culture as written in the Atlantic last month.
The Essential Read
Laptops Killed Work-Life Balance | The Atlantic
The Additional Reads
Why Do Corporations Speak the Way They Do?
The Challenge of Creating a Professional Culture | HRPS Blog
How to Build a Company Culture | Startup Guide
Up Next
We’ll be in your inbox again next Friday morning at 09:10 covering Workplace Culture.
Maybe it’s the layout of your office space, maybe your team is tucked in the corner of a noisy co-working space (🙋🏼‍♂️us too), maybe it’s how that particular department interacts with this particular department - each of these contribute to the experience of ‘micro’ professional culture.
Next week Paul and I will cover some ways you and your team can contemplate how these things can be acknowledged and offer ways to consider the experience for all parties involved.
Stay Connected
March is the end of our pre-meditated TCE topic pool, if you have an idea of what you’d like TCE to cover in the future, or if you wanna chat about anthropology and culture stuff, hit reply or drop us a line at kerry@trycatch.tech.
And as always, we’re always looking on ways to improve our content offerings to our dedicated readers, we really appreciate all of you sticking with us while we found our balance.
Have a great weekend!
~ Paul & Kerry
Did you enjoy this issue?
Kerry from Try Catch

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