I’ve been thinking recently about the human characteristics that are critical to match when looking at a workplace: what works, what doesn’t, what causes stress. While there are certainly characteristics about workplaces that are truly unacceptable (threats, harassment, etc.) there is still a broad range of workplace environments that could be considered normal: large company, small company, strict hierarchical, flat management, etc.. How does one look at oneself and determine if you will fit in well with the company philosophy?
In third and fourth grade, I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, the classic role playing, swords and socery game that was the passion of so many children and supposed to bring the satanic downfall of society. My friend Josh and I played somewhat infrequently in art class for a year or so. I enjoyed the game, but never became a die-hard player. D&D passed out of my life for a while until I got to college and my friends included those who were still avid players. I still found it hard to play regularly, but I always enjoyed the process of the game and the details that went into creating a character even if actually role-playing that character posed a challenge to me. Physical characteristics and abilities were well defined and quantified through the use of dice roles and formed the basis of how your character operated in the world. More abstract philosophical predisposition was wrapped up in a stat called alignment.
Alignment is a categorization of the ethical (Law/Chaos axis) and moral (Good/Evil axis) perspective of people, creatures and societies.
In D&D, mixing characters of different alignments can have unpredictable results. It should be obvious that mixing a character with a Good alignment with one of and Evil alignment is bound to cause problems, but the challenges of Lawful/Chaotic mixtures can be more subtle but critical to this discussion. Since I believe that we all strive to the Good end of the spectrum, we will restrict ourselves to how the Lawful/Chaotic axis effects our lives.
At its most basic level a person characterized as Lawful Good is one who believes in following rules and respecting authority as the source of positive action in the world. While a Chaotic Good person has a strong inner moral compass to do good as they see it, without regard for established, reognized authorities. For example, the stereotypical medieval knight would be Lawful Good as he follows a strict moral code shared among all knights while Robin Hood did good deeds based on his own internal moral compass.
How does this effect the workplace? Companies have an alignment as well. An organization such as IBM could be seen to be a Lawful organization. It has a traditional view of management hierarchy with well established rules and codes of conduct. Whereas a company such as Google might be considered more Chaotic as it has a more free-wheeling style and supports some level of autonomy from its employees. While all of these characteristics are a sliding scale from Lawful to Chaotic, having a general match is critical.
Picture a Lawful Good employee at a Chaotic Good company? The company will expect the employee to have an internal sense of what they want to acomplish while the employee will be grasping for a level of structure that probably does not exist.
Chaotic Good employee and Lawful Good company? The situation is no better. The employee will be constantly fighting against a system they don’t see the need for while trying to reach the same goals.
Real world examples are of course more nuanced than this, but having a good understaning of the workplace environment you will mess with the best is critical as you look for work in any company. Learning these traits about a company is critical to your happiness and success at a company and you should think about them.
And if you are unsure, take an alignment test, you may learn something!