How To Interpret Your Company Culture

In my previous post, I talked about company culture and how to create one your employees enjoy. What I didn’t mention is that your company most likely already has a culture and before you try and change it, you must understand it.

Back in 2009, Stephen C. Harper, Author of Extraordinary Entrepreneurship (Wiley) and The McGraw-Hill Guide to Starting Your Own Business, discussed a survey in an article that is used to help business owners understand the psychological thoughts employees have about their company. It is a Rorschach inkblot type-test that asks employees to identify items that reflect the characteristics of their current company. These questions help determine where your company is currently at, according to your employees. The multiple choices reflect some of the responses employees provided to the corresponding questions.

The questions and choices included:

1. If my company was an animal, it would be--.Why?

  • A sloth
  • A rhinoceros
  • A donkey
  • An ostrich 

2. If my company was a sport, it would be--.Why?

  • Ice hockey
  • Chess
  • Water polo
  • Boxing

3. If my company was a food, it would be--. Why?

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Spicy food
  • Spoiled milk
  • Tomatoes: They cause stomach ulcers.

4. If my company was a time (season, hour), it would be--.Why?

  • Winter
  • A Month
  • The heat of summer
  • Standard time

5. If my company was a place (location or type of facility), it would be--.Why?

  • A small town
  • A fire station
  • A room full of mirrors in a fun house

6. If my company was a TV show (past or present), it would be--.Why?

  • Comedy Central
  • Benny Hill
  • American Idol
  • A soap opera


If the majority of your employees picked a donkey, most likely your employees may feel your company has no agility and a low self-esteem so performance is lacking. Rhinoceros? Destined for extinction. Here are some of the other thoughts behind answer choices:


  • A sloth: Overstaffed with complacent, lazy workers; poor organizational goals.
  • An ostrich: We like to scurry around at the last minute getting things done and when something bad happens, we bury our heads in the sand until it blows over.


  • Ice hockey: Consistent fighting over funding for each department.
  • Chess: Strategy is created so each manager can meet their own individual goals.
  • Water polo: Treading water and trying to keep from drowning.
  • Boxing: Employees feel beat up.


  • Spaghetti and meatballs: Too many strings attached with some meatballs thrown in.
  • Spicy food: It seems like a good idea, but leaves you with heartburn and a bad aftertaste.
  • Spoiled milk: The company has recently changed and no longer resembles its former self.
  • Tomatoes: They cause stomach ulcers.


  • Winter: The feeling at this time is of the company having the flu.
  • A month: More focus is put on short-term impact instead of fully understanding the long-term strategy.
  • The heat of summer: Lazy without much inspiration or activity.
  • Standard time: Our clock is set one hour behind other firms.


  • A small town: Things generally stay the same with only a few individuals running the show.
  • A fire station: Always focused on putting out fires and being reactive instead of proactive in efforts and planning.
  • A room full of mirrors in a fun house: Due to the hierarchal structure, it is easy to become lost.


  • Comedy Central: Nobody knows what the other person is doing.
  •  Benny Hill: Everyone is running around in a circle, chasing something that is unattainable.
  • American Idol: Well-known, but no one ever appreciates the good elements, just the bad.
  • A soap opera: Unnecessary drama, deception, distrust and looming doom.

There is no right or wrong answer-it all just depends on how you want your employees to view your company. If the answers aren’t what you expected, start treating your employees like you treat your customers. Market to them. Conduct surveys. Find out what processes and tools help them and how you can build a menu of trust. Would your employees rather have a gym membership as a benefit or the ability to bring dogs to work? How about leadership? Do your employees think their supervisors are open to new ideas? Whatever it is, find out. It’s a few simple questions that could spark even more than you ever thought.

About the Author(s)

Betsy Brottlund

Guest Blogger