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Organizational Culture, Russian Style

Published: April 3, 2013 (Issue # 1753)



  • Russia’s corporate culture is young, ambitious and dynamic but often anarchic.
    Photo: for spt

At an employment interview at the Russian branch of one transnational company, candidates were asked what they thought an employee should do in case of fire. The answer that HR managers were looking for was “to follow the instructions.” The most common answer received, however, was “to put out the fire.”

“Only one in five candidates gave the right answer,” said Oksana Pochtivaya, senior consultant at Psycon Rus, a consulting company specializing in recruitment, personal assessments, strategic resourcing and leadership development. “And it is this [type of person] who related to the corporate culture of the company and who also accounts for its success.”

This is just one of many example of the differences between Russian and Western outlooks that have an impact on organizational culture. Corporate culture — the values and norms shared by all employees of the organization — exists in every company and influences the efficiency of the business. In cases where it is not specially formulated, corporate culture emerges spontaneously and consists of the vestiges of past working habits brought to the company by its employees — which often may not correspond with the goals of the enterprise.

Another instance of misunderstanding between nationalities, provided by Psycon Rus, concerns the financial director of a large company who moved to Switzerland from Russia and faced difficulties with staff who were not prepared to work a minute past 5 p.m., despite the fact that there was urgent work to be done.

“Russians are usually ready to stay late into the evening without demanding any compensation. To be successful, this director had to adapt to the new culture or leave the company,” said Pochtivaya.

The understanding of organizational culture in Russia and in the West is developing in a broadly parallel fashion, but with the Russian market lagging behind in several key areas. This is because new models of both market and labor relations emerged in Russia little more than 20 years ago.

“Corporate culture in Russian companies is young and is still in the process of being formed. Foreign companies bring us a culture that has been developed over decades,” said Alexander Yegorov, division director at the northwest branch of the Ancor recruitment agency.

“The general differences include the fact that foreign [organizational] culture is more transparent, while there is more impulsiveness and uncertainty in Russian companies,” he said.

“The local approach to forming and managing a corporate culture is characterized by being a young, ambitious and dynamic but anarchic process, while in Europe and the U.S. there are a number of standard practices,” said Olga Shmatko, head of the press office at HeadHunter St. Petersburg, a recruitment agency.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Dec. 25


Make this Christmas a slam-dunk and check out the Zenit St. Petersburg basketball club as they take on Nizhny Novgorod this evening at the Sibur Arena on Krestovsky Ostrov at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available on the club’s website for as little as 200 rubles ($3.30).


Spend your yuletide with Oleg Basilashvili this evening at the Concert Hall at 13/1 Arsenalnaya Naberezhnaya . The legendary film and stage actor will chat with fans, tell stories and share memories of an extensive career that has earned him acclaim throughout Russia.



Friday, Dec. 26


Celebrate Boxing Day by playing various tabletop games during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening tonight at 5 p.m. Spread the Christmas cheer and goodwill by making other people regret their decision to come and try to match their intellectual prowess against yours.



Saturday, Dec. 27


Indulge cultural and material needs simultaneously during the free classical music concert at the Galeria shopping mall in the heart of the city. Starting at 7 p.m., shoppers and mallwalkers will be able to hear the sounds of Tchaikovsky and Strauss softly lilt over the constant buzz of people bustling from store to store, trying to get their shopping done before New Year.



Sunday, Dec. 28


Prepare for the holidays at the Russian Winter New Year’s Fair on Moskovskaya Ploshchad, which concludes today after starting on Dec. 22. Games and attractions as well as numerous performances will be on offer for those looking to get into the spirit while numerous vendors will help make sure you have something for everyone on your list.



Monday, Dec. 29


Learn how the Swedes observe Christmas, or Jul, in their land of ice and snow, during aSwedish Christmas celebration at the Lermontov Children’s Library this afternoon at 4 p.m. Activities explaining and demonstrating Sweden’s cultural traditions will be accompanied by traditional dishes and sweets.



Tuesday, Dec. 30


Today is the final day of the Christmas Market at the Europolis shopping center on Polyustrovsky prospekt. Indulge your holiday sweet tooth by tucking into some gingerbread men, or attend one of the master classes that will teach you about how to make beautiful, festive decorations for your tree using only your hands.



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