Sad Employee photo from ShutterstockThe old adage – don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole, holds true for educating children, relationships, relating to your boss and for finding a suitable fit for employees in the workplace. We often assume that if a company is well-known for having a great corporate culture, then anyone who is lucky enough to get hired will thrive and be happy. This is far from the truth. Even the most progressive company who sets the standards for excellence in their human resource practices could fail when the wrong people are brought on board.

Case and point – if you have a corporate culture that rewards high performers, team work, creativity and innovation with more responsibility, freedom and flexibility, there are some people who might find this environment ideal and others who could become overwhelmed. The hard-driving ambitious, novel thinkers and affiliative types might thrive in this work setting while those who seek stability, rules and structure could feel overwhelmed. It could also hold true that the brilliant independent type might thrive as an entrepreneur and struggle working with others in a corporate culture that demands working according to another’s rules and as part of a team.

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings doesn’t just talk about having a great corporate culture in his slide show. He created one that actually is a sought after model for all companies regardless of their size. Reed’s motto is ”We Seek Excellence” which at a glance sounds generic but put into practice changes lives and has created loyal, engaged employees. Reed’s method is focused on behaviors and skills that are valued in fellow employees. Netflix management sets the expectations from employees to achieve results and they don’t care whether you put in long hours as long as you’re a high performer.

High performing employees are motivated to work there because they’re treated with the utmost respect, paid high salaries, and are given more responsibility and freedom for being valuable contributors to their team. The Netflix culture attracts and retains stunning employees and the brilliant jerks aren’t hired or are let go. The company is highly selective in their recruiting so as to insure that new hires fit into their corporate culture. Netflix’s management strives to create an environment where every person is someone you respect and learn from. They formed a great workplace by having stunning colleagues rather than lush benefits, sushi lunches, nice offices and grand parties.

Hastings says that rewarding high performance with flexibility, more responsibility and freedoms, (like allowing employees to take whatever vacation time they want), fosters loyalty and gets employees excited about giving their all at work. They would rather see curious employees ‘who seek to understand our strategy, market, customers and suppliers than compliant workers.’ Management rewards those who contribute effectively outside of their specialty and who create new ideas that prove useful. They encourage employees to challenge prevailing assumptions when warranted and suggest better approaches that minimize complexity and simplify issues.

The lesson for prospective new hires is clear – seek a culture that ‘s aligned with your personal goals. There’s no one right place for everyone. If you seek stability and structure, an environment that boasts flexibility and high performance might not be a good fit for you. The ideal way to know this ahead of accepting a job is to seek out people who currently work for your perspective employer and to ask them pertinent questions about the culture. Gaining an insiders’ view of what behaviors and personality types thrive in that workspace could help you know whether you might fit in there.

The important thing employees can learn from viewing Netflix’s easy to skim slide show and from the philosophy at Netflix is that screening for the right culture will determine your happiness at work. A company could make the headlines for its stellar atmosphere, great perks and high salaries but if the expectations aren’t ones you jive with then you’re better off not pushing to get into that firm. The key to your success will be screening and selecting a company based on knowing people whose skills, abilities and sensibilities are similar to yours. Don’t assume that your sibling, spouse’s or best friend’s company is right for you unless you share the same skill sets and personal needs as them.

In today’s workplace there’s no one size fits all culture. Every person is unique and so is every company. Think of your job hunt like dating; chose a place that will allow you to thrive. Avoid the unhappy trap of being in a job that’s the wrong fit by knowing what motivates you, what you excel at and under what circumstances you produce your best work. One way to do this is by looking carefully at your previous jobs and recalling what you liked and didn’t like about the work you did there and that environment. Know why you’re valuable, what you bring to the table and how and why you’ll be able to add value to your perspective employer. Don’t hammer yourself into a hole that doesn’t fit. Instead, find the right hole that matches your ‘shape’ and thereby maximize your chances for success at work.