Organizational Culture in “Helping” Fields

One important aspect to consider when choosing a potential career field is the organizational culture of your field of interest. Organizational culture refers to an organization’s underlying beliefs, values, and overall mission. It also refers to the way in which social interactions play out within an organization (formal and informal) and the social norms that go along with these interactions. This idea of an organizational culture all work to build the overall environment of an organization. 

When choosing an organization to potentially work, it is important to determine if your personal values align with the values and mission of an organization. This will ensure that both you and your organization are passionate about the duty at hand which enables an efficient working relationship. In my informational interviews, two individuals spoke with extensive knowledge about this idea. Danielle Falnes is a Program Director at Community Treatment Solutions in Vincetown and is also a licensed social worker in New Jersey. In this position, she works with adolescent boys who struggle with various behavioral and mental health issues in a group home setting. When describing the organizational culture of her career field, she mentioned that social workers have a code of ethics, not dissimilar to that of those working in medical fields. The code outlines several value based principles. The principles hold high moral standards for licensed social workers and their organizations to guide “everyday professional conduct”, and identify the core values on which social work’s mission is based. After licensure, all social workers (regardless of professional area of focus or population served) must sign the code before working. Danielle stated that organizations also have their own “code of ethics” that must be adhered to which may stand in contrast to the official social work code of ethics and your own personal code of ethics. Especially in working with such vulnerable populations, Danielle oftentimes finds it is difficult to juggle between organizational codes and personal codes. For example, although she has a healthy rapport with a child built on the basis of trust, honesty, and integrity, her personal values cannot determine the final say of a child’s placement. The state organization is in charge of this responsibility. This is why choosing an organization that aligns somewhat identically to your own personal code of ethics is so important. 

As I mentioned above, children are an extremely unique population to work with in a professional setting. This is another important aspect to consider when considering the ways in which people interact within an organization. One of my interviewees, Cori Entler owns a private psychotherapy practice specializing in family and child therapy. As the leader of her private practice, her personal method of interacting with her clients is important in maintaining her professional reputation. She believes it is important to gain a rapport with the client through building a connection while maintaining appropriate boundaries. In this way, Cori is present and authentic for her clients while ensuring a professional line is drawn. This is especially difficult when working with children with behavioral or emotional problems because children don’t always understand that a professional line must be established. 

Moving past her interaction with her “followers”, she describes the overall culture of her field as contradictory. While there are some strengths to the culture of the helping field described above, there is one blatant and glaring weakness and that is how government run agencies treat those in helping fields. Before opening a private practice, Cori worked in a state agency. She reflected on the benefits and disadvantages of both by stating that in working with a state agency, it becomes difficult to value yourself and make enough money financially to support your wellbeing. She worked long, hard hours, oftentimes going beyond duties listed in her job description, with little monetary compensation or vacation days. This sends a mixed message especially because the field in question is a helping field. If caretakers do not have the means to support themselves emotionally, physically, and financially, they cannot fully care for the individuals they are responsible for. She is why Cori opened her own private practice where she can be in charge of her employees’ pay and hours to ensure that they are being well-cared for. Therefore, those interested in the helping field should take this aspect of the culture into consideration when deciding on a future career.