I’m a Millennial by age, with a GenXer’s work ethic. My first full time job was in 2000 and I was only 18 years old. When most folks my age were only going to school, I was a full time student AND employee.
Email wasn’t commonplace in businesses just yet. Skytel pagers were all the rage and $10 an hour was the going rate for top talent. Also, people just worked for a company. Culture wasn’t a thing.
Work was work
You went into the office (no such thing as remote work), completed your hours (overtime was frowned upon unless you were asked) and you left, on time. When you weren’t in the office, there was no expectation on your time, and your days off were just that: days off.
I know this all sounds foreign today. We work from anywhere, can be contacted anytime and if we don’t drink the kool aid, we’re not considered a “culture fit”. Tell me, do I really have to be a fanatical about your brand or product to be great at my job? I say no.
There is something to be said for diversity. A space filled with everyone who thinks the same and moves the same is a cult. Not a culture.
When the CULTure works against you
I worked for a company that was cult like (actually, I’ve worked for a few). If you didn’t believe in their way of doing things, their way of thinking and approaching problems, you were made to feel like an outcast. After all, “this is how we do things here”.
I had a team member. She was SUPER smart. EXTREMELY passionate. VERY thorough, but a firecracker. She wholeheartedly believed in the CULTure of autonomy, which was taught and pushed within this organization. Sure, there was autonomy, until you needed to conform. She was not a conformist. She was an individual.
Me, being a good steward of the company culture (that I didn’t totally subscribe to, but I could stomach it from 9 to 5), had to enforce the rules. This resulted in tough coaching conversations, documentation and ultimately the resignation of that team member (which could have very well been a termination).
She left on a low note. We parted ways enemies (I felt). She was against me; I was against her. What I remember most about this, was she was right. She was right about how she was representing company culture because she was speaking her truth, being autonomous and putting the customer first. In reality, I felt like the fraud.
Close to a year passes and she sends me a message. I was at a low point personally and when I saw her name, I thought oh man, she’s gonna let me have it. I was so wrong. She sent a message thanking me for the candid feedback she received from me. In hindsight she understood that I was just trying to maintain the culture and help her succeed. It was VERY cool that she was able to see past the CULTure I was trying to uphold and she found the silver lining in the cloud.
Is CULTure used to control us
I’d say so. Somehow, there is the belief that if you are aligned to the brand, you’re willing to do more. You’ll go above and beyond and you will give up parts of you for the good of the company. Is that healthy? No one lives to work. We all work to live.
I’m a founder, not of a million-dollar brand or organization, but one built on my passion for helping others succeed. I ask for money, because other people ask me for it too (you know, the bank for my mortgage, the finance company for my car, etc.).
I recognize that anyone who works WITH me (no one works FOR me) is doing so as a means to an end. They have responsibilities and obligations and we exchange time for money.
Handling Company Culture today
What I hear most from my clients is that they have a hard time finding culture fits, because they want someone who lives their brand. That’s not terrible, because it’s about preference. For me, it’s nice for me not to have to conform, compromise my values or share anything I’m not comfortable with in the name of CULTure.
I love working with people who have high integrity, are efficient and self-driven. If they don’t like the foods I like, that doesn’t make them a bad fit, it just means we may not go to lunch together!
The culture of my company is this: bring the best version of you to our clients. Period. Work from Mars if you choose, just make sure they have good wifi and deliver a great outcome and experience. Put yourself first because YOU matter more than anything.