Team Retreat 2018 — Italy

Inside our Culture: Happiness at Citrusbyte

Will Jessup
Aug 4, 2018 · 7 min read

When we talk about Happiness at Citrusbyte we talk in the context of the people, tools, systems, and approaches that either work for (make someone happy) or don’t work for(make someone unhappy) each person. These aspects are unique to each person and there isn’t one definition of what makes people happy or unhappy.

Citrusbyte is not responsible for your ultimate emotional state but we do want you to be happy with Citrusbyte. This is also measurable— each month we collect feedback on the happiness of each person and publish the results to the entire team. When we ask people, “what are you happy or unhappy about?”, we get great critical feedback on aspects of the company that we can then work to either change or continue doing.

Happiness is complex and thus unhappiness can be the result of a wide variety of underlying issues. That’s why it’s essential that we measure it regularly, discuss it openly, and share the results transparently.

It is important that we’re able to talk about happiness in terms of specifics — perhaps a problem with a specific approach, sales proposal, troublesome email, individuals and individual actions, management decisions, processes, specific customers, etc. — so that we can introspect about changes that we can make together as a team.

Here are just a few examples of things we strive to be great at because we openly talk about happiness and know these are important:

  1. Your Colleagues
  • Having teammates that you look up to and respect
  • Being treated with respect — being listened to
  • Psychological safety: Feeling trusted, being OK with failure as the process of growth, and having a sense of comfort with those around you

2. The Company

  • Having information shared truthfully with you
  • Not being coddled but rather and having managers trust you to handle challenges professionally
  • Having out of work time respected
  • Being mentored and provided with clear feedback and growth opportunities
  • Being compensated fairly

3. Ownership

  • Being given a mission with the autonomy, authority, responsibility and trust to achieve it
  • Having the opportunity to challenge yourself, learn and grow
  • Having autonomy within clear boundaries — Not having your boss do your job or be micromanaged
  • Being empowered to change and grow Citrusbyte itself

4. The Projects

  • Being challenged and being able to grow
  • Being part of a high functioning team with a clear mission and getting into a team state of flow
  • Creating something of value — having a positive impact on others

Why Happiness Matters

We can track this back to 3 simple goals:

Goal #1: We want to retain great people for a long time.

Our people are highly specialized and talented. They have a high degree of mobility — they choose to work with us just as much as we choose to work with them. Happiness is a critical factor for long term retention.

The longer a great person stays the more of an impact they can make on the shape of the organization through not just a focus on our clients, but a focus on how we operate as an organization.

Sometimes happy people still choose to leave. When a happy person leaves we’ve found that they ensure they leave us in a state to operate smoothly without them — they work with their project team to find, train, and handoff their responsibilities.

A happy person who leaves will also retain relationships with us and refer both customers and applicants to us.

Goal #2: We want engaged people who care deeply about the company and work to make it a better place.

A great company is made through the care and effort of great people. Effort without care leads to thoughtless choices being made about the business — the little details that matter are missed. Care without effort has little impact.

Having people who care is extremely important to us — these people ask themselves, “what can I do for the company?”. They take on responsibility to fix problems around themselves, they understand that when something is broken it’s ok, and they step up to help fix problems.

When people are happy we’ve found they tend to get deeply engaged with the company and help to build it into a better place for everyone.

Goal #3: We want to love what we do.

We find a sense of accomplishment in the work itself, the relationships we form, the impact we can have and the growth we personally experience. We don’t settle for being comfortable and push ourselves out of the comfort zone to grow.

Our work is challenging — however, because we love what we do we can push through the hard days, the frustrating times, the seemingly impossible situations, and find a path toward success, no matter how hard it may be.

How we Measure Happiness

We use a variety of methods to collect and share happiness data. We strive to be as transparent as possible about the data as well as the underlying causes, potential solutions and progress we’re making to retain the highest level of happiness.

  1. Monthly happiness survey

You get an email (as well as reminders) each month to fill out your happiness survey. After a few days of collection the results are published to the entire company.

There is a 12 month rolling history that you can see happiness scores for each individual as well as averages for each project group. If you have any questions about anyone’s particular score you can ask them or anyone else — no information is hidden unless it’s a sensitive HR issue.

2. Talk to your manager.

We believe in management as a support layer for our team; however, management is useless unless we lean on it for support. Maybe you are not sure if you should reach out to your manager to discuss something that is bugging you. That is a warning sign — you should probably reach out!

If you have a problem but not a solution don’t let that prevent you from reaching out. The goal is to start the discussion and bring awareness to an underlying issue even if it’s not understood.

There are no repercussions for discussing your happiness and the factors that drive it up or down.

If you feel your manager is not helping you address a problem reach out to them and ask about it. Seek to understand what steps your manager has taken already or what’s blocking him or her, and offer help if possible.

If that doesn’t work, at Citrusbyte individuals can reach out directly to the CEO. Our CEO has time set aside each week to talk with any employee on any topic. Additionally, individuals can reach out to me directly.

3. OfficeVibe.

We love using OfficeVibe. It may seem that you submit info into a form and maybe nobody ever reads it, but reality is the opposite: Managers read all OfficeVibe feedback every day.

Sometimes we will reach out to ask further questions. OfficeVibe is anonymous by default, but we also appreciate it when people don’t use the anonymous feature.

Your Responsibility

Happiness isn’t handed to you — you must create it through your actions.

We train, empower, and encourage individuals to take an ‘extreme ownership’ approach to how they are working: you take action to ensure you have a clear mission and understand the ‘why’ of what you are doing, you take action to ensure you get the tools you need, you take action to ensure you are operating with decentralized leadership and autonomy, you take action to actively build relationships and seek to understand, you take action to polish your skills and you take action to work with patience and resolve to address things that make you unhappy.

However there are always hurdles. Things that get in the way. Things that have been done a certain way for a long time and nobody knows why anymore. That’s why if you see something that makes you unhappy — something that is broken, dragging your team down, someone that is micromanaging you, etc — it is your responsibility to first try to fix the issue yourself.

Sometimes you can’t — that’s okay. If you need help, discuss the issue with your peers or manager and see if they can help. If your peers or manager can’t help then it’s your duty to continue to escalate. You can reach out to anyone, even in another department, or the CEO directly. The organizational chart doesn’t matter here — we’re trying to uncover, understand, share and fix underlying problems that perhaps entire groups of people can’t see.

Don’t be complacent. Even a little problem can unravel into catastrophe. What might seem like a short-term acceptance of a problem eventually leads to a harmful new organization standard as individuals become desensitized to the issue on hand. However you must also remain patient and pragmatic.

When a person reports low happiness, we ask that person to ask themselves, “What actions did I take to try to address the things that made me unhappy?” Additionally, a low score will result in an individual’s manager reaching out to that individual to discuss their happiness, learn about the factors that contributed to the score, and see what steps that individual made to address the problems themselves.

Long term low happiness scores, however, are the responsibility of an individual’s manager, and so on, up to the Head of Services. The Head of Services is committed to ensuring we’re supporting our people, fixing problems, making things better, and operating in an effective way that leads to long term happiness.

Further Improvements

How can we continue to improve our happiness at Citrusbyte? If you have ideas or just want to discuss the topic further, let us know!

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