Gratitude as a Company Value
The story behind a surprising company ritual for expressing simple and sincere thanks to coworkers.
I work at a little company named Glitch. Even though we’re small, we’re one of the most venerated little companies in the tech industry, dating back to when we started making beloved products under the name Fog Creek Software — where Trello was born, and where Stack Overflow was co-created.
But though we’re relatively well-known for a small company, few people outside the company know about one of our most striking traditions. It’s a practice that is not just motivating or useful, but downright moving. How often does anybody get to have a regular part of work that touches us on an emotional level? That’s exactly what happens at Glitch. But first, I have to tell you about a flightless bird.
Years ago, our cofounder Joel Spolsky, in a fit of inspiration, decided that the mascot for the company’s then-flagship project would be a kiwi bird. The design went through some evolutions and early versions (including one illustrated by Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, back when he did that sort of thing!), and the end result looked something like this:
From there, the kiwi quickly graduated from simply being a product mascot into representing each of us on the team. We even got little kiwi statues that we give out to commemorate each employee’s anniversaries at the company. I told a little bit of that story in this talk at the Webstock conference in New Zealand a while back:
If there’s one thing New Zealanders love, it’s pandering to their tastes with cute kiwis.
But along the way of the kiwi becoming a mascot, everyone inside the company started a regular habit inside our regular all-hands “town hall” meetings. At each town hall, in front of the whole company, people on various teams and on different projects take some time to publicly acknowledge others in the company. We called these acknowledgements “kiwi bravos”.
Bravos can take the form of everything from a simple, brief nod to someone who helped answer a befuddling technical challenge to a broad acknowledgement of a team that worked tirelessly on a lengthy support question to effusive praise for a designer who went above and beyond in making a customer happy. What matters, though, is the overall effect.
At Glitch, our whole company regularly takes time to listen as team members publicly thank each other. From this comes a culture of gratitude. Even as we renamed the company from Fog Creek to Glitch and focused on our new product (the logo is two fishes instead of a bird!), we were able to preserve, and to grow, that culture of gratitude.
As a New Yorker, and someone who’s worked in tech for a long time, I was pretty skeptical about the idea of Bravos at first. Publicly acknowledging coworkers sounded like it could be pretty corny, or even unpleasant if it were forced like those times when people in big companies have to sign birthday cards for coworkers they’ve never met.
But in practice, this habit of showing our appreciation is incredibly sincere, genuinely heartfelt, and downright moving. I found myself incredibly surprised at the level of emotion I felt in seeing people simply, and honestly, recognizing each other’s efforts.
Best of all, our embrace of this form of gratitude has made things better. A better working environment for everyone on our team, a better focus on things that make our customers happy, and even better communication as people learn new ways to do things simply based on what gets praised.
We don’t expect that every company or organization is going to embrace a slightly wacky cartoon bird as part of their culture, but we do hope every team can embrace the idea that underpins our Bravos: we should regularly take the time to show our colleagues, peers and collaborators that we’re thankful for their work.
(Oh, and if that culture of gratitude sounds like the kind of place you’d like to work, maybe you should join our team at Glitch!)