Company culture is what you make of it

Been hearing from some of my friends that have recently taken new jobs about how shitty the company culture is at the company they work at. We’ve all been there, working in a development shop with the single goal to ship more units to make money. The developers sit back all day in the A/C complaining about how crappy it is while perusing Hacker News for a few hours a day. The lack of culture is usually equated to the lack of fun that happens in the office and a bitterness towards some archaic platform that they are certain they could have engineered better.

Company culture is often established by the employees and not necessarily upper management (unless you work at Twitter or Square where Jack Dorsey takes a day to focus on it every week). A few key hires can dramatically change the culture of a company. People that have worked at companies with good culture often bring that along with them and will fight to make it a reality. Unfortunately upper management is usually more worried about meeting unrealistic deadlines than the company culture, but they will probably chime in when they think something is affecting productivity. More unfortunate still is that the ability to positively shape and contribute to company culture is rarely a line item on résumés or part of the interview questions.

So let’s say you don’t have any of these cultural embassadors in your midst? I’ve been there, it sucks. Instead of commiserating with your peers, why not take the reigns and try to change things? It’s amazing how a well placed Nerf hoop or rolling into the office with a semi-automatic Nerf gun can change the mood of an office and often times boost morale. Making a Nerf gun standard issue for a new hire helps too. Remember, it’s not about “how much fun you have” it’s about “how much you enjoy where you work”. Misery loves company, anyone that wants to continue to bitch about the place, remind them that they could help contribute to the culture.

Not every place of business is alcohol friendly, but one of my favorite things to do is establish semi-regular happy hours. That doesn’t necessarily mean to get sloshed at your desk at 2 in the afternoon in the middle of the week (always great when that happens, though 😉 and it doesn’t even have to be something at the office. Don’t treat it as a reason for everyone to go get drunk and air grievances, use it as a way to celebrate a success, perhaps a recent code push or some huge milestone was achieved. If you can pull off the in office happy hours, a fridge stocked with beer goes a long way, but getting people involved by mixing up their favorite cocktails goes even further. This also helps to spread the monetary burden around a bit. It sucks for someone if they are the only person bringing in cases of beer. That’s assuming it’s just not part of your department’s budget 😉

Speaking of drinking, another great time to drink is after winning (or losing) a game. There are adult leagues for just about everything these days, get enough people in the office behind the idea and take it upon yourself to sign up. It doesn’t matter the outcome, what matters is that you’re team building which is also a huge part of improving company morale. There will always be someone that wants absolutely nothing to do with it. That’s okay, see if you can coerce them into coming out and taking some pictures for the company website.

These were just some of the things I’ve done or been a part of at other companies and I’d love to hear some of the way you’ve helped to contribute to a company’s culture, comment below!

Josh Sherman - The Man, The Myth, The Avatar

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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