Company Culture isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it


I have an issue with “company culture” discussions.

The popular definition of “company culture” is how many ping-pong tables you have, how many beer garden outings you take as a team, how comfortable the chairs are in the entryway, whether you get 10 days of paid vacation time or 15 days of paid vacation time, how good your 401k plan is, how many weird fun facts you know about your employees, etc. etc. etc.

A perfect example of this is the tech start-up world

“Company culture,” as it is formally defined, is immediately followed up with descriptions of the office, how much time you get off for lunch, the fact that you can write on the walls in Crayola marker because it’s “more creative.” And to a lot of people, these environments seem like dreams.

They are the David of the working world, slinging rocks at corporate Goliath.

But I’ll say for me, the above has nothing to do with how I define company culture.

For me, company culture comes down to one thing and one thing only:

How you treat what it is you’re doing for eight plus hours a day, five (sometimes six or seven) days a week.

If I don’t feel good about how the work gets done, if I’m not enjoying the process with my team, then no amount of rock climbing expeditions or expensed dinners or Friday margaritas are going to change that.

Sure, they might give me a fleeting sense of “fun,” but that does very little to impact the way the work (the thing we spend far more time doing) gets done.

Company culture has to do with the people, not the things you have your people doing — or the amenities you provide your people to leisure themselves.

Having said that, let me tell you my definition of company culture:

  • Culture is how people handle a disagreement.
  • Culture is how teams communicate, the language they use, the way they share their ideas and feedback.
  • Culture is whether or not people talk badly about others behind their backs.
  • Culture is the meticulousness that goes into even the most mind numbing of tasks.
  • Culture is whether your title defines your role, or your role defines your title.
  • Culture is everyone’s willingness to listen.
  • Culture is showing up on time, prepared, with a positive attitude.
  • Culture is the way you approach your work, day in and day out, with an insatiable hunger to learn and grow and build.

That’s company culture, and that’s what’s actually fun.

Getting stuff done, is fun.

Getting it done really well, is fun.

Getting it done with people you enjoy being around, is fun.

And feeling really good about your work, is fun.

Everything else is secondary.

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