This week, I flew across the country to help solve a work related problem. Normally, I work remotely, which is awesome, but sometimes in person interactions trump video conferencing. Anyhow, the problem largely boiled down to poor communication driven by organization changes. These types of problems haven't been so common until recently, so I am wondering if the organizational changes fundamentally altered my working culture or if this is just a small hiccup that is inevitable with change, and if the culture has changed, I'm wondering if I still like it or not.
Normally, when I hear people talk about work culture, they talk about friends and perks. I mean it's pretty sexy for people to talk about Google's free sushi, laundry, and company bikes. And of course, there are companies like Method where Ping Pong tournaments are encouraged.
Since I work remotely, things like ping pong tables, office snacks, and free coffee have no pull on me. And now that I'm married with a kid, a work culture where socializing outside of work is expected is an active detractor to me. On a side note, Wednesday's Wall Street Journal even had an interesting article discussed how great work cultures can crimp employee's personal life.
All this being said, I still consider work culture to be one a top priority during my working years. After all, I spend 8-10 hours per day working, so I better enjoy the culture that I'm working in.
What I want in my working culture
A lot of my thinking on work culture has been driven by a book called Culture Eats Strategy For Lunch. Which is another book on my personal MBA list. Unlike The Dip by Seth Godin, I'm not so impressed by this book that I consider it a must read, but if you want a little more structure and a lot more depth on this topic, I'll give it a recommend.
From reading this book, I realize that the culture that I'm looking for boils down to two points. I want to have at least one colleague whom I consider a friend, and I want to be actively engaged in my work (that's the point that the book emphasizes).
Seriously, that's all I'm looking for in my work culture. I think that culture looks like people being interested in solving problems together, and for me in particular, it looks like having support to take risks.Those are the things that make me happy at work. This is an interesting Ted Talk that helps support my point of view.
The question I then posed to myself is what do I require of my work culture to be happy at work? Unfortunately, the way that I set up my cultural requirements, I unintentionally put the put the cultural onus on myself. How could my manager possibly cause me to actively engage in my work? Active engagement assumes that I own it. How can my manager possibly make sure that I have a friend- that would be just all kinds of weird.
My thought process led me to the conclusion that how I engage an existing people, ideas, processes, etc. defines my work culture and my happiness. This is opposite of the idea that the work culture can bring me happiness.
However, I talked about this with a few friends at work and they disagreed with me. They universally agreed that the culture has a profound impact on their ability to engage it. They wanted a culture where their work was valued (not just well compensated), and a culture where certain things were valued more than other certain things, and where so and so would stop emailing them and micro-managing. They also mentioned that they wouldn't mind free coffee and soda.
So inquiring minds want to know, what do you want in your work culture? What do you value and what's extraneous? And if possible, how much of a pay bump would be required to get you to choose a worse workplace culture than your current situation, and how much of a cut would you take for a better one?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.