Phony Company Cultures

Phony business cultures company cultureYou hear a lot these days about the wild company cultures and perks of some of the tech start-ups – some true and some not so true. The trend has been to create work environments that felt more like home so people would stay longer and work more hours. Although some of the workforce may think these are great perks and that the company cares about them, be clear, this is mostly self-interest on behalf of the organization.

I read an article in the NY Times this weekend about Hubspot and I just had to laugh because it has taken what I consider “phony” culture to the absurd. The author describes how team members are let go with a “congratulations you’ve been fired” email and a good-bye party.

Has good sense gone out the window? In what world is it okay to celebrate a very bad moment in someone’s life in full view of the rest of the company’s employees? This is the most egregious effort I’ve heard of to try to engage employees in a phony culture that purports to value its team members. The author rightly points out that a lot of today’s tech companies with revolving doors for employees are no better than the sweatshops at the turn of the century. They pay better, so at least there is that, but as far as treating people with respect and dignity? Not so much.

In the case of Hubspot, the Intentional Culture  they were supposedly creating was all about the team, being happy, and celebrating people. Where they veered off the highway and onto a gravel road was thinking this applied to all events in an employee’s time at the company. Firings should never be particularly easy, frequent or fun. If hiring was done better, firing would not happen as often. However, as I mentioned a few weeks back, firing is a necessity, but to do it as an event and “congratulate” someone is just cruel.

The culture that Hubspot has unintentionally created is callous and heartless, with very little respect for human dignity. It is still true that employees are usually the biggest asset of an organization, and most of these flamboyant “play time” cultures are set up with that in mind. But in one move, Hubspot negated that and essentially said: “we don’t respect you and not only that, we’re going to pretend this is fun.” This makes it awkward for everyone involved, not the least of which is the poor employee who got sacked.

As I’ve said before, get clear on your values ahead of time and create processes, procedures, and behaviors that are aligned with them. One wrong move and you create an unintentional culture that will stifle creativity, productivity and ultimately profits.