Employee Liberation and the Impact of Good Company Culture
You know what’s sad to me?
It’s sad that most people will never know how liberating it is to come to terms with your unhappiness, and to quit your sh*tty job because of it.
My moment of clarity came on a bus.
My wife and I were on our way back from Seattle to Portland, where we spent the weekend enjoying every second of TEDx Rainier (TEDx, for those unaware, is a weekend-long conference of inspiring talks and stories from incredible people, based on the larger and more famous annual TED conference). The conference was centered around having an idea, forming that idea, and then implementing it. It was all about people who decided not to sit around, not procrastinate, and not get scared of failure. These were people who just did it. Inspiring, as a way to describe it, doesn’t properly do it justice.
The bus ride was really bumpy, a little smelly, and generally very uncomfortable. Not so dissimilar from my two days prior to the conference. The Thursday before, I had a six-month bonus conversation and performance evaluation with my boss. She let me know that even though I had outperformed my department for an entire quarter statistically, I hadn’t done enough “other projects,” and my performance the quarter prior to that (in which I had taken four weeks of paid and approved vacation dispersed throughout) was ultimately not enough to give me even an average bonus.
I fought back, requesting meetings to debate my worth, and to remind them that I hadn’t ever been told my performance was sub-par. Feedback was a fallacy at the place I worked. In fact, the small amount of feedback I ever received had been overwhelmingly positive, which only amplified my resentment at the rejection. This was brought to a head when I was told by the VP of my department that my taking vacation was my own fault and I ”should have thought about the repercussions before deciding to take the time off,” that “they feel comfortable in the bonus they gave me,” and that I needed to figure out if I was tough enough to stay there. Their advice to me before I left was take a hard look at yourself and figure out if you can handle this role, and then prove yourself next year. Maybe then I’ll get an average bonus.
So as I rode that bus, blazing down I-5, I took their advice. I looked... hard. And I found a lot. I realized that this job would never make me happy. I walked in on Monday at 7 a.m., pulled my manager into an office, and told her I quit. It was time to take control.
Fast forward a year.
I have the same exact job title, I do a similar job day-to-day, and the pay is less. What’s different?
I’m actually happy.
Sure, Metal Toad has six beers on tap, it’s in a great downtown location, has a VR headset, and the people are awesome. Those are all perks. But the real difference, the core of my happiness, comes from the values, the autonomy, and the responsibility.
Metal Toad has a few official and unofficial core values, ones that people actually know and follow mind you, that really resonate.
Act like an adult and get treated like an adult.
Always assume positive intent.
Always be curious, and always be helpful.
Lean towards the client.
Make mistakes and learn from them.
Metal Toad encourages you to become responsible and autonomous from day one. Enjoy a comfortable office, take time off when you need it, and challenge yourself. That mentality makes a difference. It’s refreshing to see a company reward people for the work they do. The people here give honest, sincere, and constructive feedback constantly. They ask for constructive criticism from clients and from fellow Toads, and they strive every single day to make this the best company possible.
One of the best things about Metal Toad is our weekly Monday stand up. Fifteen minutes are devoted to “fist-bumping” and “high-fiving.” We go around and take the time to recognize all of the great things people did for each other the previous week, from bringing in cookies to saving a project from failure. This would never have happened at my previous employer.
So what does a good company culture do for you the employee? From first-hand experience, I can tell you it:
Begins a path to a better you.
Improves self-esteem and self-respect.
Makes you happy.
What could be better than that? If you ask me, it should be a company’s prerogative to create a culture that fosters growth, opportunity, and happiness. If you don’t, you might just find more and more employees liberating themselves. Rightfully so.