It's true - you're in a committed relationship with your company. The interview was the first date, when you signed your offer letter you agreed to be exclusive, and ever since then you've been building a relationship with your coworkers and company. But don't feel guilty if you're married (and don't get too excited if you're desperately single), it's not exactly on that level - but it's close.
Americans spend a lot of time at work. It's often the first question you get asked, even in social settings. "What do you do?" rarely means "What do you do for fun?" According to Gallup the average American worker spends more time on the job than any other industrialized nation, and the average workweek for a full time employee is 47 hours. So if you're spending that long at the office, wouldn't you want to enjoy your time?
Be in a relationship with your company.
If you want your work relationships to be fulfilling, you need to approach them like you would any other relationship you care about. You need to communicate well, trust, and respect one another - you need to date your company.
Mark Douglas, founder and President of the $130 million-a-year adtech company SteelHouse, embraces this idea. "Embrace" may be underselling it - he sees it as the foundation of not only a strong work culture, but a strong business as a whole. Growing up in the Bronx, he learned early on the value of authentic relationships built on trust and loyalty. And he may be onto something - SteelHouse tripled its revenue last year and currently finds itself as the fastest growing company in advertising.
Mark sees the same principles in a strong working environment as he does in any successful romantic relationship. "Mutual trust, respect, communication, a shared passion - these are all things you should have with your coworkers. Strong teams are built on these principles. When you're dating someone special, you can't wait to see them and you'd do anything for them. That's the feeling you should have when you walk through the door of your company."
The idea that working relationships are void of emotion is an outdated way of thinking. They should actually be given the attention, openness, and care of any important relationship. Happy team members make for a more productive environment that retains the best talent, and Mark believes that this mindset is the purest way of building an organization that exceeds expectations.
"Look at it this way, if you're in a relationship with someone you care about, you want to go the extra mile for them. You have an inherent respect for them, and you're just as committed in the good times as you are willing to work through the rough patches." When team members have that feeling in common, businesses are better able to perform. Long nights spent coding for a launch or preparing for a presentation are a lot more bearable when you're surrounded by people you genuinely like. As a result, SteelHouse currently has a turnover rate amongst their team members of less than 1%.
So how do you build this type of culture? "I get asked this often - you can't force it," says Mark. "You can't just put some snacks in the kitchen, buy a pool table, stock the fridge with Red Bull, and expect everyone to love their jobs. That's surface-level stuff. If you want people to love their jobs, then you need to make more than just their hard work the focus. People want to be appreciated for who they are in addition to what they contribute. If you create an environment where that is easily done, you're on the right track."
While you can't force a strong culture, companies can take steps to create an environment where it can develop:
1. Chemistry is Key
There are a lot of talented people who can get the job done - the key is finding someone who fits into not just the company culture but also their team's dynamic. Recruiters can do their best to play matchmaker but that spark is either there or it isn't. The right candidate needs to be able to connect with their coworkers, and that connection can often be the deciding factor in who gets the job.
2. Encourage Individuality
People want to be in an environment that celebrates their individuality instead of trying to make everyone conform to a cookie cutter version of a perfect employee. The office needs to feel like a home in order for people to be comfortable and be themselves, not the corporate version of themselves which stifles creativity.
3. Facilitate Friendship
While friendships need to naturally be built - the company's job is to encourage and facilitate that to happen. At SteelHouse, company trips are organically organized because people actually want to hang out together, and then the company takes them to the next level. For example, a few people wanted to go to Las Vegas and soon everyone was onboard. SteelHouse booked a suite to get everyone together, threw a pool party with cabanas, and placed reservations at the best nightclubs and restaurants. Events that go over the top make people feel really appreciated.
Some would argue it's the most important aspect of any relationship. The funny thing about trust though is it takes a long time to build, but can be lost in a second and you may never get it back. Putting trust in the talented individuals you hire is important as it shows you respect them enough to make the right decisions.
Keep working at it.
"You can't get lazy," Mark continues, "You have to keep working at it. As a business, you have to show that you appreciate your team members' hard work. You need to make them feel like they're getting as much as they're putting in." To actively participate and contribute to molding its culture, SteelHouse as a company matches their official cultural efforts with the organic culture that has developed. Perks align with trust, respect, and other core principles; team members get unlimited vacation and have their expenses covered (no receipts required). Happy hours, playing sports, events, and company trips help bring everyone together.
"If you're dating someone, you want them to know you care about them right? You want them to feel special. Our team members here care about the business, so the business should care about them."
So how is your relationship going with your company? I'd love to learn more! Comment below.