Word Of The Year: Culture

Merriam Webster named Culture as the number-one word of the year. I’m going to talk about that because everyone talks about that in an agency.

As in, “We have an awesome culture!”

One of the definitions given by MW:

a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

Does anyone really know what culture in an organization is?

When I talk to agency folks, it usually comes down to

  • ·        we have an open workspace
  • ·        I can work any hours I want
  • ·        I can work from home
  • ·        we have free food in the kitchen
  • ·        there’s a keg of micro-brew in the gameroom
  • ·        I can bring my dog to work

When I look online for articles about agency culture, usually find something like this from AdAge.

From the article: "There's a vibe that you get from a place that feels contemporary and fun, and another you get from a place that feels like a sweatshop."

Written from the AdAge perspective, there are only two options. So I guess I’ve been working in sweatshops.  

Read a little further in the piece, we find 10 items listed that, they say, define culture.

Every single one of those items is superficial. A lighthearted newsletter or talent show don’t a culture make.

Culture is deep, and it exists without all that . . . stuff.

Culture is the mutual trust that management and staff have in one-another. It is the ability to voice an idea or opinion that is considered by others without fear of ridicule or retribution. It is simply thinking about others down-the-line – are you doing your part / making everything clear / tying up loose ends – so the next person in line can do their job without a whole bunch of extra work?

Doing a good job; being considerate, giving your colleagues an assist (without being asked), being inclusive and basically not being a jerk. And apologizing when you are.

It’s all the stuff we (should have) learned growing up. No, you’re not priviledged, you don’t always get your way or win a prize; perks are nice but not required to work in a culturally cool place.

Culture is organic. It’s not an outing, space age building or bringing your dog to work.

It’s enjoying the people you work with and loving-the-hell out of the work you do.

It’s actually liking going to work.

Management can foster this in any environment. I’ve had some of my best experiences in a cramped, crappy office with the lone amenity of a fridge for my sack lunch.

Management can kill this in any environment too. Even an onsite brewpub and doggie daycare can’t fix an absent, condescending stuffed shirt.

We all have jobs to do. Do yours well. It makes everything in the agency much easier. That includes managers, partners, veeps, and chiefs.

Now get to work, then go pet the dog and have a beer.