Since around 2006, we have started to hear a lot about culture in the work place. Most of us that have a role in leadership agonize over how to create the most enviable work environment we can imagine.

A couple of years ago, I started to realize that culture in the office is an ever evolving thing. And rather than me spending hours a month trying to manage the “happy” meter at the company, my job really is just to make sure the core principles of Plaid Swan remain intact.

For me, the number one thing is flexibility. Flexible schedules, flexible work environment and flexible job approach. That last one always raises eyebrows, however I have personally worked in places that have black and white policies and most result in battles that are not worth fighting. “You must be seated at your desk at 8:00A.” Our policy is that the office is open 8A to 5P. If you are late by 10 minutes some days, who cares. If you miss a meeting or run in late to a project round table, now you are missing a deadline and we have a problem. My philosophy is simple. People are adults. I trust them until I have a reason not to. This allows people to be human and the culture evolves from there.

However, our flexible culture is based on three hard and fast policies that are not up for discussion.

1) Hit your deadlines.

2) Accomplish your goals. Each team member that takes a role at Plaid Swan has written goals from day 1. This allows us to ensure that all the flexibility we provide does not hinder the productivity or quality expectation of the partners or our clients.

3)  No micromanaging. I am just simply not willing to do it nor watch someone else do it. If I have to micro-manage someone to get them to produce, or tell a project leader to not micro manage a team, they likely will not fit in to the organization for long.

So all said, who should be leading the culture of the company? To that, I answer, “your employees,” with a sprinkle of intern antics added in for a little whacky fun. The reality of any work place is that people come and go. The days of someone staying in the same job for 10 years are rare, and for leadership to visualize a “fun, cool” culture and then pound it in to everyone, whether they are new or seasoned, isn’t culture, it’s staging.

The people who are living the culture at your business are forever evolving. When we started Plaid Swan, most everyone was single. Now there have been weddings, babies, mortgages, illness, and deaths. People change. Life changes. What they want from their work environment changes.

What if you don’t have fun, cool people, and actually have introverts that are uncomfortable with fun at work? If you push your vision of culture on to the team, you will just be creating stress.  Think of all the employee birthday parties you have dreaded over the years (be honest!) or remember being asked to stop work to join in a team development game when you are on deadline.  Some teams really are just nose- to- the- grindstone workers and that is fine, that IS their culture. Or, you may really have employees who love setting up crazy office videos and that is fine too.

Your team is the best monitor of the pulse. The culture comes when they have choices. When introverts and extroverts are able to decide for themselves what they want from their down time during the work day, the company culture is born.

So, don’t get all wrapped up in what you see on Facebook. Company Facebook pages are a lot like personal Facebook posts. Fun, wonderful things, all day, all the time. See? The world is full of fairy dust and bunny rabbits. Take these posts with a grain of salt and know that most companies are the same. A lot of long hours with a few good times sprinkled in and hopefully a lot of great work coming out.

-Betsy  McCloskey |