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Ask HN: Company is growing and the culture shift is uncomfortable. What do I do?
81 points by klunger on Nov 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments
We were a small consulting shop, with quirky and close coworkers. Suddenly (last 3 months) we have brought on an HR manager, a PR manager, a project manager manager, and many more developers.

Everything feels much more... corporate? Overly professional? I am struggling to think of how to describe it. The HR manager scares me, although I am not sure why.

I realize that all of this is my problem, that the issue is how I am reacting to things, not the things themselves. It is not something that anyone is doing wrong, it is just the nature of growth. Several people have quit because they do not like the changes, but I don't really want to quit.

So... does anyone have any experience with this? I guess I just want some advice on how to reframe the situation, so it is acceptable to my preference for casual/personal environments. Or maybe, I just want advice on how to keep things weird while growing.




I know what you are going through. My last job was at Shutterstock, which went from 50 people to 700 in 5 years. I'm doing it again now, we went from 60 to 90 people in 6 months.

I have found that there are inflection points whenever things double. That could be people, revenue, office space, customers, etc. When this happens, "debt" affects the company. You're probably much more familiar with tech debt, and probably architectural debt. Maybe less familiar with organizational and cultural debt. You simply can't do things the way you always have, they don't scale. http://steveblank.com/2015/05/19/organizational-debt-is-like...

Change is inevitable and required. If not managed, it could sink you. Some people will quit regardless, they were probably not the right people for the next phase. At first you don't need teams (you have 1 team), then you need to have 2 teams, them more. This change is disruptive and affects productivity and morale. Read up on team maturity models (not CMM), it will help knowing what phases you will be going through. http://www.businessballs.com/tuckmanformingstormingnormingpe...

I presented the team maturity models too my devs the last time we restructured the teams. Multiple people came to me proudly stating they were in the "storming" phase, which essentially is when you argue a lot. They knew it was a phase, and frustration was reduced.

You do need leadership as you grow. A leader is not your best developer. The HR manager may scare you because they are a "manager", not a "leader". Good managers and leader can toggle between both roles. Too many people are great managers and not leaders. Know the difference between a manager and leader, know which ones you are missing. http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/articles/man...


Do you have more resources for team maturity models? This is the first time I've been introduced to that concept but it seems interesting.


How is it different for you this time, going through this a second time?


The first time I started as a developer on 1 team and evolved into a director of 6 teams, each one a new business unit. I contributed code to most of the teams I managed. I was not the one primarily responsible. I learned a lot as I went, I was very inexperienced for what was required. I learned a lot of ways NOT to do things. If I had to sum things up, I would say before I was helping "connect the dots", now I am connecting all the dots.

This time around I am purely a leader and the one primarily in charge of tech. My almost exclusive focus from the start is the people. I have to start over on most things that I evolved through previously. - I've taken on the responsibility to create and define our culture. My last job I assisted in this area. - Make sure developers have the tools to be productive. This includes reliable wifi, internet, good coffee, software, furniture, TVs for monitoring, AV system for presenting, conference rooms. - I've had to earn the trust of the existing people. Previously almost everyone was new on my teams and I hired them, so there was largely trust from the beginning. - there is churn, like you are going through. I had almost no churn on my teams previously that was not purposeful. I have to explain why the churn is ok and expected. - I have to teach developers to focus first on "why" they are building a feature, rather than "what" they are building and "how". This helps dev and product see eye to eye. - I have to teach how to interview, run meetings, do agile right, communicate. Focus on building the right things over building things right. Teach people when to be tactical and when to be strategic.

Ultimately, I have to step up and fill the gaps until I can hire and/or train people to assist in that area. Before I had help all along. For example, I've interviewed about 200 candidates in 6 months for many different roles (developer, DBA, sysadmin, product, data). Mainly because interviewing was probably the most important thing I could be doing for the company and the developers. I'd be happy to go into more detail offline.


I took a company from 2 people to 80 when we were at the height.

There have been a lot of attempts to crack that nut and most have been unsuccessful.

First you need to realize what is going on when you grow.

1) The more people you hire the more you erode the culture you had. Therefore be very mindful of what kind of people you hire and be quick to realize if they don't fit the culture (even though they might be good). I.e. hire slow, fire fast.

2) Have a set of principles that make you comfortable. If you don't like bullshit have a no bullshit rule, if you don't like agression have a be polite rule. The point is that you will need to be able to see yourself in those principles.

3) Always make it your failure that people are leaving and lear what you can do better next time. Even if it's a person who were really bad for the culture it's your failure. Even if they leave for a better job it's your failure that there is a better job. Find ways within your capabilities to deal with these failures.

4) Most importantly. Make sure people know they are there because they are good enough. I cannot tell you how important this and how many great cultures it has destroyed. Doubting leads to sub-optimale work. Instead of creating a competitive environment create an environment where people feel safe and cherished, that way they will perform much better, at least in my experience.

Last but no least. I rarely make book recommendations but Ed Catmulls (from Pixar) book "Creativity Inc" deals with this exact problem. I can't recommend this book enough. It's so filled with wisdom and perspective and as a bonus a surprisingly good mini Steve Jobs biography.

To give you some of the insights from the book I can recommend you listen to this talk he did http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=3299

That might give you some things to look for and see if you can find ways to address them whether you run the company or you work for it.


Good advice, but I think the OP is an employee at the company, not in charge of the growth himself (which your advice seems to be aimed at).


Individuals can make a huge difference from the bottom up. It's way more difficult, but it's possible. At the very least, make a lot of noise until someone savvy and powerful starts listening.


1) Culture must evolve with other elements of the company and at certain stages of growth and transition a company may need to intentionally hire to provoke and shape cultural change. Your change agents will be getting flak from many directions and your role may be to cover them and defend their advances.

2) This sounds like entrenching the status quo, risking stagnation. Every company I've ever worked at had some enshrined and virtually unassailable principles and practices. Celebrate the heretics and iconoclasts. It takes a strong internal center to speak out against groupthink and cultural norms. Make thoughtful challenge to the principles a principle (i.e. it cannot be a notwithstanding clause that supports blanket circumvention of other principles). Institutionalize periodic reviews.

3) The company and culture may change out from under some employees. An amicable and blameless split is best, including not blaming yourself. And every new hire constitutes some risk. So much hiring practice aims to minimize that risk without measuring or understanding the cost. It's easy to see and feel the effects of a bad hire, almost impossible to perceive the lost opportunity of a false negative.

Sometimes failure was not avoidable and there are no lessons to be learned to avoid similar situations in the future. Move on quickly, don't dwell.

4) Sounds like the Wobegon Corporation. Supporting cultural evolution is tough, often evolutionary and glacial rather than revolutionary and seismic. Your star performers in a micro-organization may be ineffective at the next level of scale because success then requires a different set of skills. Objective evaluation, effective performance and career management are tough problems made more so in a transitional company.

The culture that supported the company's previous stage needs to adapt for the next. Cultural change requires both people changing and changes in people. Elements of a company's culture will not scale. In organizations of which I've been part recently I've been promoting organizational Agility (capitalization intentional) in which Agile practices are applied to processes and structures, which adapt in response to internal and external forces. Cultural lock in retards progress.

WRT OP, these changes are necessary to support the company's current and continued growth, and I would avoid ascribing sinister intent. The company is changing in ways that don't match your personal work style, in which case it may be time to ask if you can adapt to this new reality (which may mean changing role or function within the company, rather than simply letting momentum carry you forward in your existing position) or look for a different company better aligned with your sweet spot (and do so in a way that is a positive experience on all sides, and don't wait to the point where you are acting out of frustration).

Change means new opportunities, possibilities to be teased out of your current situation. If a role exists or can be created that better suits your strengths, have a conversation with your manager and propose some changes, even as an experiment, "What if we tried ....", with an agreement to meet on a set time frame and evaluate results and pivot or course correct.


The HR manager scares me, although I am not sure why.

Job #1 of HR is to protect the company from its employees. The reason for hiring a HR professional (weirdly they never refer to themselves as "resources") is that the owners or managers now feel that they need that protection. There's a gulf now between management and workers, that perhaps was a narrow stream before. You've instinctively grasped this, that's where your apprehension comes from.


I entirely disagree with this view. If you look at the period of employment, the need for protection takes up a minute moment.

It is more likely that the owners wanted to recruit great talent, have someone whos mission is to create a nice everyday environment, help spot and train leadership or any other number of things that the HR professionals, I've had the pleasure of meeting in my career, are great at and care about.

Between large evil corporations and tiny lean teams, there are variety of companies where a HR professional can help you make it or break it.


The actual situation may differ from company to company but from the perspective of an employee it is probably wise to assume that the HR people are not 'on your side'. This also differs (strongly) from one country to another.


This especially goes for complaints about bullying or discrimination. Get a lawyer and a recruiter if it comes to that, but stay well away from HR. Your expenses might be investigated for anomalies.

Workers' unions can also be risky. They have their own agenda, leverage over management, and will encourage you to speak up often without considering your own best interests.


Definitely. The same with any employee, including engineers. The comment meant to be a reply to the motivations of the owners.


There are two separate functions here. Recruiting is one, protecting the owners from the employees is another. Not every company assigns responsibility for recruiting to HR; some make it primarily the responsibility of the hiring team/manager, others have a dedicated recruiting team separate from HR, others outsource and/or spread the responsibility around.

Recruiting (however and by whomever it's done) is essential to your company's ability to create products or services and generate revenue. This is what most people think of when they think about what success means, so it's not surprising that you would think of HR as key team members if you're accustomed to them doing recruiting. However, the other function, of protecting the company's owners from its employees, has nothing to do with the success of the company in that same sense; it doesn't help to generate revenue and may even hinder your progress toward it by separating the company from some of its most productive and creative employees. Instead, this function serves to direct as much of the revenue as possible to the owners of the company rather than employees (and/or their lawyers). Since most people who aren't the owners are focused primarily on products, services, and growing revenue, they don't think about this as being part of "success", so this traditional HR function makes them "the enemy" and an obstacle to success as they define it.

Both views of HR are correct; which is appropriate depends on who you are and on how your company assigns responsibility for recruiting. But make no mistake about it: if you're an employee, as the OP is, the part of the company that protects it from you is not your friend, even if the same people also help you recruit great teammates who help you achieve your goals.


They call that something else. HR is a smoke screen.


Not necessarily. When company transitions from a small consulting shop to a bigger org, HR is really there to protect the company from compliance lapses.

In the US, many regulations kick in at 50 employees.

That said, HR is never your pal. Then again, the owner of the company that you drank with in the smaller days wasn't really your pal either.


Then again, the owner of the company that you drank with in the smaller days wasn't really your pal either.

True. The hiring of professional HR means the mask has finally come off. You can't pretend to be one big happy family anymore.


Begun the 'random acts of management' have.


Talk to your management, ask them what their view of the future of the company is. If you've been there since the beginning those lines should still be open. If you get concrete answers and you like the future view, relax, it'll be ok.

If you're being pushed away, if you don't like the future view, if you're being told to talk to someone else or that this is none of your business I'd weigh carefully if you still want to be a part of this company in the longer term and if you decide not to to start looking for an opportunity to jump ship on your terms with your current job as your fall-back plan in case nothing really interesting comes by soon enough.

Lastly, I'm not sure if it is 100% your problem. Some of it obviously is, the need to professionalize will be felt in any growing company, it's hard to take a company from 3 to 30 people without losing something in the process. But not all needs to be lost and to have buy-in of the old-timers and to communicate openly with them is super important in managing that transition gracefully and effectively and this may be where your management is currently not doing the best job they could (but there is too little information in your message to determine that with any accuracy).

Best of luck!


Unfortunately, you are not going to be able to keep things weird (in this case). The only person who has complete control over the corporate culture is the CEO. And, even then, the CEO takes orders from the board and owners.

From your description of the recent changes, it appears that the CEO, board, and owners do not view unconventional culture as being important to the company's success. So, unless you or someone like you has great influence over the CEO (either directly or indirectly), this is not going to change. Trust me: there's no point in fighting it.

If an unconventional company culture is important to you, it's time to find a new workplace. If you have some time and patience, you can find a company that aims for the same goals as you.

1) corporations are the opposite of democracies,

2) those in leadership are not your friends (though they may be paid a lot to act that way),

3) things that appear to be 'for you' are always 'for the owners', first.


"The CEO is the only one who will change it, and clearly doesn't have interest in that, so give up or move on" feels at first like a bleak and defeatist answer.

I have found that it is entirely true.

A company I worked at before went through this. We spoke to one of our more seasoned investors, who had the same thing as the parent comment to say.

I spent a lot of time trying to find ways for this not to be true, but it is.

At a company, the CEO owns the culture. Even if they don't know they do. There are a lot of variables you can change, but that one's a constant.


Ask yourself why these new people have been hired - what was the (perceived) gap, what role do they play and why did this role become necessary to the company? Ask them if you can't figure it out - no better way to get to know these new people.

Then, ask yourself and them how you can help. A larger organization has more room for responsibilities and career growth. Others among the original 30 probably feel like you do; see if you can demonstrate leadership by identifying and resolving the conflicts that may arise.

If you don't already do this, start a brown bag series where old and new devs can talk about their work; or just do hack sessions together. It'll help identify mutual strengths and weaknesses. And when the CEO sees your name on the emails going out on this, I guarantee it'll go well for you.

If after your best efforts to evolve, you find that your CEO and exec team is among the 90% who can't manage and execute growth and life becomes hell, all of which will become obvious soon enough, then you quit. But make sure as many as possible of those new employees have good memories of you before you do that.


It's not only your problem. Growth is almost always painful. I'd suggest you view this as an opportunity on several levels and give it your best! You can help your company a _lot_. Try driving the change! Sit down and have discussions with the leadership team, start reading about organizational models (from classical ones to modern ones) - a good book: http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/ - the most important point is to get everyone conscious about the changes and acknowledge that it takes both time and deliberate effort! Handle it as you'd handle any longer project. Have milestones, action items, retrospectives about it! Phrase your goals (e.g. keeping or working out culture can be one of them). I also find that sitting down together and finding out what's important to you helps a lot - e.g. explicitly stating company-wide values or writing a manifesto. Don't panic :) Realize the power is in your hands also.


>I realize that all of this is my problem

Congrats! This is true wisdom and maturity.

Dive into what you find uncomfortable, try to adopt (or at least foster) new perspectives. Maybe even talk to these new people and share your feelings with them. Luckily for you they're in the soft-skills craft and may have the tools you're looking for at this uncomfortable time.

Your best bet for harmony and comfort is to adapt to the change rather than adhere to old ways. Because, in the end, flexibility is life skill we all need.


This is not just your problem. Every company that you work in has an implicit social contract (e.g. we're quirky, we're obsessed ..). Often over time the culture changes, and at some point you re-examine the social contract, realise it has changed and then underperform/ quit. [this was a massive issue in big outsourcing deals in the last 10-20 yrs where Company A would take over Company B's employees and then wonder why they became worse at doing the same job].

I would be constructively explicit early about the things you are uncomfortable about and try and articulate them to get a story going about what is changing. This way either you can adapt, or find out if others share your feelings, or you can decide if there's still a fit. Culture is key - once the culture (often the engineering culture) goes/radically changes, it signifies big changes ahead. Also - for the new people (PMs especially) - talk to them constructively to see if they can explain what they are bringing to the table, and also what they see as culturally valuable.


There's a whole (short) chapter on changes in "Peopleware" [1].

I've just skimmed through it, here are the key points I've found:

1) Change is not a single step. It involves several stages, one of them being chaos.

2) Chaos implies that things look worse than they used to be. People feel less comfortable and want to go back to old ways. Their reactions are emotional, not rational.

3) "You never improve if you can't change at all"

I recommend entire book. If you work in software business, I think you should know it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peopleware:_Productive_Project...


Real authority is granted, not imposed. You and your team can have 15 managers above you, but in the end, if you just act like they don't matter, they will not matter.

On the other hand, if these people bring real usefulness to the table (for example by freeing you from stuff you'd rather not do, like dealing with whiny and confused clients etc), then you should accept them and let them contribute as peers.

The other side of the coin is that the company is growing and clearly someone felt it lacked in some areas. If you're interested in those areas (i.e. you want to step up into management), you have an opportunity to do so.


Very well said and quite true! A managers job should be to facilitate, sadly many of them don't understand this, and breath down the developer's necks.

If you are one of those guys who gets the job done, then you shouldn't be giving a flying f* about the managers/HR, their job is to make things easier for you so that you can focus on your core areas of expertise, if that's not happening, you can and should talk to your founders/owners about your concerns.

Remember, you were there before these guys even came into the picture, and you are responsible for the growth of this company which is now even able to afford new people, and I am sure the company owners do realize that.


... and I am sure the company owners do realize that.

that's a very dangerous assumption. The company comes first for them. If you can't or won't fit into their vision then, thanks for everything and good luck.


Change is usually unsettling. It would be probably be worse if suddenly the company removed that many positions when having them was the normal.

That said, there are certain sizes at which organizational structure needs to undergo quantum change. Thresholds I've heard are ~10 [two pizzas], ~30, ~200. This means that some of the change when an organizational structure hits one of these is more or less permanent. That doesn't make it bad. Just permanent.

Good luck.


It seems that this numbers are connected to Dunbar's number[1] and that is related to i.e. military units organization[2].

In case of military units look at the end of page. Basic unit is squad (4-10 soldiers), next is platoon (3-4 squads/16-40 soldiers).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number

[2] http://www.army.mil/info/organization/unitsandcommands/oud/


30 and 100 is a pretty substantial change organizationally.


I found ~20 - ~80 - ~200 in the many places I've worked or with. Roughly (1) hire people directly and know everyone (2) have people hire people and know only some (3) have no idea who is being hired. All of my direct experience failed at size 80. Each of these require a culture shift.


It depends on how the company is run. If you embrace the changes needed at 30 you're good to go until 150-200 people. If not then yeah, organizational debt will be high enough then that the org will need a good shake up.


Do not be held hostage by anything other than money.

Demand for engineers is still so high right now that unless you have some form of golden handcuffs you will be better off leaving if you don't like your current situation.


When there are managers, things will be complex and there will be politics in the office. (I was one of the first 10 people of my first employer. It went to 400 people.)

I don't have golden suggestions for you. If you are a developer, stay focused on coding. If it still drives you mad, go find a better company.


I ran into something similar to this roughly 6 years ago (PM, PR, team leads etc.). I recognize your discomfort. It might take time, it might suck at times, but in the long run it will be for the better.

> I just want advice on how to keep things weird while growing.

That one was easy: get everyone that is new involved in the weirdness. Culture isn't strictly policy, it's people and it's your job to make sure that the culture doesn't die. Involve new people in the culture. If the new management gets in the way of the culture it is your responsibility to communicate that risk.

> The HR manager scares me, although I am not sure why.

Have lunch with them. That HR manager is more scared than you are. They are coming into a company with close friends and a culture that they have no idea about. Be inviting and friendly.


Give it time. I've gone through several growth and downsizing periods. Each time the people change and, therefore, the culture.

Afterwards, everyone is kinda feeling out everyone else, both professionally and personally.

The culture usually comes back, in my experience, but with different twists and personalities.

Worst-case scenario, the job starts to feel like one, the joy gets less and less, and you end up looking for another one (of really any size) that had a culture that fits your personality.

You're taking a healthy approach to this already, so let it play out before you back out.

Good luck!


Biased: just quit my job (hypergrowth conssidered harmful). There is such a thing as a lost cause; don't wait too long to bail. You are in demand.


I've been in this situation twice before as a developer. The first time, the devs bought nerf guns and scooters to counter the new corporate atmpsphere, and the second time everyone who wasn't part of the corporate in-crowd got systematically excluded from social events, and various dogmatic "managers" got brought in, who were friends with the CEO.

If you can, you should talk to your colleagues and the people in charge, to convince them that the company needs to be kept awesome and weird, while growing. Maybe suggest Open Allocation - Github and Valve do it, and I know people who work within that kind of structure and really enjoy it.

Be extremely wary of lies and corporate doublespeak that some CEOs and HR people often use to convince you that they care about your company's atmposphere, when they really just want you shut up and work. I've witnessed that far too often.


It sounds like key 'organisational' people are being put in place so the organisation can transiton to something bigger. This is a good thing, they're there to support you, as you're the core purpose of the organisation.

Take this as an opportunity for yourself. If you have worked in a corporate environment before, you're probably familiar with policies, documentation (not code, organisational), etc. If not, then don't worry.

This is you're chance to shape that from the start.

If you're the owner of a product or part of a product, you have a lot of leverage and power, just don't use it recklessly.

For example: I joined a company with no job descriptions. When the expansion came, I got to write my job description. My department (me) had no Statement of Purpose, so I wrote the Statement of Purpose.

We also had a training course on RACI (basically, a simple way whenever undertaking a task to make sure who is Responsible, Accountable, who should be Consulted, and who should be Informed). It's a simple idea, but well worth keeping in mind whenever doing something because an expansion means the amount of people that need to be 'in the know' changes (in my case, from casual chatting and word-of-mouth) to making sure things were documented in emails. It was different, but it helped.

The good thing is, you're in expansion mode. That means a lot of stuff can flow to you if communication well.

Don't appear self-conceited (not saying you are, just don't appear like that) by getting withdrawn. Given your company was small, the boss or VP is probably close, so let your ambition (be it a specialist, manager of a product or part of a product, etc) be known to them.

Things can stay casual and personal, but with more and more people, things will go wrong if issues don't get documented and followed-up more formally (from feature changes to un-communicated personal leave), simply as there's many more people who will be out-of-the-loop and uninformed of events.

The transition phase was the worse for me, as others just didn't get it. There'd be a face-to-face conversation I'd not be involved in, because others were used to the 'old way' and then things would escalate because someone key was out-of-the-loop and I'd get a question from the GM 'why was this not done?' It was a pain. But you can get through it sooner if you adapt sooner.]


> The HR manager scares me, although I am not sure why.

I'll simply and very generally (so, don't take as advice, per se) say that you are not alone in this.

Generally speaking, HR works for the C suite, not you. Always. And, in my experience, the kind of people who tend to populate HR are much more about "resources" than "humans".

In particular, if you don't fit the convenient box they have in mind... you are a problem. The only question then is whether you are a problem they have to deal with now or accumulate "evidence" against for some anticipated future use.


Hey Klunger,

Dharmesh Shah (Founder of Hubspot) actually gave a decent talk at Business of Software on this: http://thebln.com/talk/lessons-from-the-trenches-in-scaling-...

I think he can say it far better than I could.

That being said, I think it's something alot of companies go through when growing. It's important though!


I just wanted to say I reaped a ton of benefit from some of the comments here. Thanks bros.


Small nitpick, but not necessarily everyone here identifies as a man.


Why are people so obsessed with 'culture' and 'keeping things weird'? Be an adult, go to work. It isn't about weirdness (or stroking your perceived uniqueness and individuality concepts), it's about getting a job done.

If you are weird or unique, good for you. Not everyone wants in on 'silly hat and trousers' day.

Office 'culture' is a lie to keep you working harder, at the office longer, and people eat that shit up then wonder why most 'tech' people are unmarried young white men. Get married. You'll suddenly realize you don't give a shit about the office beer club. Grow as an individual into an adult, not a large-child.

You were very wise to realize it is a 'you' problem - that's a huge first step. Now see it for the crap it all is, and go to work anyway - or find a new place that thinks middle school 'in group cultural awareness' is still en vogue, and join their clique.

A better piece of advice? Join a club outside work. Get your individuality stroked there, and return to work refreshed and assured you are a beautiful and unique snowflake, just like everybody else.


"culture" with a small c is a lie, but "Culture" with a capital C is real.

Work should be real, meaningful, and authentic. It should be intrinsically motivating, and it should drive respect for people and a desire to do well. This type of culture amplifies productivity and 'joy in work' (as W. Edwards Deming called it) and is good for everyone. It is not happy hours, table tennis, foosball, or any of that fake stuff—it's feeling happy about the 'adult work' you're doing, and fulfilled by your contribution to a larger effort.

I think when people speak of 'culture going downhill,' they aren't talking about the trivial stuff that you'd get from clubs or 'silly hat and trousers' day. They're talking about the parts of work they enjoyed because they allowed the work itself to be meaningful.

This is why people are so obsessed with culture. If you aren't, you haven't bridged that gap yet, but keep looking for how to preserve that meaningful connection to the joy of work and how to drive it.


How is this anything but the individual's personal problem? You can't just make work meaningful all of a sudden, it's just work that the business needs to get done - you decide voluntarily if you want to do it in exchange for cash.

Not everything is going to be joyful/satisfying/life-affirming or whatever and I don't get this constant complaint that the company somehow needs to give you a reason to do your job.

Sure it can help at some basic HR/motivational level perhaps and some kinds of work truly have more impact but it's ridiculous to expect every job to be like this.


"How is this anything but the individual's personal problem?"

It is everybody's problem. Both the company leadership and the individual. Individuals need to be self-motivating and self-regulating and self-aware. But leadership needs to respect their workers, create an enjoyable workplace, and create an atmosphere that caters to the personality types they hire.

You may take issue with the "create an enjoyable workplace" part. But I would challenge that you don't have a wide enough variety of experience yet or you've been lucky. Personally I've been in environments where I've been treated like a "code monkey", expected to be at my desk typing for 8 to 10 hours a day, and expected to never socialize with my co-workers because socializing is seen as not productive. That was not enjoyable.

On the other hand, I've been in environments where programming is seen as a creative endeadvour, socializing and brainstorming is seen as lubricant for creativity, and the purpose of the job is seen not as pumping out code but solving problems and being creative. This one was clearly enjoyable.

Now as a manager/leader, I strive to create the second type of environment and the decisions I make and policies I put in place directly affect the outcome and the attitudes of my employees.

So aving been in both sides, and now being a leader who clearly sees his behaviour affecting it, I'll re-iterate:

Culture is contributed to by Everybody and leadership/management play a huge role; and it impacts the enjoyment and meaningfulness of work directly and clearly.


This I understand and agree with. I never said anything about not creating an enjoyable workspace. However this is completely different from what the parent was talking about re: "Work should be real, meaningful, and authentic."

That just sounds like random gibberish to me considering the realities of what most work entails. You can perhaps make the environment more enjoyable and have better rules and practices but that doesn't change the basis of the work itself, only the surroundings. How "meaningful and authentic" something is, is completely up to you.


You're right that a lot of it is up to the individual.

My point was that people already want to do work that is good—whatever that means to you. Yes, it can be sophistic bull to call it all those lofty things, but in the end I think everyone wants a good job, doing something they consider valuable, that makes them feel like their time isn't being thrown away in exchange for a wage. Whether everyone can achieve this or not is more of an economic question, but it's something almost everyone strives for. Work that is real.

And jobs, companies, and organizations start out this way too. Of course they want to get things done and achieve common goals, and most importantly make a lot of money, but I promise you they also don't want to throw their time away. Even executives want their time and their lives to be meaningful, and they usually want that for their employees, too.

And most people realize—and it has been proven—that organizations that do this right, and find meaning and value in their work, whatever it may be—are also more successful, make more profit, are more competitive in the market, and have all kinds of other positive results. So it appears to be a no-brainer.

Problem is, things get complicated in complex organizations, and no one knows how to handle it. All of that stuff about work being meaningful and worth a damn goes out the window, and people just start doing their jobs for a paycheck. That's when big-C Culture gets destroyed.

It's not that people don't want that fluffy stuff about their work being worthwhile, it's that they can't see any path for achieving it. All of the structures of organizations are put in the way. My advice was to leaders: work on stripping the company of the barriers to people finding joy and worth in the work itself. You can't give people that stuff, but it sure is easy to take away—so start by not doing that.

There's a lot that's the individual worker's responsibility to self-motivate and find meaning in their own work, if they need it—but there's a ton of stuff in modern companies that also destroys their ability to do that. You need to tackle it from both sides, both the environment (and not just at the surface, but deep, deep down) and the individual.

And my personal opinion (and you might disagree with this) is that 90% of the potential for motivated, real, meaningful work has nothing to do with individual responsibility, but is the responsibility of managers and leaders. Individuals are always going to try their hardest to self-motivate and do their best—that's the easy part. Building an organizational environment that enables them to do that is the hard part, so it's where we (leaders, managers, executives) need to put in the work.

This reminds me of a story—a consultant tried to implement some of these organizational improvement ideas at a chick hatching farm. When he was interviewing one of the workers about how the workplace could be improved, the man said "Sir, we throw all the male baby chicks into grinders. I think that says everything." So, you're right. Regardless, that consultant was still able to improve even that dismal work so that the employees could do their jobs as well as possible and not be demeaned by both poor management as well as the nature of the work.

So my response is, even supposedly horrible work can be meaningful, and it's almost always the unconscious organizational structures that get in the way, not how individual workers feel about their own job. The individual is such a small problem in comparison to the organization.


This is very eloquent. Thanks for articulating.


I disagree with almost everything you said. I don't get too involved with group social events but people develop great friendships through this. Hanging out with coworkers outside of work is a good way to see each other as people and not just competition. And getting married for the reasons you described is absolutely horrible advice.


Is it so wrong that some try to strive to find work that is enjoyable? Just because work is work and you have to do it to survive doesn't mean people shouldn't prefer it be less painful.


Do you like your job?


It's your problem.

See it positive:

- The company is growing

- You guys do something right

- The CEO is doing something right

- Fast growth or just growth is never easy for an organization

- But if everybody is proactive and empathic then you make it easier for the organization and all folks involved

=> Go out, see new opportunities and be proactive—growth brings always new opportunities for everyone

It's you and your inner fear of change. You fear the loss of the good old times.

EDIT: Why do people downvote so fast on HN? I wrote a positive post and a get an instant downvote.


> I realize that all of this is my problem

> It's your problem

He already knows this. He said so in the post. That's probably why you were downvoted.


Your post didn't come across as entirely positive because it sounded personally critical, though I don't think you meant it that way.




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