Company Culture is Critical to Success

What is culture? Culture is the combined set of VALUES, ATTITUDES and PHILOSOPHY that shape how you do things and why.

Does management view culture differently than developers? How do you improve culture? Most job seekers don’t ask about culture during an interview and most hiring managers don’t care . However, it’s been my experience that the reason why people quit is due to poor culture, a conflict of values. There is the Joel Test which indicated how companies value software development. However, there are also emotional and relational factors in culture.

I quit one of jobs because in three months time, I had to deal with three different managers. I quit the job prior to that one because my boss was an egotistical asshole. Fortunately, there are sites like that let you anonymously rate companies to blow off some steam. If you ever walk into work feeling depressed or anxious, it’s probably a time to quit. I want to work with a company that has great energy and treats their employees well.

You should know when it’s time to quit your job.

Below are true incidents poor culture among company associates. In my opinion, they are red flags and indicate conflict in values and philosophy.

  • When the president of the organization is invited for a brief demonstration of your product and their response is “I don’t care.”
  • When the president lines everyone up and says you’re all on thin ice. Does the president have any responsibility in why?
  • When the CFO is paranoid about the flu and walks in on everyones cubicle insisting they take flu shoots to prevent a decline in productivity. Since when is the CFO a health advisor? Ironically, everyone that got flu shots in my office got sick, except for me, since I ignore corporations telling me how to manage my health.
  • When the senior developer is mocking every phone interviewer for their lack of comprehension of technology but fails to act as a mentor to their own team.
  • When development is outsourced. This always doubles or triples cost of development since off-shore developers tend to miss-communicate and have poor understanding of design patterns and code architecture.
  • When it is a national holiday and management insists everyone come to work that day because they are behind. Why are they behind? Well, that’s management’s fault.

The Ideal Culture

I’ve realized that Europe treats their workers a lot better than America does. They take long beer breaks and vacations. The following rules would create the ideal software development company. They are based on the rule that you can do whatever you want, as long as you get the job done. I’ve actually seen some companies that provide some of these perks. It would be great if more companies would adopt them.

  • Come to work whenever you want and leave whenever you want. On an average day, I may come to work at 10AM and leave at 7PM. If I enjoy working later, during the evening, I may take a few hours off and relax with a massage and work till midnight. It’s proven that developers work better at night.
  • Take long breaks. Employees can go to the gymn, relax at the lounge, go for a swim at the beach. This helps improve happiness, creativity and reduces fatigue. Employers should provide local discounts to employees and grant them access to workout, relax and meditate during production hours.
  • Have a standing desk. Programmers should not have to sit down for long periods. This is a health hazard.
  • Have access to an excellent tea and coffee machine.
  • Have opportunities to innovate, try new ideas, branch off on a project and get paid for it.

I hope more American companies will adopt a great culture. Hopefully more employees will push for this change. However, If you can’t change your company, then you can always change your company.