Workplace culture is a constant topic in my social circles.
As more people look for (and find!) meaning and identity in their jobs they are also increasingly holding their workplaces to certain cultural ideals. And it seems the idea of workplace culture being important plays out across generations, not just something important to millennials.
But what I’ve found most interesting is the way workplace culture is commonly framed in these conversations: it’s either good or it’s bad (and often it’s just bad, because that’s what makes it conversation worthy). There’s very little gray.
It’s an analog assessment. Good or bad. It’s that black and white for a lot of people.
But good or bad as the defacto workplace culture evaluation feels incomplete.
There are logical instances when we can universally apply the bad culture label to the workplace: sexual harassment, bigotry, misogyny/misandry, and generally anything else frowned on by Human Resources or the law more generally.
But outside of that—what’s good? What’s bad?
Well I think it depends. It’s a matter of personal preference.
Remember that New York Times exposé on Amazon from 2015?
The article painted the company in a negative light as being a workplace that operates at an unrelenting pace and unsympathetic to those uncomfortable with that reality.
Amazon is an incredibly innovative company. They are arguably executing strategy better than any other American corporation. That type of environment probably provides the right type of person with exactly the opportunity they were looking for. But it’s probably not the place to find happiness at work for those looking for something else culturally.
So if you were job searching and looking for something other than what Amazon is offering it seems foolish to think you could go to work for them and think it was going to be different for you.
The analog good or bad evaluation of workplace culture is insufficient for the modern workday.
Perhaps the right way look at workplace culture is through a lens of individual nuance: is the company’s culture right for me?
It reminded me of Austin Kleon’s praise for the “It wasn’t for me” idea when it comes to books (and just about everything else):
I like the phrase because it’s essentially positive: underlying it is the assumption that there is a book, or rather, books, for me, but this one just wasn’t one of them. It also allows me to tell you how I felt about the book without me shutting down the possibility that you might like it, or making you feel stupid if you did like it.
It just wasn’t for me. No big deal.
And “me” changes, so when you say, “It wasn’t for me,” maybe it’s not for the “me” right now—maybe it’s for future Me, or Me lounging in a beach chair in Jamaica, or Me at fourteen.
Workplace culture not as good or bad but as “it wasn’t for me” or “that’s my jam!”
Workplace culture as right for the individual and the individual’s interests, but not for everyone. Think about it.