I once worked in a place that rewarded long hours. One developer looked like he slept at work. He smelled like it, too. When I became his manager, I gave him feedback that he needed to go home, bathe, and change his clothes every day.“But, JR, every other manager I've had has rewarded me for my dedication and hard work!”
“I appreciate your dedication and hard work. And, I want your dedication and hard work inside of a standard work week. I'm not going to reward extra work–work that makes mistakes and more work for everyone else. I'm not like every other manager you've had. The rules have changed.”
He sat there, stunned.
While I am a fan of hard work, I am not a fan of stupid work. I don't see how you can give a company your best work if you sleep under your desk and don't go home. Sure, there are some rare–very rare–times when this might happen.
You might get caught in a blizzard or a power outage or some other act of Mother Nature, where it's safer to stay at work than it is to go home. You might even be caught up in flow and not realize when it is time to go home. But that doesn't happen four nights every week. Making it a habit to live at work was not something I wanted to reward.
The problem was that our rewards for long hours were not creating great products. We were not doing our best jobs for our employees or our customers. It was time to change what we rewarded.
While consulting recently, I happened to overhear this conversation in an agile organization between two developers:
“We have more meetings now than we ever had before.”
“And, they are more status-y meetings, too. What happened to our standups? Where did they go? Who's getting what out of these meetings?”
In this case, the erstwhile leader of the team was rewarded for inviting senior managers to more status-y meetings rather than helping the senior people understand the information radiators that existed.
Every organization rewards different behaviors, and that may well change over time. That's because what the senior people want to reward is also part of the organization's corporate culture, just as what is okay to discuss is. Again, each manager puts his or her own spin on those rewards. When you talk about culture, think about it in the sense of the specific culture for a given manager or team, and broadening it a little to include the entire organization.
This is why when you hire someone for a job, you have to know a little about your culture. Or, if you're looking for a job, you need to assess the culture of the team you are interviewing with. Not easy.
If you are hiring, start by being aware of what you value. And, if you are looking for a job, gently ask questions, such as what the management values, and how does the interviewer know. If you hear something like, “Hard work!” you can smile and say, “Tell me more,” and listen for the cues that discuss smart hard work or hard work that burns people out.
After all, hard work should never come at the cost of personal cleanliness. That's too high a price. At least, it is for me!
Hiring Geeks That Fit is Available on Leanpub
Cultural fit is a big piece of hiring, and I've updated my hiring book to explain that. Hiring Geeks That Fit is a big rewrite of my original Hiring book. I've trimmed the book, reducing the overall word count by 20,000 words, added more about cultural fit, added guidance about how to use Twitter and LinkedIn for sourcing, and updated most of the templates.
If you liked the original hiring book, you will love Hiring Geeks That Fit. You can download a sample book on leanpub now. I'm in copyediting now, so if you buy it on leanpub, you can get the updates as I fix anything my copyeditor discovers.
Cultural fit is not just for people who are hiring. It's for people looking for a job, too.
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