Brianna Krueger is a writer trying to make it big while not taking herself too seriously (unless you’re her boss – then she takes herself very seriously). Traveling and reading are her passions, especially since books are cheaper than airfare for all the cool places stories take her. She is always on the lookout for a good cup of coffee, a pup to snuggle, and notepad to write, especially all at once. We are so happy that she has decided to contribute to Little Lady in the Big World, please feel free to check her out on Instagram too at @iambriannak
I never used to care about company culture until I started creating it.
After college graduation, the economy was still in the shitter, and I was a Professional Job SearcherTM for a length of time longer than I care to define. All I cared about was 1) Did the job sound interesting, 2) Did it match my skills, 3) Was it one of those stupid sites that makes you upload your resume and re-type everything in? Times were getting desperate enough that I just wanted a job and was willing to take anything as long as it came with a paycheck. Industry didn’t matter – writing, communication, and marketing are needed everywhere. Nor did the culture matter.
In fact, in my ‘life after college’ classes, no one mentioned anything about culture. ‘Company culture’ is defined as “Company culture is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.” (The Balance) And while I look for a lot of those same characteristics in a life partner, I never thought about caring about it in my career place – somewhere you spend 40-ish hours a week.
During my Professional Job SearcherTM time, almost all companies stated they were ‘family friendly.’ (Whoop-de-doo; sure know how to standout when you’re all the same!)
The term ‘family friendly’ held the same meaning to me as a family movie – meaning everyone can enjoy it. There may be mild language or frights but you know at the end they’re all going to be happy. It held no special meaning to me or was a highlight of why I would want to work somewhere.
Most companies violated one of English major’s top rules of writing: show, don’t tell. And most sites simply told and moved on. But as long as the company wasn’t dirty and didn’t look like they would kill me, I considered it a very viable option. (Again, I was desperate. Now I know better.)
The first two companies I’ve worked for fed me the “family-friendly” line, and I liked most of the mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals, but I never really felt like the culture meant anything. Sure, I participated in company events, like ice cream socials and paper airplane throwing contests, and enjoyed socializing with co-workers, and I liked doing well at my job to meet goals and expectations. Most days I liked coming into work (if you say you 100% always look forward to work, you are crazy. Fact.) but nothing struck me as ‘this family-friendly culture is awesome!’
I was a participant in the culture, but I didn’t care. Until I did more than participate, but create. (And before you think I’m stroking my ego, let me say culture comes about in weird, sometimes small, ways – while every company has an overall culture, you can do things in small doses that add and support that overall culture. By no means do I actually believe it’s because of me that the company has a culture; I simply mean I found my way to add my stamp to the culture, since culture is ever-changing with each hire and is an accumulation of not only its values and such, but its employees.)
All I did was set up a small, maybe 9-inches tall, Christmas tree on my desk. (A bit prematurely some will add because it was before Thanksgiving; it’s still a friendly debate we have in our office when it’s okay to start observing Christmas.) That small tree sparked my other teammates to bring in their own decorations until it became a competition who could decorate their cube the best for the season.
It was random, unplanned, unintentional, but totally fun – and it attracted attention. People would take slightly longer routes to their desk to come check out our cubes. It was it a highlight of the office (okay, that one I stroked my ego).
One of my decorations was also a whiteboard, in which I had a countdown, but it stayed after the holidays, transforming into my next little culture creation: Quote of the day! As the weeks wore on, people caught on and would send me quotes to put up, and eventually, they’d ‘steal’ the board to draw intricate creations on.
The board even spawned off into a different part of the office, but with this group’s own culture creation: Trivia of the day! Stop on by to make your guess and you could win a sticker.
In the grand scheme of our company’s culture, these day-to-day (or season-to-season) activities are small, but they’re something I look forward to and can count on to be contributed (and carried on) by other co-workers. As we come and go, these little things will stay – and that’s creating culture.
In fact, a past employee showed photos to their new employees of the holiday cube decorating and they’ve decided to give a ho ho GO! Way to spread the cheer and the culture.
One of my current company’s values and core principles is about giving back to the community. Since before I got there, the company has hosted about 3-5 charity events a year. Typically, they’re the same every year, like “stuff the bus” for back to school supplies, Thanksgiving food drive, and Toys for Tots.
Since charity events have run out of my department, it gave me an idea to try something new while still holding true to those values and principles. Combining my love of dogs (and animals) with the up-coming love season of Valentine’s day, we merged the two into a sweet* event called Puppy Love. *It included a bake sale.
The new charity and way of collecting donations made it one of our most successful events – and we were invited for a tour and chance to meet the dogs and cats we had raised money, food, and toys for!
Since then, we’ve been given a variety of suggestions and wishes for causes to help. Being able to have input is just another way you can contribute to the culture, because when you see the charity event come to life and see the success and passion people have for giving, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. It’s a way to be the culture.
Another way I’ve created and felt more a part of the culture is through promoting it. Social media plays a huge role in society. We use it not only to promote the projects we work on and the expertise we provide, and the hard work we do, but culture as well. We’re making English majors happy with the ‘show’ side of things! Hearing and seeing examples of our culture in action put the proof to a ‘family friendly’ culture – and shows that no matter how much we bust our asses, we still find time to have some fun. After all, if you’re in the office 40+ hours a week, you should enjoy it and have a culture that promotes enjoying it.
I opened this article with “I never used to care about company culture until I started creating it” and I stand by it.
Culture is not a money maker. While it has values behind it to help guide the company to success, when it comes down to it, culture is free, yet also one of the most priceless investments a company could ever make. With a great culture, that people actually understand (yay, I’m finally one of them!), you attract great people with matching values who will then bust their ass (while having fun) to earn the company money.
So, no, culture directly doesn’t earn you money, but it is a key to why people want to work for you. (Beyond being desperate, but that was a long, long time ago and I’ve grown now.)
Culture matters. Whenever I decide to venture on, I know culture will be high on my list of things I care about, because once you realize you have the power to help shape culture and create it, you won’t give it up.