The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Building A Positive Office Culture Is Easy …

There is so much written about building an office culture.

There’s been books written on it.

Films written about it.

And consultants earning a fortune from it.

And I get it, because a good office culture is bloody important.

In the past I thought it was just about the people in the organisation rather than the organisation itself … but thanks to my experiences at HHCL, cynic and Wieden, I realise it’s as much about what the company stands for and how it behaves as it is the people they hire.

But recently I saw something that boils it all down to a very simple essence.

An essence that would mean those books would become pamphlets … those movies would become ads and those consultants become unemployed.

And why? I hear you ask.

Well, because the answer is simply this …

Can you see it?

It’s 4 words.


OK … OK … I appreciate this might appear hypocritical coming from me, but that’s all it takes.

Don’t be a dick means respecting your colleagues.

Don’t be a dick means respecting everyones standards.

Don’t be a dick means respecting that everyone is trying to get to a good place.

Don’t be a dick is the simplest articulation of how to build a positive office culture.

Not just in terms of pleasantries.

Not just in terms of togetherness.

But in terms of the work you do as an individual and as a group.

It’s easy to get.

It can apply to every person in every situation.

It defines the standards of behaviour you should expect and give … from personal interaction to collaboration to making work.

It’s bloody brilliant.

So next time someone asks if they should hire a consultant to improve the office culture, just look them in the eye and say, “Don’t be a dick”.

19 Comments so far
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Quite a compelling argument. Not sure how many organisations would be willing to display that terminology in their office handbooks though.

Comment by Lee Hill

who reads office handbooks? arent they just hr department justifiers?

Comment by andy@cynic

Errrrrm, didn’t we do one for Virgin Atlantic in the early days of cynic?

Comment by Rob

and they were the best fucking office handbook theyve ever had.

Comment by andy@cynic

Time to follow your own advice then Rob.

Comment by DH

youre forgetting the reason why can say this campbell and thats because it takes a dick to know a dick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Rob recognizes more dicks than Freddie Mercury.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you sad fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thank you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’m perfectly qualified to write this post then.

Comment by Rob

I think “don’t be a dick” is more effective at setting standards and expectations than sitting in a room for 3 hours and hearing an HR representative tell you all the ‘rules’ of the company, followed by hours of online tutorials.

Comment by Pete

Oh I have those online tutorials too. The best thing they teach is how to avoid actually doing them.

Comment by Rob

Don’t be a dick is nice and in theory as valid as don’t be evil or break fast and learn (or whatever Faceborg’s value is).

the big elephant in the room is that most companies are not ready to admit that culture and people is too big, complex and underappreciated/funded (by most companies) for HR to manage and C-level to care about.

Pardon for beating a dead horse, but at Apple it was Jobs, who personally oversaw their Apple University to ensure the best of the best are involved (which according to public info does not contain HR people).

For a lack of better analogy, it takes a Alexander-like approach to instill strong culture, as the head you must lead from the front.

The 3 companies you mentioned, the principals were/are still able to imprint their values on the companies..

Ever wonder how Elon Musk can run three awe inspiring companies at the same time, yet all of them are marred by poor to toxic cultures?

How Zuck can connect a billion people, yet still not be able to move the needle on internal diversity #?

It’s not important enough, despite what they say. mute their speeches and look at actions and funding.

Don’t be dick most of the time for most of the companies means: don’t push it to the point the company gets bad publicity

Comment by Niko

All good points Niko and without doubt, the companies I talked about had strong cultures set from the founders – but what they also did was hire the right people and then trust them to self control the culture while also allowing it to evolve in ways that ensured the values stayed the same while the expression of it was contemporary.

I agree many companies can’t do this – but it’s not because of scale – but because what they value is based more on commercial return than the standards of work.

Comment by Rob

So silent sexism was last week’s thing?

Comment by John

Good point. Don’t be an asshole may be a better articulation.

Comment by Rob

sexist prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

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