The Importance of Chocolate on Friday

 Guest Author: Susanne Skinner

Corporate culture is not one-size-fits-all.  Companies have personalities, just like people.  In the corporate world the company personality, and therefore its culture, is a reflection of its leadership.  MIT Professor Emeritus Edgar Schein said that “the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.”   I think there is a bit more to it, but I like where Edgar is going with this.

chocolate Friday, chocolate barCorporate culture is a favorite blog topic of mine.  It is powerful enough to strengthen or undermine your business objectives; it impacts job satisfaction and has the ability to strengthen or weaken employee morale and performance.

I have blogged about the challenge of finding a human workplace and the importance of a healthy work culture.  I’d like to round this topic out with an admittedly subjective look inside my own company; because its culture and therefore its leadership make it one of the best places I’ve worked.

Anybody who has worked in a dysfunctional environment knows the emotional and physical toll it takes on you and the quality of your work.  On the other side of that coin is a company with vision, relatable management, rewarding work, and co-workers who like each other and laugh a lot.  We definitely laugh a lot.

There is a cause-effect relationship here.  It’s where I want to work and where I am lucky enough to be working.

Everyone Benefits

A healthy corporate culture benefits everyone:

  • Better Individual Performance – People who like where they work are better workers and give their very best performance.
  • Better Group Performance – Teamwork and camaraderie elevates collective work performance.   Co-workers build relationships, lend support, foster a culture of teamwork and have fun.
  • Better Employee Retention – People who like where they work stay there longer.  A friendly work environment is a success factor for everyone in the organization and draws talented people.  It’s great street cred.

people I most enjoy working with, corporate cultureI’ve been fortunate to work in good companies with approachable executives and invested managers.  The one that stands out as bad had everything to do with its culture.  When I realized it was a poor fit for me I found the nearest exit and left the building.  You can’t work where you don’t feel comfortable. You can’t thrive when you don’t feel part of a team, and you can’t grow where you don’t feel valued or welcome.

Culture defines quality of work life on every level.  An important part of that definition is a little big thing called camaraderie.  We have a lot of good camaraderie where I work. 

ca·ma·ra·de·rie:
a feeling of good friendship among the people in a group

Camaraderie is more than just having fun.   It’s about creating an energetic environment where people can thrive through a shared sense of purpose.  It involves getting to know your colleagues.  It involves chocolate on Fridays.

The ability to create it hinges on the organizational leadership.  Employees will personify the culture, but leadership defines and shapes it.  It has to start at the top, but invested employees reflect it with collaboration, good work habits and strong performance.

Camaraderie is a competitive advantage.  It is always at the top of my job search criteria.   All parameters being equal, culture tips the scale when I am making an employment decision.   Culture is tangible.  A good company will tout their culture and a good potential employee will ask about it.

So what’s my corporate culture like?  I decided to interview a few of my executives and let them describe it.   I sat down with the President and CEO, the newly hired EVP of Human Resources and the VP of Marketing; who is also my manager.  They did not see the questions in advance.   I simply requested a few minutes of their time and their answers were spontaneous.  Each of them was asked the following questions with their collective answers below.

Pick three words to describe our culture:

  • Energized, productive, team work
  • Open, transparent, integrity
  • Honesty, transparent communication, collaborative
  • Fun.  All three said ‘fun’ so it got its own bullet

What cultural attributes best represent our company?

  • A shared passion for success
  • Hard work, good rewards
  • Transparency
  • Open and honest communication
  • Camaraderie at all levels of the company
  • People are here because they want to be
  • Work hard, play hard
  • Cultural fit is important in hiring decisions

Describe the culture you wanted to foster when you accepted this position  

  • A people focused organization
  • One with energy and passion to attract the best candidates
  • A corporate brand that reflects our technology and our culture
  • A culture of openness and transparency
  • A culture that recognizes and rewards attitude and aptitude   

Chocolate Fridays

Which brings us to chocolate Fridays – when we share a little bit of homemade chocolate goodness in the Friday kitchen.

The layout of our office space is kind of U shaped.  I work on one side of the U and the other side is home to engineers and developers.  The kitchen sits in the middle of the U, with a seriously nice espresso machine.  Getting to know my colleagues over coffee and tea and a little bit of Friday chocolate is camaraderie at its best.  Discussing what we will have on chocolate Friday only adds to the fun.

This isn’t a new concept.  In my previous company we had Ice Cream Sundae Monday.   The sponsoring group chose the flavors and toppings and we shared 30 minutes of non-work related conversation and laughter.

We also had the Product Managers Forum – which is exactly what it sounds like unless they called a meeting at 4:30 on a Friday.  Then it was called the PMF and involved beer.  Invitations were hard to come by for outsiders, but if you could bake you were a shoe-in.

Work is serious business.  While you’re there make sure you have a little fun.

What’s your chocolate Friday?

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