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Is Your Office Culture Too Cliquish?

You’ve heard it before: office friendships can make a big difference when it comes to employee happiness and engagement. But what happens when friendships turn into cliques?

office culture too cliquish

On Ask a Manager, an HR blog/advice column, a reader writes about her experience with a former employee who didn’t seem to meet this manager’s understanding of a “culture fit”. The employee eventually left the department due to cultural problems and overall what she described as a very exclusive environment, including Snapchat silos, brewery trips, and inappropriate relationships. The manager blamed the employee’s lack of belonging on not being a good fit for the team, but it seemed that she was prioritizing social connections over professionalism and inclusivity. In fact, Ask a Manager posted an update just last week stating the manager had been fired for bullying (mocking the former employee on SnapChat) and not meeting the company code of conduct. Definitely a case of culture fit gone wrong.

We’ve explored this misunderstanding of “culture fit” before and came to the conclusion that HR should just remove those two words from their vocabulary. Too often and too easily we fall into the trap of hiring people who talk like us, think like us, and even dress like us. But what about diversity and inclusion? And how do we prevent “cliques” from happening… or should we?

Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Friendships can, will, and should happen naturally. There was one thing this manager actually managed to do well and that was encourage friendships within the office. Embrace the natural connections that happen within the office as long as they are not occurring at the expense of other employees or crossing any lines.

2. Friendships are never mandatory. The biggest mistake this manager made was thinking that friendships were a necessary part of the office life. While friendliness is obligatory, friendship is not, and these are not the same thing. Some personalities prefer to come to work, do their job, and leave. Just like you wouldn’t force a friendship in other walks of life, don’t do it in the workplace.

3. Friendships, unfortunately, will exclude someone. We aren’t in third grade anymore where it’s mandatory to invite the entire class to attend your birthday party. Friendships, by nature, will exclude certain people. The important thing to note here is that you are considerate to those outside your circle by keeping inside jokes to a minimum and outside plans, well… outside. Your friendship can’t take priority over someone else’s feelings inside the workplace. Managers, pay attention to isolated employees. Make sure they’re choosing not to participate versus feeling excluded.

Are there other ways you can keep your culture from becoming “cliquey”?

Horrible Bosses

If you’ve been in the working world for some time, you’ve probably experienced the pains of a horrible boss. Poor listening skills, arrogance and just plain rudeness generally characterize these Michael Scott rivals. But whether this is a current reality for you or you are fortunate enough to have moved past that situation, there are many things we can learn from these horrible bosses.

The Micromanager

horrible bosses perkspot culture

For some bosses, “control freak” doesn’t even begin to explain the horrors of their management style. If you’ve ever experienced micromanagement, you know that it can be frustrating and leave you wondering why they even hired you in the first place. The lack of trust and need for control isn’t doing anyone any favors. But if there is one thing we can learn from the micromanagers of the world, it’s attention to detail. While it may seem obnoxious in the moment, and definitely is not an approach we would condone, you can still find ways to benefit from this not-so-pleasant experience. Micromanagers often help us think through all the details that can take a report, spreadsheet, or article from good to great. You never know, attention to detail may be the key to landing that big client or getting your long sought after promotion.

The Constant Critic

horrible bosses perkspot culture

Remember that famous line from Bambi? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” Maybe you have experienced a manager who could have benefited from this piece of advice. Unfortunately, sometimes the easiest thing we can learn from bad bosses is what NOT to do. Regardless of whether you’re in management or not, we could all be better at encouraging others. Before you think about criticizing a coworker’s work, find something positive to say as well. While there are still benefits to constructive criticism, if the negatives tend to outweigh the positives, it might be time to reevaluate your approach.

The Bad Listener

horrible bosses perkspot culture

There’s quite possibly nothing more disheartening, not to mention annoying, than a boss who simply doesn’t listen. But great bosses know the importance of listening, before speaking. Learning to listen is a skill that’s often overlooked. But, it can make a major difference in your professional and personal life. Michael Taft for the Huffington Post says “Learning to listen means learning to actually pay attention to — to concentrate on — what other people are saying. Listening to their words as if listening to a favorite song, with your mind focused on what they are saying and what it means.”

In a world full of social media distractions and iPhone obsessions, it is refreshing to be around someone who looks you in the eye and repeats back what you say. Take what you experience from having a boss that doesn’t listen and be more sympathetic and understanding, not just hearing but actually listening to what others are trying to tell you.

Have you ever had a horrible boss? What was your experience like? What did you learn? Tell us in the comments!

Inside #EqualPayDay

equal pay day

Today is Equal Pay Day, which symbolizes how far into the year women would need to work in order to make the same amount as men the previous year. In 2017, that date is April 4th, meaning women would have to work 15 months to make the same as men did in 2016, just 12 months.

 

Women have been fighting for equal rights for a long time, but these statistics show that the fight is not over. Unfortunately, the wage gap still exists for many women in the workplace.

The Facts:

  • Women on average lose out on over $400,000 over the course of a 40 year career. 1
  • One in eight women are poor. If they were paid the same as men, poverty would drop from 8.2 to 4.0 percent.2
  • Men are 85% more likely than women to be VPs or C-Suite Executives by mid-career. 3
  • There are four states (Alaska, Delaware, Michigan and Washington) in which the most relatively common job for men has a median income of over $100,000. There are no states in which the most relatively common job for women exceeds $77,000.4

 

While the problem often seems overwhelming, there are companies who are taking a stand.

The Problem-Solvers:

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers, a tax and financial services firm, went public with their gender pay gap. After all, admission is the first step to recovery.5
  • In 2015, Salesforce performed a comprehensive analysis of 17,000 employees that led to salary adjustments for 6 percent of their workforce. The result? A 33 percent increase in the number of women who were promoted that year.6
  • More women, like Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson, are taking a stand and demanding raises.7

 

It won’t be an easy battle. For women, it starts with doing your research and fighting for what you deserve. But men aren’t exempt. There are plenty of ways to get involved and be a catalyst for changing the way we view compensation in the workplace.  One step at a time, we are excited to see people taking a stand and making leaps towards closing the gender wage gap.

 

Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.

As one of the most prominent leaders of the past century, there are many lessons we can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on leadership, courage, and adversity.

martin luther king leadership

In celebration of Dr. King’s birthday on January 15th, here are a few ways you can embrace his spirit of leadership all year round:

Embrace Fear

Unmistakably, one of Dr. King’s greatest attributes was his courage. Facing extreme adversity, He always stood up for what he believed in and never wavered in his passion. Even after his death, his legacy lived on to fuel the Civil Rights Movement in America. While your dreams may not evoke the intense opposition that Dr. King faced, you can still retain your passion regardless of any adversity that may come your way. Don’t let fear of what others might say keep you from speaking out and working towards your goals.

Dream Big

The four famous words from Dr. King inspired a nation to stand behind him: “I Have a Dream…” While our dreams may not change the course of human history, we should still continue to have them. Dreams are what inspire and motivate us to continue. You’ve probably made a lot of plans for 2017. But this year, remember the reasons why you want to accomplish your specific goals, and let that push you to go further. After all, having a plan is nearly as exhilarating as having a dream.

Communicate Clearly

An excellent communicator, Dr. King spent his life influencing others through his words. Although a conference room presentation might not invoke the same emotion and response as Dr. King’s famous speech, it is still important that we communicate clearly and effectively. After you’ve clearly assessed your vision and dream, remember to spend time focusing on how to communicate this to others. Empower them through your words and take time to understand their perspective.

There are countless ways Martin Luther King, Jr. has continued to inspire us, even generations later. Let’s follow his example of embracing fear, dreaming big and communicating clearly in 2017.

Work Ethic or Workaholic? (The Billion Dollar Question)

work ethic perkspot culture workaholic

The 12.3 Billion Dollar Question, actually.

I recently came across an article on how Elon Musk spent days sleeping at the Tesla factory in order to reach his production goals. While his passion is admirable, the poster of the article praised Musk for his “work ethic”. But can you really call sleepless nights in a cold factory “ethical”? If the boss is staying late at work, what kind of work life is he promoting to his junior employees?

The 10,000-Hour Rule

The Millennial Generation has grown up hearing things like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. Gladwell states in his book, “Outliers” that if you practice a skill for 10,000 hours or more, you will undoubtedly become an expert, or rather, an outlier. Outliers are people like Bill Gates, Kobe Bryant, Oprah Winfrey… to name a few. These examples are experts in their field and have reached a significant level of success that one could only hope to imitate. His conclusion is based on research from Anders Ericsson and Simon and Chase’s “Skill in Chess”, which, to oversimplify, states that the more time you spend on a skill (on average 10,000 hours), the better you become. Seems pretty obvious, right?

The problem in our world of instant downloads is we want to clock those 10,000 hours as soon as possible. If we work 40 hour work weeks, 52 weeks of the year, we’ve only clocked 2,080 hours. Which means it’s at least five years until we reach the average number of hours it took for these “outliers” to achieve greatness. That is unless you work 100 hour work weeks or respond to emails while interacting with your kids, like Elon Musk.

Ok, enough bashing on Musk. He’s accomplished plenty of great things and we don’t presume to know the day in and day out of his personal life. However, the discussion of whether or not we should praise his “work ethic” is definitely up for debate.

Finding the Balance

While things like the 10,000-hour rule are prevalent in discussions about the workplace, possibly even more dominant is the need for work-life balance. It’s as if we live in constant contradiction. Achieve success by working hard, but not too hard. Work 100 hours a week so you can run a billion dollar company, but also make sure you spend time with your family, cook Paleo-perfect meals, and vacation for a week in Spain. Totally achievable.

Fast Company recently published an article “How to Advance In Your Career Without Becoming A Workaholic”. The article focuses on the quality of work we do, versus the quantity. The author suggests targeting a few key factors. These include staying engaged in your work, being more efficient, investing in relationships, asking questions, and learning when to say no. These traits are arguably more essential to a true work ethic and a healthy work-life balance. Isn’t it more ethical to leave at five knowing that you’ve done your work well, learned to delegate when necessary, and accomplish personal tasks with peace of mind?

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