Company Culture

At the best companies, "company culture" is more than just a buzzword. Here's how the most innovative companies make company culture real.

To get started, you may want to read articles about specific companies like Zappos, Amazon, Shopify, Wistia, and Buffer.

For a comprehensive look at company culture, read our guide Company Culture for Startups.

How to Handle 3 Types of Workplace Conflict

Hollywood would have you believe that workplace conflict is awesome. Movies depict the best offices as filled with macho dudes in suits screaming at each other, throwing around insults, and somehow also getting fantastic results.

That’s entertaining, but let’s look at the facts: a 2010 study revealed that the average U.S. employee spends 2.8 hours a week dealing with disputes at work, resulting in losses of $359 Billion across the American economy. In reality, conflict pulls people away from their jobs and kills productivity.

With that in mind, your instinct might be to ruthlessly stamp it out wherever you see it. But that’s not always the best course of action. You need to recognize that not every workplace conflict is the same. It’s like criminal justice—a first degree crime is sentenced differently than a second degree crime. The context, causes, and intentions should influence how you deal with conflict in the workplace.

Here’s a rundown of three of the most common types of office workplace conflict, what they mean for your company, and how to solve them.

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When Employees Feel Ignored at Work, Everyone Suffers

What exactly does ostracism at work look like?

On the exclusion spectrum you’ll find everything from accidentally leaving someone off a calendar invite to purposefully avoiding an individual in the lunch room. Feeling ignored at work is a silent but hurtful experience.

feeling ignored at workThe topic may seem trivial — “Are adults really so sensitive?” you might ask — but it’s one that can have a serious impact on your employees’ job satisfaction, performance and happiness. A 2014 study questioned if a lack of attention could be more painful for victims than bullying. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is often yes.

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Why You Should Stop Copying Google’s Employee Perks

Not only is Google rated the #1 place to work year after year, but it’s one of most valuable companies on earth. And that’s by no coincidence. To get there, Google spent years perfecting their employee perks to create a positive and highly-productive environment.

Google Campus Dublin - Gasworks - Microkitchen - Floor Identity: Waterworld - Foto Peter Wurmli - © Camenzind Evolution

Google Campus Dublin – Gasworks – Microkitchen – Floor Identity: Waterworld – Foto Peter Wurmli – © Camenzind Evolution

But Google has only been able to grow into a $360 billion company by trying bold new things and constantly iterating their systems—not by blindly applying the successful models of other companies.

To succeed as a startup, you also have to be careful not to just adopt trendy fads, but rather find what works best for you through constant iteration. In fact, there are tons of companies that do the opposite of what Google does and thrive as a result.

Here are some examples of super successful startups that refrained from Googlifying their environment.

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Google’s Unwritten Rule for Team Collaboration

This week’s article is a guest post by Paul Berkovic. Paul is Co-founder and CMO at ScribblePost (productivity software for capturing and sharing task and project information with anyone, anywhere).

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We do a lot of collaborating these days. But despite the number of open offices, designated “thinking” areas, and our managerial focus on small teams, we still haven’t mastered collaborative work.

In fact, we’re really bad at it.

The point of collaborating is to get everyone in a group involved and exercising their strengths. But according to the Harvard Business Review, “In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” In most collaborative teams, the bulk of the work still comes from a minority of participants.

In response to this imbalance in their own organization, Google launched Project Aristotle, an internal research project studying Google teams to discover why some were superior collaborators.

Google has a known penchant for quantifying everything. Project Aristotle expected to find something quantifiable, like the optimal team size or the most productive structure for group meetings. But Project Aristotle hit the ultimate irony: the key to collaboration is not a quantifiable. In fact, it wasn’t even codified. The best teams don’t have a measurable, highly visible solution to collaboration—they have an unwritten social code.

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Want To Get More Done? Make Communication Harder

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Of all the problems the country faces, very few of them make their way to Oval Office.

Yes, there are many problems for the president to solve. There is a lot on his plate. But for every one problem the president is briefed on, there are hundreds — maybe thousands — that never make it to the West Wing. They are intercepted along the way, solved or deemed not critical enough for the Commander in Chief.

It’s hard to communicate with The President. It’s hard to get in touch with the President. Politicians campaign on the promise of addressing everyone’s concerns. But that’s not what they do in office, not even close. It would be impossible. The flood of information and data flying in would crash the whole operation.

So they make it hard to reach the president. Any problem that actually gets there has been vetted and analyzed by many layers underneath him. This happens on purpose. It makes things work. Communicating with the president is hard.

Maybe your organization should take the same approach. Maybe your open door policy is making it too easy for people to hijack people’s time. Maybe adding a little friction to communication could be exactly what you need.

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5 Ways Using Daily Goals Helps You Level Up Your Productivity

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This is a guest post from James Sowers.

The MBA programs at Harvard and Yale are widely known as some of the most competitive in the country, if not the world. Acceptance rates have hovered between 10-15% since the 1970’s. Those who complete their program can expect to receive salary offers starting at $100,000 or more with generous signing bonuses to help them make the transition from academia to the workforce. But, despite having a pool of the country’s best and brightest young business minds, a small selection of these graduates have made anywhere from two to ten times as much money as all of their classmates combined! What’s the difference? According to a series of studies done from 1950 – 1980, having “clear, written goals for the future and plans to achieve them.” At least that’s what the internet would have you believe.

As it turns out, despite being cited in hundreds of books, those studies never actually happened. They have since been refuted by social scientists, investigative journalists, and representatives of the universities involved. Turns out, the whole thing is just one long-lived urban myth. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that regular goal setting is still one of the most effective ways to level up your productivity.

Dr. Gail Matthews, a researcher at Dominican University, received over 149 responses to her study that attempted to arrive at a result similar to the previously mentioned ivy league interviews. Participants were divided into five groups, ranging from those who simply thought about their goals to those who not only wrote them down, but also shared them with others and engaged in weekly progress reports. After four weeks, participants were asked to rate their progress. Here are some of the results:

  • Those who wrote down their goals and were responsible for submitting progress reports to someone else where the most accomplished.
  • Every group that wrote down their goals (Groups 2-5) significantly outperformed those who simply thought about their goals (Group 1).
  • When writing down your goals, there was no statistical advantage to sharing your goals with someone else.

In the end, there was enough scientific evidence to support that writing down goals, committing to those goals over time, and having some method of holding yourself accountable all lead to improved performance and greater achievement. So, we can agree that writing down goals is a good way to be more productive, by why?

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Why Nature Should Be Part Of Your Working Space

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What’s difference does your physical environment have on the work you do? Quite a bit.

In a 2002 study, two groups of high school students were asked to spend some time making creative collages. One group made their collages in a setting with direct sunlight and natural wood surrounding them. The other group was in a room built of manufactured materials not found in nature, like drywall and plastic.

When a panel of six independent art critics viewed the students’ finished work, the results were overwhelmingly clear. The students who worked in the natural environment produced more innovative and creative pieces.

It makes perfect sense, our species was designed to wake with the sunlight. For millennia we’ve worked outside, hunting and farming and building societies. We lived in nature and then build shelters of wood and stone.

Then, everything got all … artificial. Synthetic walls, plastic, poly- this and carbon- that. Nature stopped being something we live in and started being something we vacation for. But you can’t pack a year’s worth of nature into a week-long vacation. Natural environments need to be part of our everyday lives. That includes the workplace.

Here are some ways to get started.

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How To Start Real, Meaningful Conversations With Your Email List Subscribers

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By now you’ve heard all about the benefits of building an audience over an email list.

Let say you’ve even set up a Mailchimp account and built an awesome landing page for capturing emails. You’ve targeted the people you want to reach and aggressively marketed your landing page. You’re even starting to see some emails coming in. Your list is growing.

Now what?

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs and marketers have with their email list strategy is figuring out how to connect with people once they’ve signed up. Too boring, people unsubscribe. Too sales-y or pushy, people unsubscribe. Bother people too much and they’ll unsubscribe.

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12 Awesome Infographics To Help Grow Your Business

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Constant learning is one of the the best habits an entrepreneur can build. Thankfully there is no shortage of information available. More than ever before, in fact. From books, essays, Ted Talks, email newsletters, even entire college curriculums. Not to belabor a point that everyone is making — but there’s a world of information at our fingertips.

Sometimes, you need that information fast. The world is recommended a 5-course meal, and all you’ve got time for is a protein bar. Especially if you’re hard at work growing a business. Enter the infographic, Web 2.0’s comic book, magazine, pamphlet and business card all rolled together.

Why Everyone Will Have to Become an Entrepreneur

Shaking off the office grind to chase entrepreneurial dreams is more common than ever before. This infographic from San Francisco-based startup organization Funders and Founders breaks down just how important entrepreneurship has become. And it shows exactly why so many companies prefer to hire contractors over employees.

How to Never Give Up on Becoming an Entrepreneur

Another smart infographic from Funders and Founders. This one helps you overcome the drudgery and pain of growing a business. It is quite comforting to know that Michael Jordan missed the important shot more than 300 times.

How to Increase LinkedIn Engagement by 386%

This infographic from Quicksprout will help you master LinkedIn. It’s a huge network and unquestionably valuable in the business world. Consider the stat that 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to screen potential job candidates.

Email Cheat Sheet

Don’t build your empire on rented land. Facebook or Stumbleupon might allow you to reach tons of people in an easy way, but those businesses will always control those channels. You’ll never be in the driver’s seat. That’s why so many companies still prefer to build their communication over email. The folks at Marketo built this great infographic that shows you how to build a killer email strategy.

How to Grow a Business: When Big Companies were Small

Everyone starts somewhere. Especially in tech, where behemoths like Facebook, were they a person, wouldn’t be old enough to drive a car. This helpful infographic from Salesforce shows you how giants like Amazon, Virgin and Facebook grew.

The Modern Small Business Owner

No two businesses operate the same way. And no two small business owners work the same way. But they definitely have a lot of things in common. This infographic from Intuit breaks down the characteristics of the modern small business owner. Did you know that running a business brings three times as much stress as raising children?

Inside The Mind Of A Startup Entrepreneur

What goes on inside the head of a startup founder? This infographic from Top Management Degrees answers exactly that. Did you know Bill Gates never took one day off in his 20s.

18 mistakes that kill startups

How do you sink a startup? Mark Vital at Funders and Founders built this helpful infographic based on the iconic Paul Graham essay on the topic. A simple infographic packed with great advice. Be sure to read the corresponding essay.

The Year in Startup Funding

Where does funding come from and flow to in the startup world? The crowdfunding platform Fundable has an excellent infographic that dives into startup land and follows the money.

The Many Paths to Starting a Startup

Starting a business can happen a lot of different ways. This infographic from Polish web development agency Naturaily illustrates a few of the most common paths.

The Staggering Cost of a Bad Hire

A bad hire can sink a business before it gets very far. Before you make the mistake of hiring the wrong person, use this infographic from Mindflash to burn in the hard truth: bad hires cost big bucks.

The 10 Commandments of User Interface Design

Is there any better medium to teach design than a well-designed infographic. The folks at Designmantic show off great principles of UI design using a beautifully-built infographic.

P.S. If you liked this article, you should subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll email you a daily blog post with actionable and unconventional advice on how to work better.

Anatomy Of A Great Mission Statement

Richard Branson has a thing for mission statements.

He likes them. He just thinks most of them suck.

Most mission statements are full of blah truisms and are anything but inspirational. A company’s employees don’t really need to be told that “The mission of XYZ Widgets is to make the best widgets in the world while providing excellent service.” They must think, “As opposed to what? Making the worst widgets and offering the lousiest service?” Such statements show that management lacks imagination, and perhaps in some cases, direction.

Mission statements — the good and the bad — have a way of bringing out the true core of your company. If that core is boring and jargon-filled, so will be the mission statement. If it’s fun, inspired, unique, caring … you can see where this is going.

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