Working Well

“A business leader’s job is to create great teams that do amazing work on time.”

― Patty McCord

The majority of humans spend as much time at work as they do on their mattress. Much like a bad mattress, a less than great work environment takes a toll on one’s vitality and can squash one’s joie de vivre. There was a statistic floating around our office last year postulating that 70% of people are unhappy at work. Showing up day after day for something that fails to ignite your bones takes a toll on mental and physical health. What kind of work can a company produce with the human hearts at the helm all in malaise? The antidote can be found at the core of our humanity.

We’ve all seen or been on the receiving end of someone not stoked about their job, and perhaps we’ve been there ourselves. It’s a crappy-feeling place to be. Perhaps we’ve watched our parents endure work in this way, and we’ve set out to do something different ourselves. Perhaps we find ourselves in a similar place as them (even though we may be at a glossy startup with free lunch).

Work-related stress comes in many forms most of which are due to the interpersonal environments in which we work and how that affects our inner-personal environment. When we encounter delusional thinking, lack of clarity, and lack of radical honesty in any area of our life, it rattles our trust. At the core of our neurology, we don’t feel safe. When we don’t feel safe, we’re typically running on flight or fight (fear)–a draining state to be in continuously. At work, that can be amplified with additional feelings of imposter syndrome, or inadequacy and self-doubt. Our sense of belonging may feel threatened.

Those few things alone will make anyone want to curl into a ball and hide–not be the productive, positive, strategic, people employers would like on their team. What’s more is that all of that stress spins in wasted cycles of human energy, which means “doing less even slower” in the form of missed deadlines, products that don’t ship, and a hearty helping of team dysfunction.

This level of emotional work stress takes a toll on employees as well as the product, brand, and execution of the larger vision of your organization (which may then stress out your VCs). To put some light metrics on this: eight hours of wasted human productivity times the number of people in your organization equals a lot of wasted hours of productivity.

Yikes.

While work doesn’t have to be this way, this begs the question: what does it take to build resilient and humane organizations? We often begin by asking: What kind of company do you want to work for? It’s a big question namely because, as Jerry notes in this podcast episode with Nathalie McGrath, VP of People at Coinbase, you have the responsibility and the audacious capacity to create that every single day.

What kind of culture are you creating? Are you creating one of tension born of dysfunctions and ways of being that lead to burnout? Are you creating one of safety and belonging so that your people succeed? (Nathalie and her team have strived for the latter.)

Humans need to feel safe, to feel a sense of belonging, and to feel loved. These elements, when tended to, create environments for the flight or fight parts of us to shift into less stress and more of the good work we all long for as employees and employers. By honoring this basic, subtle and important part of our shared humanity, we build work environments that can handle the rollercoaster of highs and lows that come with fast growth of a scaling organization as well as the day-to-day happenings in companies of any size and stature.

Consider that company values and culture are the moment to moment lived-in ways that an organization operates. What kind of culture are you creating? What are the values you live by in the office?

What does your organization feel like?
How are tough conversations handled (or are they)?
How is emotional intelligence fostered company-wide?
How are decisions made?
How does the company listen?
How does the company collaborate?
How does the company give and receive feedback?
Is everyone clear about their roles and responsibilities and reporting structures?
How is vision communicated? Is it well understood?
Does everyone have what they need to succeed?

The interpersonal spaces that create our workplaces are like the spaces between the atoms that create our solid world. It’s those spaces that matter and make a difference in how we operate and what we build. The interpersonal spaces stand a chance at improving as we take care of what’s happening in our inner-personal space as leaders, managers, business owners and employees. Our friend Parker Palmer says: “If you’re going to live an unexamined life, don’t take a job that involves other people.”

We started Reboot because we believe that in our work lies the possibility of the full realization of human potential. Work doesn’t have to destroy us. Work can be the way in which we achieve our fullest selves. It’s a movement around how we work and how we can work differently. Building humane workplaces is the best place to begin.