A few months ago I wrote a post on cultivating a sense of community in the workplace. I talked about the importance of socialization in a team.
This is easy to understand in the abstract but hard to get right in real life. How do you balance productivity against community building?
Here are some signs the company is spending too much time on mandatory socialization.
- Everyone in the company is required to spend over 4h each week on mandatory, company-wide events designed to “facilitate communication” or “build morale”. That is 50% of one (mythical) work day (and 10% of your potential utilization).
- Organizers of these events do not consult others relative to the timing of these events, and push forward in the face of deadlines and milestones.
- It has become socially unacceptable to miss “optional” events, even if folks can’t absorb the lost time (and then they have to put in nights and weekends to make it up).
As Dilbertian as it sounds, a company exists to maximize shareholder value, not to serve as a social hangout. An environment that favors “fun” (real or contrived) over hard commitments and important deliverables is in questionable territory.
That said, companies can easily err on the side of all work and no play. Some signs that a company is doing a terrible job with its culture:
- You feel a chill in your bones each time you enter the building. The chill stays with you throughout your workday (regardless of the state of the HVAC system).
- You can’t name the significant other of a single coworker (and most of them are in a relationship).
- You actually don’t know who’s in a relationship (and you’ve worked with the same people for 5 years).
- You feel intensely uncomfortable at company picnics where you need to mingle with coworkers.
Getting the right balance between work and play is tricky. The best that we can do is to strive for a good balance most of the time.