Working With Values

I’ve done a lot of work over the years, some of which has been purely mercenary, some of which has been more in line with my values, and, frankly, some that has really tested what I believe in.   All of these have been learning experiences; I can genuinely say that no matter how unpleasant something has been at the time, I have survived it and learned a very valuable lesson afterwards.

Here are things that I believe contribute to a good culture in a workplace, and I’ll be exploring a few of them in detail. You’d be surprised how many of them correspond to lessons from Kung Fu or philosophy, but really, you shouldn’t be.

  1. Pay people fairly, on time, and never let there be surprises about money. If you can’t afford to pay for the job on time, you can’t afford the job. Money is the first form of respect that you can show a colleague.
  2. Programming tests and whiteboard interviews no more measure fitness for the job than standardised tests measure intelligence, capability or suitability.
  3. The notion of culture fit is often a polite way of saying that you want someone with whom you feel comfortable because of common manners drawn from class, gender, race and education.  Perhaps instead of thinking about what makes you comfortable, think about cultural expansion, instead.
  4. The right person for the job is not someone who has the skills you want, but someone who thinks in innovative and intriguing ways. Particular skills can be taught, but sharpness of mind cannot.  You learn more about someone by asking about her favourite book than you ever would with some standardised job interview question.
  5. Communication styles and learning styles are frequently covariant. What is helpful in one situation is not helpful in others.
  6. A truly diverse workplace is one in which everyone’s needs are met to allow for  open communication without fear of backlash.
  7. When needs are in conflict, there is no simple formula to determine an outcome. Communication, negotiation and facilitation are tactics we can use to find outcomes that can work for everyone.