Corporate culture is about as modern as a rotary telephone.
From practices that have largely remained unchanged since the industrial revolution to the plexiglass/concrete ceilings, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Like many gen-z’s/millenials I don’t believe in the concept of a dream job or company, but I do think incremental changes can significantly improve employee’s experiences at work, and therefore improve a company. If I were to start my own company, there are more than a few things I would leave behind.
Lack of people management training
People management is a skill that takes time to build, just like learning how to produce clearly structured code or create an effective marketing campaign, but for some reason, it is not treated as such.
Companies wouldn’t make a new grad with no experience a vice president at their company, so why would they give an employee with no people management experience a new grad to manage and tell them to just figure it out?
The corporate world doesn’t seem to understand that great students don’t always make great teachers. Fantastic individual contributors don’t always make great people managers. Patience, emotional intelligence, and empathy are required to effectively manage along with strong interpersonal communication skills.
It has been easy for many to climb the corporate ranks without developing those skills and just focusing on results, however, at a certain point, those deficits really start to show.
No formal onboarding process
My company doesn’t have an official onboarding process. On your first day of work, you get a new computer, meet your manager, get assigned a desk, and your team starts forwarding you emails/meeting invites. For the next 9–12 months, every day feels like someone ties your hands to your feet and sticks you in a washing machine (with the water on the hottest setting).
It is a widely known fact that college doesn’t prepare anyone for most of the specific intricacies of working. Putting the onus on the new-grad to figure out what they don’t know and figure out how to learn it without asking too many dumb questions to the people doing real work is crazy.
Add in managers who say: “Ask me questions! You’re not supposed to know everything yet!” but then bark one-word responses to questions or ask: “Did you try Google?” and the situation is even more unbearable.
(Pre-COVID) Required office attendance
The 8-hour workweek has been outdated for 100 years, and most millennials and Gen-Zers are well aware of this. Being paid to sit in an office and look busy or being required to work 12+ hours a day to just keep your job are both ineffective uses of time. (Of course, there are notable exceptions to both of these examples).
The forced switch to working from home has caused many companies to change their WFH policy indefinitely. Some companies, like Spotify, have even introduced “Work from Anywhere” policies.
One-Way Feedback (Manager -> Managee)
Feedback is an essential (albeit difficult) part of working.
Bad managers may deal out feedback in passive-aggressive comments and short emails, while good ones provide constructive improvement areas with the necessary developmental support.
At my company, this “feedback loop” is really a straight line from manager to employee. While my manager has more experience doing the work that we do, this by no means implies he has no room for growth.
Sure, my manager has a manager who will evaluate his yearly performance, including the results of his direct reports. However, as a people manager, his job now includes producing quality work and effectively leading and managing a team.
The quality of my managers’ people management skills can’t be evaluated by his superior or even from the work that I produce. He has made my life unbearable at times because of his management style. But, if he manages me poorly, yet I produce good work despite him, he is seen as a good manager?
Many people tout the phrase “managing up,” as a solution to this one-sided feedback, but in many circumstances, that is just not possible. Fear of repercussions, non-confrontational personalities, explosive overreacting managers, anxiety about job retention, etc., all are viable reasons why an employee might not feel comfortable “managing up” in a meaningful way.
I believe some bad managers want to improve, but without being told where their weaknesses lie, they cannot, and being a manager is as much a job as any other.
Many times when something annoying or infuriating happens at work, I note the incident down in my “I would never do this to someone else” list that I plan to stick closely to if I ever manage someone else or start my own company. I’m also aware I’ll make my own mistakes, as is expected with any human being. I do like to fantasize about my “utopia” company and how it will be the anthesis of all things annoyingly corporate, and if/when it starts, I’ll definitely be referring back to this list.