We all like to think our culture is special. Some of us talk about our culture without really doing anything to support it. Others work hard at culture, to the point where the cynic would claim there’s a cult-like feel to what’s created.
The dirty little secret?
Whether you throw some stuff up on your website as an afterthought or have full time HR pros chasing culture as the sole purpose of their job, the truth about your culture lies somewhere in the middle of what you say it is and how the most cynical, jaded employees react to your cultural framing.
The truth always lies somewhere in the middle. You know this as the strong HR pro you are.
"The offices bear a striking resemblance to the Montessori preschool that my kids attended: lots of bright basic colors, plenty of toys, and a nap room with a hammock and soothing palm tree murals on the wall. The office-as-playground trend was made famous by Google and has spread like an infection across the tech industry. Work can’t just be work; work has to be fun. HubSpot is divided into “neighborhoods,” each named after a section of Boston: North End, South End, Charlestown.
One neighborhood has a set of musical instruments, in case people want to have an impromptu jam session, which Zack says never happens. Every neighborhood has little kitchens, with automatic espresso machines, and lounge areas with couches and chalkboard walls where people have written things like “HubSpot = cool” alongside inspirational messages like “There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. So that we listen twice as much as we speak.”
Click through that link above and go read the entire excerpt form the book at Fortune. Need a cynical view of how cultural brainwashing occurs for new hires? Lyons has that too:
"Our head trainer is Dave, a wiry, energetic guy in his forties with a shaved head and a gray goatee. On the first day we all go around and introduce ourselves, and tell everyone about something that makes us special. Dave’s thing is that he plays in a heavy-metal cover band on weekends.
Dave is part teacher and part preacher. Every two weeks he gets a batch of new recruits, and he goes through the same spiel, showing the same slides, telling the same jokes. He’s good at it. He loves HubSpot, he tells us, unabashedly. He’s had lots of jobs, and this is by far the best place he’s ever worked. This company has changed his life. He hopes it will change ours as well."
“We’re not just selling a product here,” Dave tells us. “HubSpot is leading a revolution. A movement. HubSpot is changing the world. This software doesn’t just help companies sell products. This product changes people’s lives. We are changing people’s lives.”
Lyons, who was the cynic behind the twitter account FAKE STEVE JOBS, was prepared to stick a dagger in HubSpot from early on. Perhaps he didn’t set out to do this, but he kept his options open and Hubspot never challenged full completion of his new hire paperwork.
One last dagger from the book and situation. Fortune reports that the hiring executive is Mike Volpe, and he was terminated from Hubspot when he attempted to get an advance copy of the book:
"Dan Lyons left HubSpot in December 2014. He never signed the nondisparagement and nondisclosure paperwork the company gave him. (HubSpot says it won’t comment on employee agreements.) On July 29, 2015, HubSpot issued a press release saying its CMO, Mike Volpe—the man called “Cranium” in Lyons’s book—had been terminated because he “violated the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics” in his “attempts to procure” a copy of a book involving HubSpot, presumably the book excerpted above, a fact that HubSpot confirmed with Fortune."
Let that sink in a bit. t’s hard to know what Hubspot really believes. A person of dubious intent comes to the company and writes a harsh book. The executive who’s not named directly but everyone knows who he is tries to get a copy of the book to assess damage – and gets fired.
I hope there was more to that situation than simply trying to get an advance copy of the book.
I offer up these accounts to have everyone breath deeply when it comes to culture. If you work hard at culture, just know what you think you are creating is not the reality. Something between the cynic's take and what you think it is is the reality.
After all, it’s work. And the middle doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Get your new hire paperwork signed – all of it – and don’t hire ambitious journalists.