I have worked in and with about 20 different workplaces in my career, some as a lowly worker bee, some as a manager, some as owner. Some had excellent workplace cultures- which I define “as a place I enjoyed working.”, some did not.
I will confirm what you already know- these enjoyable workplaces had little to do with the work or the pay or the benefits. (one of my favorite work experiences was working at the Minnesota State Fair, serving for fourteen hours a day at nineteen bucks a day! Hard, hard work, and so much fun!)
And some places were not fun to work at. Why these places were drudgery is best explained by Kevin the Cancer in Cashmere.
Before Kevin (Kevin was not his real name) was hired, the radio station I worked at featured low pay and long hours and a great culture. We loved our work, would hang out together after work; we didn’t always agree, but we were passionate about it. Sometimes you’ll hear a phrase, “we don’t talk about work after work.” I remember we loved to talk about work, ways we could do our jobs even better, the competition, the opportunities in the market, everything, and anything.
Then Kevin was hired. Here were a few facts about Kevin:
- He was supremely talented- very good at his job.
- He looked good, dressed up, and wore cashmere sweaters. Kevin was always polite to management and deferred to them when in meetings.
- He was also two-faced- snide and sarcastic, insulting management behind their back.
- He greeted co-workers in the hallway with “You’ve got a dumb job.”
- And this is the most important thing I remember…everyone secretly hoped he would get fired, but management was the last to figure it out because they were so enamored with his politeness and his talent.
An excellent Culture is easily evident in a thousand different small ways that look like one quick observation that anyone can see when they walk in the door: people like working here.
It is and can be tweaked and adjusted and manipulated and improved. But the biggest, simplest and hardest step to getting your good culture back is finding if there’s a Kevin.
Here’s why Kevin is hard to find:
Kevin is a cancer. And he is clever. He knows how to hide from your managerial immune system using talent and appearance, but your employees know him and have probably tried hinting about the problem.
Here is why it is hard to get rid of Kevin:
You are worried.
You think he will go work for the competition.
You think no one can take his place.
You think company profits will suffer.
But as you think about further about it, you understand that working for the competition will be your best possible outcome. You realize that other underutilized workers are waiting for an opportunity to take Kevin’s responsibilities, and with a flash of insight, you believe your company profits will increase.
So long, Kevin.
- A Story- the Rolling Stone that Gathered No Memories - May 14, 2020
- The Case of the Cashmere Cancer - April 9, 2020