Since I’ve been working in a startup company, my view on the world of work totally changed.
When I finished my masters degree, I was thinking like most people (at least in France): I need to find a good job as soon as possible, in a big and wealthy company, so I can earn a decent amount of money, work hard and step by step go up the ladder to earn more money, have more responsibilities, earn even more… and I’ll be happy like that.
What an idiot I was!!!
I ended up in a French startup, EEWORX, at the end of 2014 a bit randomly and I didn’t expect to stay there for long to be honest. But here I am nearly 3 years later, still there, loving it and soon moving to Miami thanks to it! Life is unpredictable!
Let’s work and have some fun
EEWORX has been created by three friends: Julien Deleau, Laurent Fleuriot and Julien Gomez. They wanted to build a very “simple” company culture, which I would summarize like this: we can work hard and do amazing things while enjoying it and having fun! Concretely what does it mean?
- Come as you are and be who you are: we don’t care what you wear everyday or what your haircut is like or if you have tattoos. Since when did a tie, a shirt or nice shoes make anyone clever? Admit it, it’s more uncomfortable than anything! I believe that to be in a good mindset to work, to be productive and efficient, you are better off being comfy in your shoes! So we wear shorts, t-shirts, flip-flops (sometimes)… and no, it doesn’t mean the work we produce is shit!
- Fck 9am to 6pm: we don’t care when you arrive in the morning or when you leave at night. There is this big bullshit about time at the office, it drives me mad. Apparently, the longer you are at the office, the more you produce… oh and of course, don’t be there too late in the morning! Well sorry, that’s a big lie! The longer you are at the office… the longer you stare at your screen, that’s about it. As long as people do their jobs, why does it matter if they start at 7, 8, 9 or 10am? We all have a life outside of the office, and sorry, our real lives should be more important than work. We all have private constraints we have to deal with and as everything is usually open when we work… would it not be nice to have some flexibility to be able to do what you want: personal stuff AND work?
- Stop the hypocrisy and let’s have some fun: I hate the hypocrisy going on in most offices. Why do people pretend to be always working? We are all the same, we all need a break… so why panic and hide everything when someone catches you on Youtube or Facebook? It’s fine, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing any work! The human brain can’t stay focused for hours and hours non stop, it’s just impossible. Even the CEO of the biggest company in the world must watch YouTube videos or do something else non productive! That’s why at the office there is no hypocrisy, you watch a funny video? Share it with everyone! You want to throw footballs? Find a mate and do it! It’s good to release the pressure a bit and think about something else…
- Express yourself, open you wings and fly: before working here, I worked in a few places, and I was frustrated. In lots of places, you are hired as a job title and your chances of doing something else are pretty low, apart from if you sacrifice everything (= your personal life) for it. And even that doesn’t guarantee anything. The problem with big companies is that they have so many layers that it’s hard to do anything you are supposed to… the issue is, everyone relies on other people and everything moves terribly slowly (if it moves at all). It’s also really hard to be listened to, and your good ideas usually end up lost between the layers. At the end, you just do what you are told and there is no place for creativity. We do the opposite. We hire someone for a job, we notice if they are good at something else AND they enjoy it… why not give them a chance?! We also don’t look too much at the age: you can be young and brilliant! It’s not because you have never done a job before that all of your ideas are shit (and the opposite is true as well: it’s not because you studied something that you are good at it). I studied software development with a speciality in Robotics… I’m now Global Operations Manager, I manage a team and – as I enjoy it – I give my opinions and ideas (good or bad) on the products… I never learnt or did any of those things before I started. But they gave me a chance, and now I go to work with a big smile on my face!
- Welcome the meritocracy: unfortunately, it’s often hard to get a promotion or to move internally in a company. Quite often, “the chosen ones” are the ones well-seen by the bosses. Spend your life at the office, look good, say yes to everything and cause no trouble and maybe you’ll have a shot! Bit sad isn’t it? The founders of EEWORX have an easier way to do it: prove yourself, and if you deserve it, things will come naturally. If someone is good and efficient at their job, if they do what it takes and do what they are supposed to do… why not reward them? When there is a problem, rather than looking around and waiting for a miracle, grab it and try to find a solution… even if it’s not in your expertize and directly under your control, take action! Don’t just wait for someone else… because that’s what everyone else does anyway! If everyone in the company sees that when you work hard you are rewarded – by any means, it motivates everyone, because they will think it was fair (and not because you’ve been in your boss’ pants!).
- Understand, explain and congratulate rather than yell and punish: why yell and treat someone like shit when they do something wrong, when you could try to understand what happened and why it happened, and help to find a solution so it doesn’t happen again. We are all human. Whatever our age, degree, job-title, experience, we are all human, and we do make mistakes. That’s just a fact. But yelling won’t help. It won’t guarantee that it won’t happen again either. The only result is that someone would have lost lots of confidence, will be embarrassed in front of co-workers and probably won’t make any effort for you ever again. Instead, why not try to understand, help and guide people? And why is it so hard to get a thank you at work. When something is late, that’s all you hear about. But sadly, we forget too often to congratulate and thank people when they do a good job! These small actions and kind words make a HUGE difference in the daily life!
You don’t need to come from a famous university to understand that what I just wrote makes total sense. That’s how pretty much every company in the world should work! But unfortunately it’s not the case. Why? Tricky question!
Pick the right people
I think the main issue is TRUST. Bosses and managers do not trust their employees. So to make sure they do exactly what they want, they put on their cop costumes! That is something I just don’t get. If you don’t trust someone, if you don’t believe a person will do their job if you’re not behind their back 24/7… why do you work with them? Why hire them in the first place, and why carry on? Would you stay in a couple with someone you don’t trust and like? I doubt it.
Those trust issues makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward. And it’s very frustrating as an employee – and as a person – to feel this way. No wonder why plenty of people don’t enjoy/hate their jobs (but why stay then? That will be the subject of another blog post).
Where I work, there is total trust. The founders decide to trust the staff: here is your mission, here is what we want you to do for us… do it. If you have any issues, let us know and we will help. Believe me, it’s nice to work in an environment like that. You can actually make your own decisions and manage your timetable as you want. As long as the job is done, everything is fine! Again, shouldn’t it always be like that? Why do we have to be an exception!! It just doesn’t make sense.
The founders – Julien, Julien and Laurent – who have now became my friends, are not seen as bosses. Or at least not in a bad way. More than managers, they are leaders. Here are some quotes I really like which define pretty well how they are here for us and how any managers and aspiring leaders should be:
A boss creates fear, a leader confidence.
A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes.
A boss knows all, a leader asks questions.
When I talk to managers, I get the feeling that they are important.
When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling that I am important.
Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could do.
That’s what I have learnt after 3 years, I thank them for that, and that’s why I never call them “boss” or “manager”.
Another key thing to succeed in bringing happiness to the office is to create a nice atmosphere. Everything I listed before helps. But you also need the right people. More than a bunch of people working with each other, it’s important to be a team working together. In a company, no matter if you’re doing well or not, there are ups and downs. It’s important to have a united team ready to help each other out. That makes a huge difference! First of all, it’s nice to know when you go to work that you are going to see people you like, people you are friends with and not just workmates. And as we all make mistakes, it’s good to know people have your back if anything goes wrong.
It is easier to flourish in such an environment. Whatever happens in the future, this experience has opened my eyes. I’ll never be able to work in a “normal” (meaning old-fashioned) company again. But it’s one of the best things that could have happened to me. The day I will leave it will be to create my own company, my own world… and unlike a lot of bosses, I know they will be happy for me and even helpful!
At the end, I now believe that people will always be happier if they do something they enjoy. And if they are happy, they will be more efficient! If people see you trust them by giving them chances and if you are fair with everyone, you can get the best out of everyone! And I promise you, you will be surprized by what a group of motivated and talented people can do together!
*quote from Mark Anthony
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