It was my second day at work at a renowned Global Advertising Agency. Still getting familiar with the many faces around me. We all were gathered around another colleague’s computer screen to see the artwork he had created. Everyone was chatting and cracking jokes. It was a nice, fun environment I thought to myself, when suddenly another colleague of ours comes running in the art department hissing and frantically making gestures for us to quiet down. “The boss is on a round! The boss is on a round!” he said. I saw everyone run to their desks and zip their mouths shut as if someone had died. I followed back to my desk thinking, oh perhaps this is the protocol here, and yes it was. Our CEO came on a round, everyone nodded and smiled if and when prompted, and after a few minutes he left. No one budged from their seats for at least 15 minutes till after he was gone.

The rounds happened as frequently as once in two months. There was zero connection between the boss and his team. Does that sound right?

A few months later.

First month at a software house, we all get called into a meeting by our boss to discuss the progress of one of the games we were developing in-house. Myself, a bunch of developers and our Project Manager.

After our update, the CEO said, “The game looks great, let’s make it live!” I responded, “I don’t think it’s ready yet. There are still a lot of bugs. We should really invest another week to polish things up”. The CEO just looked at me with a bit of shock, and I noticed that not just him but the entire room was staring at me. I wondered if I had said anything inappropriate but couldn’t really understand everyone’s reaction. Right then, I noticed my Project Manager signaling me to be quiet. I was puzzled so I didn’t say any more. When we stepped out my Project Manager came to me and said, “You shouldn’t have said anything. We don’t question his authority. But it’s okay, you’re new, you’ll learn.”

With time I learnt that no one, no one on my team ever spoke their mind to the boss but ridiculed behind his back. Anything sound wrong there?

The answer is Emotional Culture. What was missing from the two organizations I mentioned earlier was connection. The leaders of the organization were mere bosses who were responsible for handing out the paychecks at the end of the month, and not much more really. There was no bigger company mission at play, no realization of individual motivations, or even a deliberate company culture.

Fast forward a few years, the most amazing part of one the best places I worked at was its community. It was really what made us special and stand out, and achieve so much more than our competitors. The more amazing part was how it got created. We never even planned to create it — but it didn’t just happen, it was a bi-product of how the leader of our organization treated the team and other beneficiaries. She didn’t believe in hierarchy and wasn’t afraid of giving, or asking for help.

This behavior of hers helped cultivate an environment where it was okay for us to ask for and give help irrespective of our position in the company. She treated everyone as humans which we are, not just paid laborers. Soon it wasn’t just the the team, but the people who visited our facility, i.e. our customers (entrepreneurs) who began to help other customers out. To our amazement, the attitude of the single leader had created an amazing chain reaction of a beautiful legacy which now sets the organization apart.

  1. Achieve Emotional Proximity
    Leaders can’t always be physically available to speak to each of their team members, however they can still work to achieve mental or emotional proximity which means getting close, gaining trust, listening well, getting personal, and promoting dialogue. Achieving these values improves retention, loyalty and endorses a sense of care.
  2. Establish a Culture of Helping
    A helping culture will reduce the dependency on management to fix issues all the time and create ownership amongst employees which can benefit the organization in numerous ways.
  3. Play More
    Every employee is a human first, and learning is always more fun and easy through play. If your employees start associating your workplace as a place where they get positive energy from, they will be twice as productive with their work.
Good Boss vs Bad Boss

Operational structure and financial feasibility may be the first thing that company owners think about, but if you can, please don’t undermine the value that connection and emotional culture brings to a company — and contributes to the operations and profitability.

Design Strategist | Anime Fanatic — People & Stories Make My Day!