June 11, 2010

No jerks allowed

Filed under: Stuff I love

Company mission statements usually remind me of public relations dogchow. I wanna gag. I don’t know anything about Connectria — but I love the company’s guiding principles.

Especially the last item. If they really abide by it, it’s probably one of the most important career development tools any company can implement and offer to employees and new hires. (On Ask The Headhunter, there’s a related article titled It’s the people, Stupid.)

The only thing missing in the guiding principles, I think, is, “We work hard to make more profit.”

If the point of a company’s mission statement (or principles list) is to send a message to the world, I think Connectria pulls it off. And my guess is they wrote it over beers, not by paying a PR consultant.

Does any of this really mean anything? Know any companies that have meaningful (or startling) mission statements that seem to make a difference?

[Thanks to buddy Jeff Pierce for passing along Connectria's link.]

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8 Comments on “No jerks allowed”
By Chris
June 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

I don’t know the company, so I can’t comment on its specific circumstances.

But I can tell you from my personal work experience and dealing with dozens of companies over the years that these statements are, more often than not, worthless. They’re like “visions” or “quality statements”. Someone in management makes these things up, makes everybody sign them, they’re published and talked about for a week, and then they fade into the background until someone feels that effort and money needs to be spent to update the dusty posters in the hallway.

What companies are trying to do is noble: build a culture. Culture can be a powerful thing, a truly competitive advantage if done properly. But it’s hard to do. It’s not in statements on websites, blurbs in annual reports, or posters. It’s something that’s built up and sustained day after day in the small decisions. And, most importantly, it’s created when decisions are made that cost money and short term profits but sustain the culture long term. I’ve yet to ever hear someone say, “We should/should not do this because it supports/violates our company’s principles.”

IMHO, a company with good principles/vision/whatever is one that doesn’t have to write them down. It’s known for them. Think about your own reputation and principles. If you follow a principle of delivering good work on time and satisfying your customer, you’ll be known for it. You won’t write it down on a piece of paper to show potential clients.

Good companies are the same. When people talk about these companies, they say, “They do good work” or “They treat their people well” or “They’re the ones you need to talk to you to solve your problem.” People couldn’t care less about these written principles.

By Karsten
June 13, 2010 at 6:39 am

Most of these vision’n’mission statements and corporate values basically tell you that the company will treat its employees well (yeah, right, HR and downsizing anyone?), take care of its customers, respect the environment (hey, BP!) and stay away from crime and corruption.

If I ever was askead about my attitude towards such statements in an interview, I would basically answer “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn in such statements. Treating your people well, respect the environment and not breaking the law is something you shouldn’t need to write down, it’s just how things should be done. And you don’t take care of customers because you want to be cosy, but because you want to stay in business. Case closed.”

I wonder how much time and money is wasted on such BS, while the lower employees struggle to get the daily grind going? May be management think they do something valuable when making that stuff up, but actually they only make fools of themselves towards employees, when the foot soldiers discover that the day-to-day management of the company is done by Dilbert.

By JaneA
June 13, 2010 at 5:41 pm

If we are going to have that sort of stuff at all, I’d much rather have it in plain, ordinary English than corporate waffle-speak.

But what I’m really interested in is what you actually do, not what you say. Didn’t Emerson have something to say about that?

Even then, I’ve learned to feel uncomfortable about holding up people or entities as wonderful examples. Things can change, or be discovered, that alter the whole picture. Wasn’t Enron highly regarded as a great, innovative and successful company before the awful reality was revealed?

By Chris Walker
June 14, 2010 at 8:32 am

Enron’s Code of Ethics was based on four ‘key values': respect, integrity, communication and excellence. You can read all 64 pages here: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/enron/enronethics3.html.

By Bill Johnson
June 22, 2010 at 8:21 am

I worked at a large law firm that had a similar motto and when they recruited me, made it a point to say this.

The leader of my group was a mean, nasty, arrogant bully who forced dozens of good people to leave. Even when several filed formal HR complaints against him, they were out and he stayed. After all, suing a large law firm is a losing prospect unless you’re another law firm.

The problem with saying “no jerks allowed” is that in most cases, the people charged with enforcing the policy are themselves jerks.

By Karsten
June 24, 2010 at 8:35 am

@Chris Walker:

Did Enron really have 64 pages of Code of Ethics? Sounds more like trying to bury the ethics in a pile of paper…

By Mike Urbonas
July 3, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Hi Nick, long time no talk :) hope all is well. Great post.

An authentic, “real” mission statement can be as beneficial and morale-boosting for a company as a self-aggrandizing, meaningless, irrelevant mission statement can be morale-cratering laughingstock material.

I blogged about this and hope you and your readers find it interesting.

http://mikeurbonas.com/2009/07/09/doing-the-wrong-things-right-part-2-or-doing-and-measuring-the-right-things-right/

By Ray Saunders
July 24, 2010 at 6:41 pm

All the high-sounding statements don’t mean much in my experience, as I see them violated pretty consistently. A company takes its culture from the top down. If the boss cares about the lowest employee, all employees will bust their buns to do the best job they can.

One company I worked for:

1) Guy had terminal cancer. Used up his vacation, sick time, etc. Kept him on full salary til the day he died.

2) Retirement plan assumed 20 years service. First retiree had only 18 because company was only 18 years old. They threw in the other two years worth of funds.

3) Manager had stroke so severe he didn’t even recognize wife/kids – certainly forgot everything job-related. Full salary for 2+ years while he recovered. Gave him a job appropriate to his reduced abilities – at his old salary.

They didn’t have to do those things, but the CEO cared about his people. That’s why I and others were willing to work 90 hours straight when necessary.

I’ve worked 140-hour weeks for month after month. It wasn’t due to a mission statement.

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