How to Build a Toxic Culture in your Start-up

How to Build a Toxic Culture in your Start-up

Are you a founder of a company? Recently promoted MD or CEO? Would you like to shake things up and do things in a new way? Wouldn’t you like to replicate what the truly great companies you’ve read about online do? Building a great culture means happier people, more productivity and better decor!  What’s not to love! Here are some handy hints to help you take control and build the culture you crave!

You know best – after all it’s your company! Firstly remember you’ve been chosen to lead this company, surely you wouldn’t be in this position if you weren’t the best person for the job? That must mean you have a Divine Right to lead people and whilst they’ll all have opinions and might be experts in a particular specialism you should still be able to overrule them all. People love a strong leader right? Remember to allow the people to discuss a course of action even at length but ultimately do what you had in mind anyway…it’s your company!

Of course all the people you’ve employed love you, but as the company grows you won’t be able to maintain as close a working relationship with all of your employees. Why not try maintaining an inner circle of the people you like best? The ones that agree with you and the friend from university who has moved through five different C-level roles in the company so far is a great place to start!

Hire for novelty…. Diversity is important, you read that somewhere right? Instead of getting an understanding of diversity interpret it your own way! Try “diversity of thought” and maintain a few weird biases!  Worry about actual diversity when an investor questions why your growing company is made up of one hundred of your white male college friends. At this point it’s a great idea to attempt to hire women – female engineers will be lining up for the opportunity to be a token for you to use rather than being valued for their technical skills!

When a hire doesn’t work out assume it’s because no one can get it, and do the role yourself! Hired that hotshot because they once worked at a company you think is great and they’re not the rockstar you assumed? Put this down to the uniquely difficult situation of your company and the lack of support that the hire obviously needed. When questioned about the reasons this new didn’t stick give the reasoning of “context” or shrug and say “he just wasn’t right”.  Never specify what “right” is.

When hiring, assuming you’ve hired a recruiter to do the admin stuff, agree to a method then when a decision doesn’t go your way attempt to undo it. You can do this by having a “quiet word” before interviewers are gathered together to discuss feedback or simply by intimidating the interviewers as they’re giving their opinions. BONUS TIP! This can also be used in meetings to quash disagreement!

Organisational cultures should be fluid – so switch to new management methods every week – OKR’s, Holacracy, top-grading… whatever!  Let “If it worked for X then it will work for us” become your mantra. Your company structure should change to reflect whatever management book you’ve recently almost finished or read half of.

Don’t hire HR. You’re busy disrupting things. Human Resources with all their compliance and regulation will only slow you down. You won’t need them, after all you’re friends with all your employees anyway! There may come a time when HR prove to be useful, negotiating a mis-hire’s severance package or coming up with a new job title that sounds just a little bit more senior than the one belonging to the person who is currently in the role.

The rewards will come later so there’s no need for recognition or development now! People should buy in to your mission. It’s important for them to have “skin in the game” and feel invested. Though maybe not actually invested in terms of ownership… Paying “market rate” is for bigger companies, remember that performance appraisal is a great time to remind people they could be doing so much more.  The time to talk about salary increases is when a key member of the team hands in their resignation, they’ll stay for money!

Publicise your amazing work ethic – we only want doers! Reinforce this message through interviews and PR. Talk extensively about the “culture” and how people are staying in the office late to “get shit done”. If you do have an historical example from the company’s formative days when you stayed all night and coded and ate pizza it’s very important to glorify this in such a way as it’s replication becomes an unattainable ideal for new employees.

In pursuit of your amazing work ethic use technology to ensure that people are working when you need them, you like to work Sundays so should they! If you can see they are “online” in Slack or any other channel it’s safe to assume you can contact them – after all it’s a green light right next to their name!

Work hard play hard!  Of course we have a great culture, we have a foosball table! When showing potential investors around the office it’s important to make it look like everyone is happy. Things that make people happy are great benefits, authentic involvement in their learning and development and engaging, rewarding work – but you’re too busy disrupting things for that! A foosball table, a bookshelf with unread books on it and some bean bags will be enough. It’s important to scowl disapprovingly should anyone be seen to play foosball or read a book during “core hours”, which are 7am to 11pm…obviously.

Validate your own opinion that everything is ok and all the employees are happy by having drinks on a Friday. “We must be fine because we all socialise!” you can say as you pat yourself on the back. Remember to not think too hard about who isn’t present in the room (those with children, those who don’t drink) and try not to entertain the notion that the drinking is a form of release to stave of the inevitable burn out of the workforce. Chill out! Have a beer!

It’s inevitable that there won’t only always be good news to share with the team. At times like these it’s important to make the bad news someone else’s fault.  This can be a recently departed employee, a current (soon to be departed) employee or the more vague “market forces”. Remember don’t show weakness if you do your employees might love you a little less… and they do love you right?