Culture is King

June 12, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai

Two weeks ago, we talked about how hiring the right people matters for supporting company culture in “You Are What You Preach.”

Soon after, the subject of corporate culture started circulating through the employee inboxes at The Tite Report. Specifically, we started discussing the slew of “Why I Left Buzzfeed” videos that have been circulating for the last couple of months.

Before you read on, note that we’re not in any kind of way bashing Buzzfeed or any of the other companies we mention today.

Buzzfeed is fantastic! It knows its audience, it knows how to get people to click and certainly knows what it means to make comprehensive content beyond just its famous quizzes.

We just want to address culture, and what it means to state it versus simply appearing to be it.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why: whether we like to admit it or not, sometimes the hottest brands don’t always win in the culture department.

From the outside, content creators look at Buzzfeed and think about how cool it is. They picture Google-esque offices, liberty to create without subject matter constraints, and office shenanigans that make good stories. 

Yet this is just an outward expression, as explained by several former Buzzfeed employees.

A common thread expressed in various videos was those who worked at Buzzfeed felt like their time was totally owned by the media company. They couldn’t work on personal projects outside of work and didn’t feel like they could take proper ownership of the work they did do.

Others talked about things like miscommunications, fear of being laid off after the company did lots of reshuffling, crazy quotas for asset delivery, etc.

Some of you might say this stuff could happen anywhere and already happens. “It’s just the millennials getting upset,” they said. “People need to accept the real world,” they said.

But that’s not the issue here. The issue is more about Buzzfeed communicating a certain company culture that isn’t being upheld for everyone.

Ultimately, happier employees means better work, better ideas and better cohesion as a company (according to Robin Whalen in You Are What You Preach).

The high turnover that’s cited in these videos isn’t something to brag about. Just because one person doesn’t like a company, leaves but can be replaced doesn’t make the turnover okay.  

Something like that is a big indicator about the health of a business.

Admittedly, Buzzfeed is huge and still growing with a loyal fan base. And we certainly do not know the inner workings of it. Yet, is that not more of a reason to do work differently and not just be “another big company”?

We’re certainly not in the space to be telling Buzzfeed how to operate. Rather, we’re curious about the bigger idea of culture as a whole in the business world.

This all makes us ask: how long can quality over quantity and the illusion of an easy-going, fun-times-vibe sustain good business? And good business beyond just a healthy income.

Just look at Tesla and Uber – despite their popularity, both companies are currently facing allegations that are none too becoming for either’s public perception.

In short, culture can’t be an illusion. It has to be felt and protected. Cool-factor is no excuse. After all, didn't someone once say "to talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk" for a reason?

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?


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