corporate culture discourages honesty
To celebrate one year since we started work, my company gathered my hiring class to headquarters for a week and treated us to team bonding activities every night, including bowling, a pool party, and a cooking competition. In the past we've also done things like go rock climbing or hiking or just go somewhere nice to eat.
I really appreciate my company for going through the trouble to organize these activities for us, because they're usually very fun. But last night's cooking competition was a dud. Not only was the actual competition not fun, dinner was just whatever we cooked. And who trusts their coworkers enough for that? I already see the kind of code they write...
This morning we all had breakfast together and our president asked us what we thought of the cooking competition, and of course everyone told him that that it was a bunch of fun, that they loved the food, yada yada. How could we say anything else? He can fire all of us if he wanted to. And he took that reception as confirmation to do the whole event again next year.
It bothers me that people in charge of us can think that just asking us for our opinion face to face like that constitutes a legitimate way to collect useful feedback. Do they really think that we'll be honest to them with a corporate culture and power dynamic preventing us from doing so? This kind of mutual ignorance benefits no one: HR won't ever get constructive criticism, and we'll keep having to suffer through events like this over and over.
It's not like it's that hard to do better, either. Send out an anonymous survey and encourage thoughtful reflection and candid feedback. And don't stop there. Reward honesty, even when it's not what you want to hear. This is a small but feasible change that goes a long way when building a transparent, honest company culture.