When you start a company, you likely will start out as a close, small team. As we say in Silicon Valley, in homage to two famous Steves, “two guys in a garage.” You’ll work closely with the same group of people day in and day out, and while you’ll have a few disagreements and perhaps even scuffles, in general you’ll have the strong feeling that you are a unit as you press forward to overcome obstacles.
If you do a good job of surviving that first stage and your company scales from a few people to hundreds of people, it may be a different story. In a recent survey we conducted of marketers, 21% said their biggest issue when collaborating is an Us v. Them attitude with other departments.
In larger organizations, you often need to collaborate with other teams on which you may not know everyone personally. When you combine that with the complicated relationships that naturally exist among teams like sales and marketing or customer service and quality assurance, you start to see that there’s a risk for minor problems to turn into all-out blow ups that harm a company’s culture.
At my company, we invest heavily into creating a single, strong culture that stretches across locations and teams. It is especially important for us, since we have five offices around the world, and people are often working across cultural and time zone barriers, in addition to across functional lines. Over the years, I’ve developed some tips for keeping your company culture strong, and avoiding the pain that an Us v. Them mentality can create.
- Create Visibility about Results and Setbacks
Maybe you’ve heard something like this in reference to one of the teams at your company: “What are they even doing down there?” This kind of statement comes when people don’t understand the complexity of a role and make assumptions about the effort of the people doing it. These allegations generally are based on a lack of visibility about the challenges associated with a job.
By creating visibility in the form of shared updates or regular all-hands meetings, teams can see a rundown of all the work each team has in progress. Make sure your update lists successes and setbacks so people can congratulate each other on wins, and also make an effort to connect teams with unique solutions from their own experience – instead of just questioning their competence.
- Open Feedback Channels
No one wants to feel like their questions or requests are being sent into a black hole, never to be seen again. People become frustrated with other teams when they feel there is no official channel to provide feedback or obtain vital information from them. Putting such channels in place that facilitate communication and let people know their feedback is being heard can help improve relations and trust across the board and also has the added benefit of creating a culture of open innovation – where your workers feel free to share ideas across the organization – even outside their own functional area.
- Celebrate together
One way to make sure teams recognize the symbiotic relationship they have with others is to have organization-wide celebrations, in which individuals can co-mingle and get to know their colleagues outside of work. For the last two years at Wrike, we’ve taken an annual celebration and kick off trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that brought teams together for 3 days of activities, relaxing and some training time as well.
Some companies make these trips just for sales teams or top performers. I like to make it inclusive to everyone, and keep it as a celebration of our collective success rather than the success of individuals. It also helps form friendships across our multiple locations, and put faces and stories to the names we’re used to collaborating with remotely.
Avoiding an Us v. Them mentality amongst your teams is critical for growing a business that can react with agility to market forces, and maintain a great culture as they grow. By planning proactively and implementing the correct mechanisms to foster communication, feedback, and personal relationships, you can keep your culture strong as you grow.