1 min read

Strong cultures offend people

Strong cultures offend people

Elon Musk said that Twitter 2.0 will have a hardcore culture that includes “working long hours at high intensity and only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

A lot of people were upset by this. How could Elon exploit workers and create such a hostile work environment? What seemed to go unacknowledged is that there are people for whom this is precisely the kind of work environment they want.

Navy SEALs become Navy SEALs not because it’s easy but precisely because it’s hard. They want to push themselves to breaking point to see what they’re made of. We can assume it’s those types of people that Elon wants to attract to the new Twitter.

The point I'm making doesn't just relate to hard-working cultures - any strong culture ends up repelling people:

  • Facebook’s “move fast and break things” pushes away cautious folks
  • OfferZen’s “impact over perfect” pushes away perfectionists
  • Amazon’s door as a desk pushes away anyone who isn’t willing to get their hands dirty
  • Gitlab transparency pushes away people who play their cards close to their chest
  • Netflix’s keeper test pushes away people who value stability

Even something as “nice” as a company policy to never fire anyone would push away high achievers. There really is no way around it...unless you're OK with being bland.

The problem with being bland is that, while you won't offend anyone, you also won't get anyone excited. When it comes to company culture, I believe that it's almost always better to be bacon than it is to be bread.

If you've read this far then I have a challenge for you: The next time someone rages about a company's "toxic" culture, pause and consider which kind of people would be drawn to that culture and what that company might be really effective at.

p.s. I don't have a lot of confidence in Elon's decisions at Twitter. Just using them as a thinking tool.