In an article I included for my last Friday Links post, Danial Adkison wrote about his high-school employment at a Pizza Hut in Colorado.
Since I read it, I’ve chewed on it.
Adkison’s manager, Jeff, created a second-family environment for his staff, replete with water fights in the parking lot, dinner and movies, rafting and camping, and softball. When Adkison applied to universities, Jeff paid for flights, hotel, car, and food when he took Adkison to visit Boston College.
Oh, and lest I forget: Jeff even paid for Adkison’s application fee (and its express-mail delivery).
Back when I worked as an employee, not an employer, I never sought a familiar relationship with my coworkers. Collegiality? Friendship? Sure. A coterie with which to spend a consuming around of time beyond work duties? No.
And I never looked to my bosses as parental or avuncular figures.
Yet I always had a strong family, even after my parents divorced. Further, I fall on the introverted end of the spectrum. I never gravitate to large-group activities. I prefer small-group and one-on-one interaction.
So when I first read Adkison’s article, I felt really out of touch.
Does everyone seek this sort of office environment? Does my mind state rest so far outside the norm that I’ve never realized it?
Would my team want this sort of workplace? We have plenty of group activities, but nothing like what Adkison describes, with all-day outside-working-hours hang-outs that include kickball.
And then I wondered: Perhaps Adkison’s environment felt so perfect because it came at a time when he needed cohesiveness due to a difficult home situation. The teenage years unmoor us all—and a challenging family environment only exacerbates them.
As with other life facets, could we seek different qualities from a workplace as our lives and mindsets evolve?
Perhaps defining your office culture requires looking at your employee mix and intuiting what it wants at this point in the average teammate’s life? Yet what if you have a lot of diversity in your staff—as you should?
I can’t imagine that with a strong group of friends and a set of engaging extracurricular activities—or with a wife and children at home—Adkison would have sought the same level of emotional fulfillment and camaraderie from his Pizza Hut team. Instead, perhaps he’d have sought to gain knowledge and enrichment and chances for leadership experience. In his off-work time, he’d have other priorities.
After all, even Adkison points out that Jeff, the manager, may have sought this type of team due to a recent divorce and the desire to create a family that he no longer had.
But maybe I’m wrong.
Perhaps these thoughts simply console me for not providing the level of personal involvement and extraoffice activities and engagement that Adkison describes as so fulfilling. Maybe I simply make excuses for not wanting to create a family feeling for my staff.
I care about them—don’t mistake me. And I love spending time with them. I count myself immeasurably lucky to get to work with every single one of them every single day.
Yet I assume that, like me, they have relationships and interests outside the office that they’d like to pursue after they’ve gotten the work done—especially over playing kickball with their coworkers on a Sunday evening.
What do you think?
What do you seek from your workplace? What do you feel most people seek?