Entrepreneurs · Startups

How do you create bullshit-free zones where people love their work?

Marian Melnychuk Senior .Net Developer – Upwork

September 23rd, 2016

I would assume this only comes from guidance of leadership where they are able to provide great guidance in the form of feedback. Any ideas?

Josh Kirschner Founder & CEO at Techlicious

September 23rd, 2016

I would suggest you carefully define what "bullshit-free" really means. What is bullshit to the sales team on contracts may be proper operating procedure for the legal team. Bullshit HR policies may be needed to treat all employees fairly and within the law. Bullshit coding policies may be in place so when the coder leaves others can understand the code structure and can pick up where he/she left off. No bullshit open conversation for the CEO may be that he just likes being an asshole.

I've seen all these scenarios over the years. Nobody creates bullshit simply for the purpose of creating bullshit. The key is to focus on policies that make sense for the business, eliminate those that don't and communicate clearly to everyone why the policies are in place - if you understand why something is being done a certain way, it's no longer bullshit. They may not like it, but hey, you're a grownup, you don't always get everything you want.

Sophia Maler Product Management and Marketing Professional. Message Alchemist.

September 23rd, 2016

Marian, I'm assuming you are talking about avoiding politically charged workplaces? The key for that is hiring competent people at all levels (including upper management and worker bees). Politics start where competence ends.

Tom Duffy

September 23rd, 2016

i would definitely listen to Josh 

Rob Adams Advisory Board Member at PhotoPad For Business

September 23rd, 2016

Josh is correct.  For many technical founders in particular, bullshit free is like a secret. If there is more than one person involved, something can no longer be a secret, and the environment can, by definition, no longer be bullshit free. 

Clear boundaries, communication and reasoning and limited overhead go a long way to eliminating the wider perception of bullshit.  However, you'll never achieve bullshit free, because you'll always have team members where "bullshit free" :== "my way." 

Also having leaders that tackle the bullshit for the team and work hard to let the team run as far and as fast as possible will go a long way toward creating a workplace and creative endeavors that people love. 

Rob Mitchell Independent Software Contractor

September 23rd, 2016

Things like "transparency", "open door", "free communication", "no bad questions" are all C-level mottos but they must be backed-up by action. IMO you need some level of bullshit (very loosely defined) in order for groups to operate properly but you also need clear playbook or rules of operation. If you find execs constantly saying these things but not following the rules or rewriting them on-the-fly then steer clear. Small groups need to make clear communications a priority. I can tell you from an engineering perspective (very much like other group's too) that their egos' can really get in the way of working on problems and providing clear communications. Its a short life ... even shorter in most companies than we care for. Let go those egos and focus on the helping each other in a team-like manner. Ok, off my soap box.  Carry on. 

Michael Lipson Executive Coach & Strategic Consultant

September 26th, 2016

  1.  josh's excellent answer 
  2. an explicit understanding of your core values 
  3. a leadership team who hold each other rigorously accountable to act from (and outwardly model)l those values
This together creates a culture (whose core values might include once in the direction of no "bullshit.")  You might even reinforce it w/humor, shout outs or even rewards for outstanding bullshit avoidance.