Cover Your Ass Work Culture


Perhaps the word “ass” captured your attention. I dont know. Maybe the word “culture” did. But then again, I wont know either.

Have you ever step into someone’s office and feel welcome and great? People’s faces are cheerful, doors are opened, you see people around the office and the aura are just so good. Makes you think that you want to sashay into the pantry and make yourself a cup of coffee from that snazzy-looking coffee machine. Then, your mind starts to wonder whether are all these are farce and it is only a facade? What lays behind the great wall,  you start to think?

A couple of years ago, my team and I had the opportunity to work with a construction/developer company for a project. A mid sized public listed company that generates around RM500 million turnover every year. Total population of about 700 odd. The job came about after a simple brief that came from the General Manager who wanted to revamp the performance appraisal form to make it look “sexier” than it was.

The brief came in a form of a piece of paper – literally a very brief piece of paper -the performance appraisal form – that they have used for the last donkey years. A supposedly simple brief turned to be a 5 months engagement. We literally camped in their office. Ate their food, breath the same air they did. Loved every minutes of it.

Staff turn-over we were told, was less than 5%. No one wants to leave. Pay scale was not even up to market standard. I thought who in the world wants to stay? But they did. They stayed, and stayed. And the rotated jobs all over the departments, they changed bosses; bosses transferred them to another department to find the right fit for their staff (or better boss?). Some have worked for the company from Day 1 and that was 25 years ago.

Amazing.

I started talking to the drivers, receptionists, cleaners (they are all local makciks I tell you…), then moved up and right across – executives, secretaries, managers, engineers, site surveyors, Quality Controllers, Workshop guys. You name it. I spoke to them.

And they spoke of the same language.

It is the culture of the company that they like best. When asked exactly what they meant. No one could really tell me exactly what they are but from what I could gather – just some stuff where everyone is happy about which exists in the company and accepted by everyone. It could be from the free daily lunch the company provides, to the very active sports club they have, or the dance class every Wednesday, Monday breakfast with the CEO and top Managements, or could it be the minimum 6 months bonus they enjoy every year. To top it off, some have gone on umrah or haj, thanks to the company for rewarding them for being loyal.

And yet, some companies are just odd….I have observed where there is this culture…where I shall call it “the cover your ass work culture”. Everything is confrontational and the end game is to win. Of something. Of what? I dont know. Recognition? Or facade? Putting face?

Odd.

Like I said.

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