Ask HN: What causes an amazing company culture flourish? What kills it?


No, not the chat software.

The best company cultures I’ve been part of had 5% more people and time available than work that had to be done. That’s almost unheard of in this day and age, but it makes all the difference in the world.

The stress and pressures and politics of trying to get 10% or 50% or 300% more done than you really have the resources for make people stressed and turn coworker relationships toxic. Everyone’s just struggling to keep their heads above water, and sometimes they have to kick someone else or climb on their back simply in order not to drown.

A little extra time means people have the mental space and the space in their schedules to help one another, to find out what one another are doing (so people and departments can actually coordinate their work) and to get to know one another. People who are under less pressure and less stressed are less likely to snap at one another or resent others’ requests and demands. It makes all the difference in the world.

You know what else helps? Walls.

“Safe Spaces” and the Workplace

College students’ recent calls for campuses to be ‘‘safe spaces’’ where they can thrive intellectually have been greeted with derision and even ridicule. How interesting, then, to read about new research that suggests that for workplace teams to thrive, their members must feel ‘‘psychologically safe.’’ While Google’s remarkable research into the value of safe working environments is presented as innovative new knowledge for organizations looking to increase productivity, students are told that their feelings matter less than the ‘‘free marketplace’’ of ideas.

Has anyone crunched the numbers on student calls for psychological safety? Perhaps we would find that learning is indeed facilitated and enhanced, for the good of all, when ‘‘empathy and sensitivity’’ become core values of our educational institutions as well as our workplaces. Gayle Wald, Washington