Detect unhealthy atmosphere

It is an open secret that a team’s work is strongly dictated by the cultural surroundings of the organization it works in. Same concerns any type of the organization – from a small flower shop to any given branch of government. Since our chosen field is software development, we’re going to take a look at the issue through this particular lens. Feel free to make yourself some a cup of tea and enjoy the reading.

If you happened to:

- Can’t do anything without your boss’s signature

- Waste your work time on solving the issues that you think shouldn’t have come up in the first place

- Feel that your working environment holds a common practice of responsibility


You’re in trouble then. Because your working environment is unhealthy and can even become toxic over time. Among the natural consequences arise such ailments as:

- People manipulating the number to make everything look smooth on paper

- People desperately trying to avoid mistakes. And fail. Miserably. Mainly, because the boss probably had said something like this once: Here we don’t make mistakes.

- Responsibilities are being shifted even further, as a result.

As it was already mentioned, software development is no stranger to this kind of politics. Naturally, the end results of it are saddening in the long run – failed deadlines, undelivered or half baked products, blown chances, money lost and so forth. Although not always in the cards, bankruptcy usually comes as the final nail in the coffin of such entity. The reasonable question is what to do to avoid such the train coming off the tracks?

Large companies are often able to dedicate reasonable amounts of time, money and effort on solving or preventing such issues. But what to do if we’re talking about a small startup of five people, where the CEO is not only coding but is making tea and occasionally mops up the floor as well?

As simple as it seems, the only solution is discussing stuff. No kidding. Talk is not cheap in this case, and if done with a good heart, it can solve a lot of your cultural issues.

You may actually try:

- Asking people directly. Something like “What do you think about such and such?, or “Are we doing it right?” might do the trick.

- Respect and reward your manager. Even if the decisions he makes are not meant to please you.

- Stop living by the book. What do you need and what can you let go of?

- Check documents before the signing. Before! Not when an IRS comes.

- Be honest. Everybody’s prone to making mistakes. Just get on with it.

But whatever you do, remember – there are no instant solutions. Keep up the good work and don’t let the toxic working culture put its stranglehold grip on your company.

See you in the next one.