Enough with the regurgitated company culture content. Time for employees to start taking some responsibility.

happy, relaxed office employee


Building great company culture has become the hot-button topic over the last several years. There is no shortage of content on the subject.  A quick Google search shows over 4 billion results. 

Workforce gurus and recruiters all want to discuss the “how-to” and “secrets” of creating a standout culture, and then beat it into the workforce until all that’s left is regurgitated content. While noble, this discussion is missing the mark.

Two things I’ve witnessed during my time as both an employee and business owner consulting with a multitude of companies are: 

  1. Culture is completely subjective. One person's great culture could be another's nightmare. This is where experience and mental makeup matter. An employee who’s been in the workforce longer tends to have a more fair-minded outlook on the company culture than that of a freshly minted 22-year-old employee.
  2. We need bad workplace culture. Going through the fire makes us respect the good. The “bad bosses” or “toxic workplaces” build character and help us realize when we actually got it good. 

Bad culture isn’t as bad as we think.

It’s all relative. One person’s happiness is another’s discomfort. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I’ve worked at places that, in my opinion (because of experience), had amazing culture. But for someone with less - almost zero - experience, they thought it was subpar. 

You have to start somewhere. That somewhere is usually at the bottom. 

For me, working in congress and facing the critiques associated with professional sports is what toughened me up. It was kill or be killed. I came from a tough workplace with demanding hours and lots of people getting chewed out. Then, I moved into the private sector and it felt like a whole new world.

I love the fact that I went through bad cultures. It made me stronger. It crafted my opinions. I honestly wouldn’t take back any of the bad experiences I’ve had throughout my work career. If everything was perfect, I wouldn’t know what I know now. I wouldn't have come up with Positive Publicity!

Use your experiences to build you, not to break you or blame others for situations that are hard.

There are going to be work days that aren’t ideal. Are you going to lose it and want to quit because you messed up one day? Take responsibility.

Bad culture is your problem, too.

Let’s cut companies a break. They want more than anything to have a good culture and healthy work environment. They do what they can to retain employees, keep them happy, and respect who they are. 

Employers get a bad rap because most feedback is negative. It’s like Yelp or Glassdoor. You go to your favorite restaurant and see that someone had a bad experience. We all know that employee who messed up and got let go. Then, they go on Glassdoor and say anonymously that the company is awful.

You know, from your experience, that they’re full of it. Employers get a bad reputation for what they’re not doing. There’s always something they could be doing to have a better culture. But the flip-side of that is what can the employee do to toughen up in difficult situations?

It is not solely the employer’s responsibility to foster culture. The employer does not need to always be coddling people, making them feel wanted and needed. Enough already.

No perfect workplace exists.

Bad culture is good for personal development.

As a society, we’re always striving to iterate and innovate. 

I’m not saying “strive to be bad,” but flip it and say “go through the shit to respect the good” because that will breed clarity and not a false sense of culture perfection. 

There is an obsession today with finding the perfect workplace culture. What they’re missing is “respecting the bad” and embracing the struggle encourages persistence. 

Remember your first job or when you came out of college. Realistically, you have no idea what you’re in for, and often, you don’t know how good you have it. So, sure, if you think your supervisor is unbearable or demanding, then quit and work someplace else. But you may have to come to terms with your “grass is greener” mentality when you soon realize that your previous work environment may not have been as bad as you thought.

If you’re coming out of college, and everything you’ve heard and read is the utopia of culture, you’re in for a rude awakening. You have no standards. You will have bad culture at some point in time. 

Your response to bad culture is based on your position and your experience.  

Bad culture builds character.

It gives us a true barometer for the real world. Bad cultures enable individuals to create change and breeds entrepreneurship. The bad bosses or workplaces deserve more credit for being a driving force behind breeding entrepreneurs. 

If I never went through the bad, I wouldn’t be able to respect or identify the good. Sometimes it’s beneficial for us to go through those bad jobs and rough patches. 

To steal a line from Rocky, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows; it’s a mean, nasty place that will beat you to your knees if you let it.”

Difficult circumstances create learning opportunities. Use that experience to make change.

All you horrible bosses out there, all you egomaniac “leaders”: Keep doing what you’re doing. We need you. We need you to produce the next crop of innovators.

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