7 Tips: Defining Your Startup Culture

Group of employees at a start-up gathered around a desk with laptops, startup culture


Startup Culture has been the talk of the town lately with founders competing to provide freebies and more time to play than work. Here‘s how to make your startup culture a successful one.

After months of chaos and weeks after the controversy with an official vacation mail, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick resigns. Uber had its hands full with extensive allegations of rampant sexual harassment, Google suing Uber in the claims of intellectual property theft from Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, a video about Kalanick engaged in an argument with a driver, an Uber official getting his hands on the medical records of a woman who was raped by a driver in India, a bizarre mail from 2013 about the conditions of ‘getting-laid’ and how he wouldn’t get any and a lot more. The company resorted to firing more than 20 employees lately as an investigation into its work culture.

This is exactly NOT how you want to have your startup culture formed. With Uber going under the radar, startup culture has been quiet the talk of Silicon Valley lately.

What is Startup Culture?

Is the base of how your organization works, whether small or big setting up a work culture right at the beginning can avoid troubles later?

It is in the formative months that the ground rules are put in place, because once the wrongs are in action it is very difficult to straighten them.

For seasoned founders and growth hackers it is one of the key places where they focus along with the growth of the business. But for first time CEOs or for many others it gets difficult to define the purpose and set the culture inline with core values, vision and mission.

How to define Startup Culture?

We must know that, TGIF beers, bean bags and parties and  do not define a culture, it is just a part of it.

1. Know what you value and stick to that

Document your mission, vision, values and keep that within your own and your employees vision. What you see is what you become.

2. Training new AND old employees

Hire well. Companies like LinkedIn with an impeccable work culture begin by knowing if their candidates would be a Culture-fit first. If a star candidate does not look up to the same values as you do, know that it stirs trouble and the loss that you would have because of the trouble would be much more than what your are missing by not hiring him.

3. Encouraging your team to speak and listening to them

Most harassment, whether sexual or verbal, gets neglected and swept under the carpet because not everyone is outspoken or the officials do not value what employees have to say. But also know this that not every allegation has to be acted upon then and there, investigate the matters and know what you are acting on before taking the leap.

4. Building a positive minded place

Encourage a culture of keeping the spirits high, take family outings, implement ‘bring your kid to work days’. Discourage any kinds of rebuking, preach and practice being humble.

5. Discouraging unwanted sexual advances

Sending ‘kiss’ emojis and casual sexual vibes in the office is NOT ok. Neither is it among employees unless it is accepted by both sides. Discourage keeping relationships between employees as secrets, as this could lead to complications in later stages with favors or abuses.

6. Actively Discouraging Unethical standards

Taking the shortcut sure helps but being unethical doesn’t. If you do not want your employees to remind you about your ethics when you cross them for theirs, don’t do this.

7. Being Transparent

While your board of members makes decisions, ensuring that any matters involving your employees are shared will foster a sense of inclusion among them. Do not keep a hush-hush about harassments either, you never know who you are sheltering under your wings. Make sure you support diversity.

It will be difficult to live and work at offices where Work Culture is not defined and valued. After years of hard work, if founders fail to instill values, they painfully realize it later when everything falls apart that culture is as important as business.

About the author

Debjani Chatterjee

Debjani Chatterjee



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