A couple of weeks ago, the entire office where I worked was laid off. Over thirty associates, some of which had worked there for over ten years, lost their jobs and said their goodbyes. Although this was an emotional time for everyone involved, the experience helped me realize something that I'll never forget: the people in that office were more than just co-workers, they were a family.
Many companies try to replicate what my previous office had. They often use bean bags, free food, and fancy desks to promote a company culture that is friendly and positive. Although these things may or may not help, my office had none of them.
When it comes down to it, the only thing that makes associates feel at home is not the office environment, but the leadership style. The managers at my previous office weren't the most "laid back" or "friendly" people. However, when it came down to it, associates always felt like their managers had their backs.
One time, a customer called in screaming and swearing about an associate of ours that "quoted them the wrong price over the phone", even though our recorded calls prove otherwise. Instead of listening to our associate's kind explanation, he demanded to be transferred to our manager, Teresa. The customer, who thought that our manager would sympathize and understand, was surprised to hear Teresa yelling right back at him. The call was not on speakerphone, but the entire office could hear both sides of the conversation. Teresa told the customer that he should have listened to our associate the first time and that swearing at us wasn't going to help reach an understanding. Eventually, she abruptly hung up the phone after telling the customer to call back when he stopped acting like a child. The entire office cheered.
That day, our company lost a customer but gained something much more valuable. Every associate in the office felt safe; we knew that our managers had our backs.
This experience is something that deeply changed my perspective on business. When I listen to Gary Vaynerchuk, I often hear about how important a company's culture is, but it never really hit me until I was laid off. One day, when I run businesses or manage teams, I will strive to make every associate feel like they're part of a family.