Are Fast Pace Company Cultures Causing Burnout?
This week I’m talking to Dean Lynn, the Founder of Trusted Media, a digital agency based in Peterborough.
So Dean, give us an introduction to yourself and your experience with company culture.
Introducing myself, I’ve probably been in the industry for around 15 years now, in marketing and business development – a mix of working in house for businesses and then all the way up to different agencies and then actually my own company.
Experiences of company culture, well, that’s an interesting one.
Early years, I would say, when I was a lot younger, that’s when I started in house and actually working in small teams, I suppose it was a bit weird at the start, if I’m honest, for my working career because I was contracted as a designer for a particular company and I suppose there wasn’t really much of a culture other than get in, do your tasks, go home. There wasn’t really much of an engagement with them in any personal level, there wasn’t really much discussions of how are you getting on and discussing particular things about the job or myself or my goals or what I wanted to achieve in life. It literally was a hard transaction of do your job, go home, get paid. That’s literally it. There was no other engagement.
But I suppose as the years go on, another in house role that I worked in as a Marketing Manager, was particularly interesting. It was a larger company than before. The culture was, my nickname was ‘Louis Theroux,’ because apparently I look like him, and that’s my first engagement as I walked in for my interview – ‘We’re going to call you Louis,’ which was interesting.
I suppose if I didn’t have a strong character, that would be quite intimidating. I didn’t particularly mind that myself, but looking at it back now I think “Yeah, actually that’s not a good thing to do.”
The culture of that was, I think, again, very old. It was tiers of management, lots of different chiefs in the room, sort of thing.
I suppose back then I was definitely classed as a ‘do’er,’ so it would come across that they were quite aggressive, constantly always coming in saying, “Oh, Louis, do this, Louis, do that.” They didn’t really check in with me.
Coming on to agency life which is where it gets really interesting because I suppose they dangle the carrot of company culture of “Hey, we have a pool table and a couple of bean bags and we have a PlayStation and stuff like that.” I was like, “It’s a start, don’t get me wrong.” It seemed like an amazing thing, because I hadn’t worked in a company that had those things, so actually it was cool. It was different. But again, I suppose still full of ego massively. I think a lot of agencies suffer with this. The leadership is very ego driven.
"Don't force engagement. Sit down with people and learn about them as individuals."
So today, Dean, we’re discussing how poor culture leads to burnout specifically. I know I’ve certainly felt exhausted and overwhelmed from working in a poor company culture, but what’s your experience of reaching burnout?
Oh gosh! Okay, I’ll be a hundred and ten per cent honest. There’s a couple of good examples actually because I think I’ve experienced it probably three times in the last 15 years, which is really bad actually.
I’ll talk about one agency that I worked for. At the time it was quite a difficult time personally for my life. I was going through a lot of change personally and the company itself – again this is where I was management. Bear in mind I’d been working there for at least a year and a half. I was in management myself and the company wasn’t supportive at all of what I was going through. I had to take a small amount of time off, like I say, for these personal reasons, and this sound really bad but I ended up getting a really, really reduced pay packet one month to the point where I was fuming. I was angry, I was disappointed/ Bear in mind I only had two weeks’ off and it was quite a major experience I was going through. This has actually happened twice, but this particular one really angered me because I thought, “If this is how you treat your management, how does your management treat your staff?”
The answer was, “Oh, well, you haven’t been working for two years’ so you don’t get this particular type of pay.” My answer was “Well, I tell you what? I’ll write a short letter to you and I won’t be working for you.” And it blew up, it really blew up, because then it was the whole backtrack of “Oh, well no, you’re appreciated and let’s discuss a plan now to keep you on board. You’re valued. Your staff love you. We really appreciate what you’re doing. The changes that you’ve put in are really good.”
Do you know what I mean? It was the whole “Now I’m going to suffer because you’re leaving, so how do I keep you?” I hate that. I hate the fact that it gets to that. It shouldn’t ever get to that with any individual in the team.
Because you should do the regular check ins, then you’ll know how I’m feeling about particular things and you’ll know how important every penny over that period of time would have meant to me.
I think the big thing was it broke my trust to that person. I was like how can I work for someone I don’t trust? I think that’s the big thing.
I think it was because, again I felt really low. I felt burnout because I’d put so much heart and soul into actually building something that I really enjoyed – being with other people, really enjoyed the stuff we were doing for our clients. I just really enjoyed the culture itself because I thought we were onto something. But because my trust was broken with management, I was like, “Gosh.” That was key. I think that was it for me. It was trust that had got broken.