Today I Learned

TIL, 2018-06-16, Reading up on Company Cultures

How do you Manage Your Manager?


  • Build a relationship of trust.
  • If you have a problem, you come to him/her rather than work around them.
  • He can count on you to do what needs to be done. Not a “this isn’t my job” thing.
  • You understand what their boss needs, so you can have good judgment.
  • “I’m certain you have your reasons about not wanting me to attend the conference, but they aren’t clear to me. I have the best interests of the company in mind, but from my point of view this feels like a unduly limitation of my personal liberty. I do understand there’s not always the time or energy to explain yourself to those you manage, and I don’t want to question your decisions. But I wish you would explain your reasoning about why you feel I should not attend the conference. And maybe see if there is a possibility of a compromise? I hope you try to understand my point of view here, I do not want any sour feelings to develop between us.“
  • None of the companies’ business what you do in your spare time, as long as you don’t attach their name to it. But if you use their name, funding, they do have some say in it.

How Leadership Can Align Culture With Values


  • Disconnect between aspirations vs practiced values? These usually come from the top, and employees look at what leadership does, not what they say.
  • No behavior will persist long term unless it is being perpetuated by either a positive or negative reinforcer. The leaders’ way of acting influence how their team acts.
  • Assessing values during the interview process:
    • Grit, rigor, impact, teamwork, ownership, curiosity, polish.
    • “No Asshole Rule”.
    • Reference checks and working for the company for a week.
  • When leaders start weighing values-congruent against values-incongruent behavior is the moment when they have compromised their values.
  • High performance + high values-congruent behavior = you want outstanding nice guys.
    • Praise and raise. These are the mitochondria, the company’s power plants. They add value beyond their job description by asking and doing what is best for the company.

Traits to Assess During an Interview


  • Grit: When did they want something so badly, they were unstoppable in pursuing it?
  • Rigor: When did they use data to make a decision?
  • Impact: When did they have a measurable impact on a job or an organization?
  • Teamwork: When have they shown that they can empathize with others?
  • Ownership: Ask when they experienced an injustice, but they also knew there was something wrong with what they did.
  • Curiosity: Things they geek about.
  • Polish: How do they conduct themselves when they interview?

Anatomy of a Workplace Asshole


  • The biggest reason company culture degrades is that companies hire, retain, and promote assholes (mercenary employees whose lack of empathy causes interpersonal issues).
  • “Dark Triad”, socially aversive personality traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. These share a callousness toward others that encourages manipulativeness. Psychopaths = short-term tangible rewards, do antisocial behavior to get them. Machiavellians: long-term tangible rewards, strategizes schemes to get them. Narcissists = whatever boosts their ego, whether it be tangible rewards or simple praise.
  • Psychopaths: Overrepresented in corporations, especially among CEOs.
  • Machiavellianism: Plans ahead and forms alliances while carefully maintaining their reputations. This depends on situations.
  • Narcissism: Insecure and wants ego-reinforcement, which includes going so far as to deceive himself.
    • They cannot be vulnerable, and so their relationships tend to be unempathetic and superficial.
  • Accidental asshole:
    • Impaired sense of empathy. Indifferent, not insensitive.
  • Cognitive empathy: the capacity to understand another person’s mental state.
  • Affective empathy: the capacity to respond with an appropriate emotion to another person’s mental state.
  • Autistic people: Impaired cognitive and intact affective empathy, Dark triad: intact cognitive and impaired affective empathy. Autistic people = asocial, Dark Triad = antisocial.
  • Dark Triad people tend to prey on the autism spectrum and use them as “sidekicks” to exploit their loyalty and talent.
  • You are not Steve Jobs. It is much better to be loved than feared.

Why Good People Become Evil Bosses


  • Do the hard thing of taking responsibility. Even if you didn’t cause something, you did let the situation fester.
  • Stress diminishes empathy, which leads to a lack of caring. So rather than avoiding empathy, cognitive empathy should be cultivated to prevent burnout.
  • People lose patience when they get burned one too many times. Sometimes, even if people want to improve the company culture, they change priorities to keeping the ship afloat.
  • There are also people who just constantly strive for approval.
  • Integrity is everything. Jobs, managers, and companies come and go, but your name stays with you forever.


  • This quality makes people better at working well with others
    • Ambiguity tolerance: correlated with the amount of cooperation. Being able to tolerate ambiguity predicted greater pro-social behavior → prioritizes the welfare of other people and not just one’s own self-benefit.
  • Serverless: The New Way of Thinking
    • Very few people can handle this type of infrastructure.
    • Event-driven philosophy.
    • Keeping a service’s libraries up to date:
      • Library update from a third party.
      • Have a CI task execute/pull the new version.
      • Run tests to see if problems are introduced by the new library.
  • The Role of a Senior Developer
    • Junior developer: code focused, not development focused. They need direction, supervision, and mentoring.
    • Intermediate: looking for answers on how to build things The Right Way, and experimenting through them.
    • Senior: Familiar with their failure. Have written under- and over-designed code. They reflect about the things their do, and approach their problems with intellectual honesty.
      • They become obsessed with simplicity.
      • They know that each dev has a spectrum of strengths and weaknesses. And they know theirs.
      • They think in terms of context, and they know that everything has a trade-off. Patterns, libraries, frameworks, processes.
      • They think of more than just themselves, they know things about the organization and their clients.
      • They know that your role is help the team get better.
      • Leadership is not about power, it’s about empowerment. It’s not about direction, it’s about serving.

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