A few weeks ago we published a blog post about our company values and guiding principles and described how we went about mapping them out. Whilst in that blog post we explained why we think it is important to have explicit company values, we want to dive deeper into each one in the following months and explain what they mean to us.So today, let‘s talk about Community! At EMPAUA, we think that a happy tribe is key for good company culture. Our team is our greatest asset, and we want to make sure everyone feels they belong and are part of something bigger. We are committed to striving for connection, fostering a healthy feedback culture and resolving conflicts - these are our guiding principles which help us to live up to the value of Community. But what does that mean and why is it important to us?
We acknowledge that people are not just the roles they fill. In some workplaces, it is frowned upon if employees do not put on a 'professional mask', but instead bring their whole personalities, feelings or needs to the office. But if you have to pretend you are fine when you are not, or have to hide issues rather than being able to share them and feel accepted – how is that supposed to create a space where you feel safe and motivated?
"True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are."
Brené Brown (research professor on courage/vulnerability/empathy at the University of Houston)
We spend so much time with our co-workers, and being able to have trusting and authentic relationships with them makes it so much more enjoyable to work together. This is why at EMPAUA, we start our monthly Partner Relations meetings with a deep check-in round, where everyone shares their current situation and elaborates on both met and unmet needs. Learning about what is going on in someone's life, cultivates understanding and often puts things in perspective – the other person's actions suddenly become comprehensible, and this openness brings us closer together. Outside of the meeting, we care for one another too. We always help each other out and strive to have fun together on a regular basis - be it at summer or Christmas parties, few beers or karaoke sessions after work, or at our annual Company Summit where team members from all locations get to spend time together away from work, getting to know each other better and building relationships.
Trust also requires openness and honesty, and we truly value the power of feedback which involves both appreciation and constructive criticism. Acknowledging others‘ good work and expressing gratitude or appreciation, makes both the giver and the receiver feel good about themselves. We do this in person one-on-one, we also have appreciation rounds in our Partner Relations Meetings, and we have an appreciation channel in our team chat where we can shout out to all colleagues across our six locations how awesome we think someone is and why, and others usually join in on the praise – good vibes for good people!
"Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well."
On the other hand, making others aware of improvement potential with their best interest in mind is equivalent to aiding them in their personal and professional growth. The same goes vice versa – we strive to see feedback offered to us as a gift, not an evil. If we are open to it, it removes our blind spots, helps us to know about both our strengths and shortcomings and empowers us to get better.At EMPAUA, many of our processes involve thorough feedback. It starts during the recruitment process, goes on during and after probation, it is the basis for salary raises, and there are quarterly feedback sessions with the team leads (bi-directional). We also have a tool for self-assessment to be able to compare our view of ourselves to that of others. Apart from that, we don't wait for occasions to give or ask for feedback – we create them. Honest and open exchange deepens our relationships.
Conflicts are a natural thing, and pretending they don't exist but instead have them boiling underneath the surface doesn't do anyone any good. They can arise because of operational or personal matters, sometimes even both at the same time. In order for them not to poison the atmosphere and our relationships, they should be addressed in a conversation which is based on mutual respect and the willingness to understand each other - always with the person in question, not with others talking behind their back.
"Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts."
Marshall B. Rosenberg
At EMPAUA, we use Non-violent Communication to resolve conflicts. Everyone who starts working at EMPAUA gets an introductory course during Onboarding week. We then put it to practice in the monthly Partner Relations Meetings which – apart from the already mentioned deep check-in and appreciation rounds – provide a safe space for conflict resolution with a mediator. The process involves the description of factual observations without judgements, the feelings the situation triggered because of unmet needs, and a concrete request for change. We act on a 'listen first' approach – the person in question first seeks to truly understand, instead of getting defensive right away, and will later have the opportunity to explain their point of view and be heard as well.If you want to know more about our company culture, please reach out via email!