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Why I'm So Darn Obsessed with Building Better Company Cultures

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Hi - I'm Jill.

Recently, I was asked why I'm so utterly obsessed with this topic. Like many people's passions, I stumbled into mine. Well, more like I tumbled into it.

It was 2009, the peak of the recession, and I had just graduated from college (Go Badgers!) Despite the bleak outlook of most of my peers, I was amped to start my first real job. With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, I ended up with a great job offer.

At the time, I considered it a dream job. I couldn't believe I'd actually landed it and was sure this was going to be the beginning of many years there.

Spoiler alert - it wasn't.

Within a month I was working insane hours, under managers who were incredibly stressed out themselves, and pouring myself into bed each night only to get up and do it again the next morning. It was agency life at its truest.

I'm sure there are at least a few of you who have now put me in the "entitled millennial" camp. Trust me, I'm not. I'm a ridiculous workaholic who loves big challenges. Also, I don't believe the entitled millennial hype – but that's a post for another day.

If it had only been stress and long hours, I actually think I would have stuck it out and stayed with the company for years (which wouldn't have been healthy, for the record). Instead, another stressful layer was added when a more senior coworker began sexually harassing me. For a while, I brushed it off. But it continued. And got more aggressive. And eventually, I could no longer ignore it.

Ultimately, it was the catalyst for me to quit my job...

During the recession...

With only $97 to my name.

Somehow, I convinced one of my fellow coworkers to take the leap with me. After reading Making a Living Without a Job, we were sure that starting our own company was the best plan of action.

Sure, we had the blissful naivety of early 20-somethings and I had restaurant jobs to fall back on, but it was still a big leap – a leap I wouldn't have taken if I hadn't been pushed by the work conditions within my first job. For that leap, I am grateful.

My partner and I landed some great clients and made an amazing living doing social media marketing for small to mid-sized companies. More importantly, I became a company culture sponge.

I desperately wanted to learn if my experience at that first job was a common one or a fluke. Were all work environments this bad? Is this what I'd been looking forward to my whole life – day after day of stress, politics, and harassment?

Sadly, I'm not the only one who's experienced this at work – or some version of it. In fact, most Americans have. More often than not, the response to me telling a new acquaintance what I do is "My company needs to hire you!"

The truth is building a great work environment is hard.

Really hard!

It requires constant focus and intention. It shifts as the company grows larger and must be tended to on an ongoing basis. It's not something you can "do" and then move on from.

But it's important.

Oh. So. Important.

Yes, it's important for all the "fluffy" reasons like employee happiness and positivity in the office. But it's also important for a lot of reasons that directly impact your bottom line as a business – namely retention, employee productivity, and reputation. These can make or break your business, and your employees are where it all starts.

It's been a decade since I left that job. Since then, I've launched a first (and then a second) company, joined the founding teams of some incredible young startups, been through an acquisition, and suffered a serious case of burnout.

I've been immersed in company culture through hands-on people director experiences, tons of insightful books and training, and mentorship and collaboration with some of the top experts in human resources.

All of it has confirmed that my single greatest passion is helping more companies become great places to work, which is exactly why I've founded Want To Work There.

Changing the way we work is a BIG problem to solve, but I'm in it for the long haul.

So glad to have you along for the ride.



Want to Work There is obsessed with helping people create better places to work

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