How to change a small office culture?
March 7, 2013 9:32 PM Subscribe
I work in an office of about 25 people, which is run by just one big boss & the hours are atrocious. I'm not the only one who thinks so, but at least 2 people have been fired in the past for daring to complain directly. How can we, the employees, either start a productive conversation with our boss about this, or somehow generate grassroots change?
posted by annie o to Work & Money (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
_The general background:
I work in a desirable field, with way more job seekers than jobs. Bad hours are fairly common, but my current office is really out in its own league. Per the employee handbook, our standard hour are 8:30am to 6:30pm. Which is already kind of bad, but what's worse is literally no one leaves on-time at 6:30, even during fairly calm weeks (which are rare). When deadlines are looming, hours quickly escalate to 8:30am - 10, midnight and even later. Our office calendar is in constant flux and important (and unimportant) internal meetings, and even client meetings are regularly scheduled after 6:30 pm, often with less than an hour notice. Staff are frequently roped into "assisting" on project late in the day and end up having to stay until late at night with no notice at all. Planning activities for after work is impossible. We are all salaried, so there is no paid overtime.
The office is a one-man show. There is one "big boss" and we all work for him and he has the final word on everything. There is a layer of three more senior staff, but they seem to accept our current methods. Then there's everyone else. There is not a lot of hierarchy beyond "us" and "big boss".
In the past, people who have had a problem with this have either left of their own accord or been fired. I actually enjoy my job, when the hours are not being stupid and would like to keep it. My boss also really likes me, so I have more leverage than others. I've been working there for about a year. I have a longer tenure than about half our employees currently.
_The problem, as I see it: We currently have about 20 active projects in an office of 25 people; most of them are on accelerated schedules. Big Boss is generally way overcommitted and so his schedule just slides later and later and there's no stopping it. We are at its mercy and expected to be available when he is.
Problem 1: we promise very agressive schedules and then in order to deliver, we have to work a bunch of overtime.
Problem 2: Big Boss is a bit of a control freak about project direction. He cannot let anything related to direction go to clients without several rounds of vetting.
Problem 3: Big Boss goes to about 90% of the client meetings, plus business development and other misc. things. This means he's in meetings literally all day. It's next impossible to get internal feedback from him without hovering around his desk with a bunch of printouts in hand and a 30 second script memorized. When project teams are more than two people, the problem is greatly exacerbated because this method of hover & trap doesn't work with so many people. This means most internal feedback on larger & more important project happens after 6:30 at night, when he doesn't have other meetings scheduled. Because of his all day meetings and point 4 below, often these internal meetings get pushed later and later throughout the day until at last, they happen at like, 8:30pm.
Problem 4: Big Boss has a family who would like to actually see him occasionally. So, since he has little kids, Big Boss sometimes will take 2 hours in the afternoon or early evening to see his kids and then come back. Thus pushing the evening meeting schedule back even further.
I've spoken with several peers about how much this sucks, and none of us really know how to deal with it. Writing this out it seems like the best option would be to approach one of the senior staff and diplomatically express concerns... but I'm wondering what the best strategy is? Changing office culture is really difficult, especially when it's driven by the boss. There are also a couple (3 or 4) people who have worked at my office for 4-5 years and seems totally fine with the deal, they really buy into it. The rest of us are not so much. We've expanded significantly (like, 2x) in the last 6 months and it just seems totally unprofessional to expect a 25 person office to work like this. When you're 5 people you can be THAT invested in the work; when you're 25 not so much. My boss is an OK guy, he's good at what he does, but this management style is just not OK and is completely disrespectful of our time outside of work.
What is the best way to approach this problem, knowing that everyone else who has had a problem with it has either just left or been fired?