Drinks On the Boss: How To Create Company Culture

A couple months ago I, and the rest of the marketing team, got an email inviting us for after work drinks the following Monday. Rather than suggesting a place to eat, we were given a choice between the new vodka bar down the street or the regular Mexican cantina we go every other Friday. Obviously, something was up.

A couple of us shot knowing glance that promised an intense lunch mixed with heavy debate so as to somehow prepare ourselves for what we thought was going to be a token gesture before we were all unceremoniously fired. I could not have been more wrong- CEO “John” was actually interested in getting our opinions on what was going on in the company.

Let me back up. When I started in this company, I was 26. Things really took off and numbers were up when Fanny May suddenly decided she wouldn’t.

The sales team walked in one day to find their compensation scheme had been changed and our department was streamlined within an inch of its life. The quiet ones started to look like they were going to go postal at any minute… and that brings us back to the bar.

We traded the customary chat as John’s VP got drinks in. After the third round of drinks though, opinions began to be voiced that were, well, on the whole positive if not constructive. What I remember very clearly is that John did far more listening than I actually could believe a CEO could do. He certainly seemed to be taking in what was being said and around midnight, thanked us all and made his good byes. We were stumped.

The following week my department was still walking on eggshells but the atmosphere was better than it had been in months. Tuesday, after team managers had come back from their weekly meeting, they were presenting a united front- again, something I hadn’t seen in awhile. It was agreed that after the discussion with John, our department would be taking on a couple more people and the sales team found a compromise on the compensation plan that made my hand sore from all the high fives suddenly going around the office.

Two weeks later, we started receiving satisfaction surveys asking would we recommend our place of work and why. I can honestly say that now that we feel like the bosses are listening, production has improved, numbers are up and what was now a 26-person workforce is now 566-strong company. I think there’s greater transparency and communication is active so we want to work harder.

For the record, we did unanimously choose the vodka bar that time for drinks as we thought, if we’re all going to be fired, the CEO could pay premium. I have no regrets though as every now and then, John still puts his card behind the bar for after-work drinks and we all continue to learn a lot about how to create company culture from him.

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