Which is Worse: If the Boss Is a Jerk, or the Employee Is?
June 24, 2015 | 5:41 pm CDT

If you read any business magazines like Inc. or Entrepreneur, sooner or later you will read an article about the importance of having a healthy company culture, how you can’t manufacture it, but can only foster an environment so it can form organically.

If you are like me, you skipped right over those articles because they were boring and abstract and did not interest you in the least. But, thankfully, in spite of my ignorance on the topic, we ended up with a pretty great culture at our shop.

The little I have read about workplace culture states that it has to begin at the top. If the boss is a jerk, the work environment is probably going to be pretty tense and unhappy, and vise versa. That makes sense to me, but is only the start. If a worker dislikes their job and hates coming to work, then cheer and happiness from a boss is only going to go so far.

More Jared: The Yes Man-Making Your Company Work When Demands Are High

If you have an employee that hates his job, and vocalizes that to their fellow co-workers, it can be like poison, slowly infecting the entire workforce. We used to have a person like that.

Some disliked him, the rest just ignored him, and we should have let him go many times, but we kept him around because he was good at his job. Eventually he quit, and the change was palpable. But, the true tranformation in our company’s culture began a few years before that.

If a worker dislikes their job, cheer from a boss is only going to go so far

Even before I hired my first employee, there were always half a dozen or so people employed by my father, and things were just fine. Everybody got along for the most part. Nothing great, but nothing horrible. When I hired my first employee, the personality he brought with him affected everybody.

He was a bit of a joker, loved movie soundtracks, and made up dozens of inside jokes at the shop. Even if your personality was the complete opposite of his, there was no way you couldn’t like him!

That was the beginning of the culture that we now have, which is one where everybody works well together, where everyone expects each other to get better and better, and where everyone enjoys hanging together during breaks and lunch. The guys even plan a company backpacking trip every year, independent of my leading!

How does this kind of culture benefit the company? Since the shop is a more enjoyable place to work, our turnover is very low, as are missed workdays. Our employees enjoy their job and make a quality product. They are always talking and interacting, so communicating about working issues is natural and a regular part of their jobs.

If you want to change your company’s culture into one that your employees enjoy, it has to begin from the top. They have to feel appreciated, valued, and challenged. If this doesn’t happen, you may as well throw in the towel. But once you begin to foster that right kind of attitude and environment, your employees can begin to enjoy their job and will relax long enough to see it as a pleasure, rather than a curse.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Profile picture for user jaredpatchin
About the author
Jared Patchin

Jared Patchin started woodworking professionally in 2008 when he set-up J. Alexander Fine Woodworking in Boise, ID, where he builds custom crafted furniture and cabinetry. He started building furniture at the age of seven when his father bought Shutter Crafts. He has developed his craft since then, moving from making wooden swords for himself and his friends to building some of the finest furniture and cabinetry available. He lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two young sons, who have taken over the sword making side of things.