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You Had Me at Hello: A Look at Workplace Culture, By: Zoe Mills

Feb 10, 2023 07:54 PM
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Jerry Maguire, A Backgrounder

Spoiler alert for any of you who have not seen the classic (iconic?) film Jerry Maguire, our title is, indeed, a quote from the movie. A flick about one man’s search for meaning in a ‘cut-throat' corporate world where values are just wall decals sometimes articulated to ‘prospects’ to achieve a desired outcome and employees are easily replaceable profit generators.

“What am I? Just another Shark in a suit?” - Jerry (Jer)

Essentially, Jerry ends up getting fired from a massive athlete management firm, realizing he was just another shark in a suit (all those years) and that his use of an inherited saying from his mentor, “The key to business is personal relationships” was just words – hollow, meaningless (like his soul...).

Oh, the drama!  The drama!

Having been ‘canned’, well, Jerry decides he wants to be a better man but not before ‘losing it’ in front of his peers and very publicly stealing the company’s goldfish from its tank, plopping it in a Ziploc bag, and exiting “stage right”. Post ‘thespian display’ of “just fired emotion”, Jerry gets down to brass tax, working tirelessly to conceive a (hopeful) competing company, all with the help of a sweet, kind of lost, single mother and colleague...enter Dorothy Boyd.

His new company is a slow build founded on an ethos he wrote mid-midlife-crisis and driven by the concept of people over profit. He photocopies his ethos, puts it into the mailboxes of all his, now ex, co-workers and throws his ‘all’ into building this ‘revolutionary’ new business managing athletes ‘the right way’.

Arguably? Despite ultimately being a love story between ‘Jer’ and ‘Dorothy’, this is a film about company culture from the get-go. Although Jerry’s new venture is all peaks-and-valleys it eventually takes off when, in an emotional scene, he showcases how much he genuinely cares about his injured client and its broadcast internationally. In closing, his phone starts ringing and people want to work with Jerry. Why? Because people want to work with people who truly care.

A Look at Why Workplace Culture Matters

As employees, we want to be empowered to be our best selves and not compromise who we are, how we feel, and how we live. Good leadership is rooted in clear, communicated, and upheld values systems – good business and brands are purpose-driven. How we feel about work matters and this reverberates out of the workplace and into our lives. Even if it didn’t, we spend an average of 90,000 hours a lifetime at work so the very concept of workplace culture – from ethos to implementation – has tangible, real-life impacts “9-5” and beyond.

Aside: Cambridge Dictionary defines organizational (insert ‘workplace’) culture as “the types of attitudes and agreed ways of working shared by the employees of a company or organization”. So, if you’re just getting caught-up on the concept of workplace culture it’s simple.

Basically, every employee, at any organization anywhere, knows that ‘workplace culture’ either makes you feel good or (seriously) crumby (insert bad, negative, upset, sad, and other downer words). A recent viral post online reads “Culture is about how employees’ hearts and stomachs feel about Monday morning on Sunday night.” - Bill Marklein. I couldn’t agree more. The culture of your workplace is experienced. Human decisions, interactions, and processing of top-down organizational decisions, practices, and policies are what make or break workplace culture. Like any innovative thought, it only works if it’s made to work.

People either make or break “culture”. It takes someone saying “that’s not how we do things here” or “that’s not okay with us” or, even sometimes, “you’re fired” to embody the intended culture wholly. And those start-ups without workplace culture intact, well they say goodbye just as quickly as they said hello. 

(Grab the goldfish!)

Before communicating an organizational culture and hoping humans/employees will uphold it, a company needs to decide who they are, what they offer, and what they stand for. Just like Jerry did.

Easy, right?

The Ways Workplace Culture is Implemented, Upheld, & Grasped

In building a workplace culture, leadership needs to have asked the following (at least). If you read these questions and feel your leadership hasn’t, that could be a red flag that the workplace culture is unclear at your organization:

  1. Do my employees feel good about what they do – about who we are? Have we been crystal clear on our core values and “why”?
  2. Are we embodying our values and showing up authentically for our team and our clients?
  3. Are we implementing systems to build up a sense of ‘psychological safety’, belonging, openness, and trust within our teams? Within this, are we upholding and speaking for human rights in the process?
  4. Are we listening more than we speak? Do we have assessment processes in place to correct every step of the course? (Example of assessment processes: listening posts, feedback forms, anonymous surveys, open-door policy, point-person for company culture or HR)
  5. Are we tapped into the ongoing trends that are influencing the future of work? (Flex work hours, benefits, and the ways to support humanistic approaches)

As Brené Brown says in her Netflix special, The Call to Courage, “When we build cultures at work where there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, where perfectionism and armor are rewarded and necessary, we can’t have productive conversations.”

If you haven’t yet been hired by a company and are interested in knowing more about their workplace culture, here are some things you can do:

  • Before applying, or prior to your first interview, check out reviews of the company by former employees. You can find reviews on sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and Rate My Employer. What people who worked for the company say about it is important.
  • If you do land an interview with a company and want to know more about their workplace culture, you can ask them about it in the candidate question portion of your interview. Questions like, “What is your employee turnover like here?”, “How do you celebrate small and big wins for your team?”, “Do you offer mental health days? Benefits packages?”, “What are your company values and what do you do to uphold them?”, and more - examples here: Company Culture: 25 questions to ask your employees (
  • Go onto their website and check out if they have made their “why” and people front and center to their brand representation. What feeling are you getting about working for the company, right out of the gates?

If you already work somewhere and want to mull-over whether your company has a positive workplace culture, firstly just ask yourself how you feel about going to work each day. To back up your feelings, which take precedence overall, you can reference a checklist like this (we like this one): 12 Signs Your Company Has An Enviable Workplace Culture (

In Summary

What do we hope you take away from this blog post?

  1. Workplace culture MATTERS. Personal relationships are important.
  2. What we think and know is critical but who we are means more (paraphrasing Brene here, can you blame me?).
  3. Jerry Maguire is an old, but incredibly good movie that, in essence, is more than just a love story and kicks-off with a good look at workplace culture. If you haven’t seen it go watch it with your mom, your dad, your grandparents, someone who will appreciate it as much as me....
  4. Receiving an offer from a company is great but getting a job offer somewhere with a positive workplace culture? Well, that’ll leave anyone saying “You had me at hello. You had”
  5. It’s really, really nice to love what you do but not at the expense of loving and respecting yourself and your peers.