Startup Culture and the Rise of Corporate Feudalism
Startup culture promotes organizational strategy that emphasizes open-communication and has a relatively flat hierarchical structure, the primary benefit being a less stuffy work environment. Stereotypically, this laid-back vibe is usually accompanied by amenities ranging from office happy hours to video games to ping pong tables and beyond. On the surface, it's the ideal workspace, an area in which frequent breaks aren't just allowed, but encouraged. As long as you get your work done, you're free to do as you please. With just 15% of 2015 graduates preferring a job at a large corporation it would seem that this Disney World-ification of the business world is beginning to stick. That said, when these practices are implemented, reality doesn't always live up to the ideal.
For all of startup culture's attempts to make the workplace fun, they often run into various issues regarding, you know, business. When a company spends money on cool perks, this often means one of two things. On the one hand, it's possible that the company is doing so well that they have the extra cash lying around to host sushi lunches and have FIFA tournaments (more on this later). On the other, this can be a telltale sign of a company that's mismanaging its finances and chasing a luxury office life that it can't afford. There's nothing sexy about balancing the books, but that's the thing that keeps the lights on.
Some offices even offer their employees games - like foosball
Sometimes though, the scenario is such that a company can provide all of the comforts associated with the typical startup without bankrupting itself. While it sounds great, this isn't necessarily a good thing. Obviously, everyone wants their job to be fun. They want a flexible schedule that allows them to decide when and how their work gets done. But the problem is, when there isn't a fixed schedule or the office is full of toys, it's pretty easy to get distracted, and employees often end up working long hours to compensate for all of the nonessential work events. On top of this, when there isn't a rigid hierarchical structure, people assume there aren't rigid power dynamics. This is a mistake, and when the lines between boss and co-worker start blurring, it becomes a particularly difficult tightrope to walk. Especially since America puts a pretty low premium on work-life balance, and our social lives tend to be spent mostly with our coworkers. This intermingling can feel rather constricting, considering that it leaves very little time to not be on. It can also lead to nauseating conversations with not-your-managers in which they say things like I'm putting on my friend cap. The power dynamics in this world tend to resemble that of a school playground rather than the fixed, almost militaristic structure of 20th century corporate America.
This isn't the only way in which startups buck corporate trends. While they lack in work-life balance and financial stability, startups make up for this by providing people the opportunity to be a part of something from the get-go, allowing people to feel as though they're an integral part of their team. As said and repeated ad nauseum, millennials want jobs that give them purpose, and startups are particularly good at facilitating this desire. This changes the fundamental structure of what a work environment is. Work is no longer a place where one goes and receives payment in exchange for his/her services. The world of the startup is predicated on making its workers' jobs an extension of themselves.
Team building at the office
The 2017 film The Circle, while so terribly written that it may have destroyed Emma Watson's career, attempts to deal with the problem surrounding tech companies and the cult of personality that tends pervade within them once they hit critical mass. If you ignore the plot, horrible acting, and bad writing, the film actually gets one thing right. It portrays a tech company in which employees' identities are so firmly linked to their roles at work, that they pursue the company's goals without ever thinking of their (the goals) effect on the outside world. The result is surveillance technology that places an extreme amount of extrajudicial power in the hands of the company's CEO, Tom Hanks. What this film tries–and mostly fails– to portray, is a neo-feudalistic society, in which workers live on an isolated compound with only their fellow employees, living solely for their company, as if it were its own nation with managers acting as vassals.
Emma Watson in "The Circle"
The road to corporate feudalism isn't going to be paved by guys who look like Don Draper. Suits and ties and constriction are the ways of the past. The real way to trick someone into spending 100% of their time working, is to convince them that they're not working at all. It's important notice how plenty of already successful companies, noticing their employees' envy, are starting to implement the same types of incentives as their smaller competitors. This isn't to suggest that there's some sort of worldwide conspiracy to turn workers into slaves, but rather to shed light on an important trend; namely, that startup culture is being co-opted by plenty of companies as a means of convincing their employees to work longer, harder, and at a rate that doesn't correspond to their pay. Now more than ever, potential employees have to be vigilant during the interview process. When in doubt, fall back on the old edict: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Website: https://matthewdclibanoff.journoportfolio.com/ Twitter: @mattclibanoff
Every time payday rolls around, I’m on top of the world. Jeff Bezos-level rich - even though I’m anything but. And then somehow the very next day, rent is due.
The cycle continues. The next payday, bills for my apartment. I find myself without a surplus of savings since I just moved and newly-furnished my apartment completely.
Even more terrifying is the looming presence of the holiday season. Halloween’s officially over and before we know it, hello Thanksgiving…and then there’s Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. It’s insane.
I’ve been feeling very British lately. Not in a Union-Jack-obsessed, “Keep Calm and Carry-On” way. I went through that phase in 2012 with everyone else… no thank you. And it’s not even a surge of patriotism catalyzed by the Queen dying — I’m firmly team Diana and team Meghan.
Now that fall is officially here, the holidays will sweep in and I’ll have to contend with the fact that I won’t be spending them with my family in the UK. I went home to London earlier this year, so there’s not much left in my travel budget for another trip across the pond. A few domestic jaunts might be in my future, but the closest I’ll get to England this winter is watching Love Island and Love, Actually.
So in that spirit, I’ve been filling my days with content from my favorite Brits. I’m listening to all the old British rock bands I grew up listening to, patiently awaiting the new Arctic Monkeys album, and rewatching anything with Michaela Coel in it. I even shipped myself an order of British Baked Beans, so you know it’s dire.
I’ve also been watching British YouTubers like Grace Beverley — my favorite. Generally, I only go on YouTube to watch Vogue Beauty Secrets and AD Open Door videos. But I’m so glad I stumbled on Grace. Her content is a mix of London lifestyle (what lured me in), relatable entrepreneurship, and mindful productivity. I’m not a hustle-and-grind-girlboss, but as a creative person in a 9-to-5, I need all the help I can get to stay plugged in. So, the video “how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmed” changed my approach to WFH.
Grace outlines her own productivity method: the to-do table. Instead of making a simple to-do list, she divides her tasks into a table that anyone can follow. As someone who’s survived with to-do lists for years, I recently implemented Grace’s method, and it’s revolutionized my workdays.
how to be really really really productive without getting overwhelmedwww.youtube.com
I follow her routine to a tee. Here’s how it works:
Essentially, she divides her daily responsibilities into four categories: quick ticks, tasks, projects, and non-negotiables.
- Quick Ticks: Actions that take less than 5-minutes
- Tasks: To-do’s that take up to 30-minutes. Probably don’t take too much brain energy.
- Projects: Long-term list items. These help guide your priorities, even if you’re not crossing them off in one day.
- Non-negotiables: Pick 3 things each day that you must get done. This is how you’ll truly measure success.
With everything written down and sorted, next address your schedule. Meetings, deadlines, and time blocks — whatever works best for you. Write it down. Then make a pact with yourself to stick to them.
This way of categorization provides a roadmap for prioritizing your day — making you far more productive. Have you ever spent the entire day on small tasks and then suddenly realized you hadn’t moved the needle on any task? Or do you spend way too much time on tasks that aren’t a priority? No more. With your non-negotiables laid out, you know what to laser-focus on and what to dedicate energy towards.
Also, it pays to know your working style. I’m not a morning person. Yet, I have to be up and at ‘em super early. So, first thing in the morning, I march through my Quick Ticks to warm me up. I set a time limit, so I can knock out some easy wins which is totally inspiring. Then I move on to bigger things without lingering on emails or admin. For others, it might be more helpful to tackle the big things with all that early-in-the-day brain power earlier.
Grace has great tips on avoiding overwhelm and burnout. My favorite is taking more intentional breaks rather than scrolling through social media. I call this scrolling “productive” because I’m “coming up with pitches.” Oh, the lies we tell ourselves. It’s more productive in the long run to giving my brain a break with non-screen related stimuli.
Grace’s solution? Set a timer to read a real, an actual book. I’ve never thought of this. It’s a genius way to check off some books on my TBR and kickstart my creativity. After reading a good book, I’m completely inspired to write. So having books near my desk helps me step away from the computer during my lunch break for an actual reset. (And yes, the current books I’m reading are by British authors: Assembly by Natasha Brown, and Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold by Bolu Babalolu.)
In my pursuit of switching out my WFH set-up and getting my life together, I’ve engineered my workstation for success. With my new WFH essentials and Grace’s productivity technique, I’m revitalized for work — despite the fall blues and my melancholy about the pending holidays.
Here are the things getting me hyped for work and helping me crush my Grace Beverley-inspired to-do tables — no lists in sight:
Pack your bags — Southwest Airlines is having a major sale! Fares are as low as $59 one-way if you book by October 3rd.
This end-of-summer super sale is a game-changer for your travel plans through the end of the year. Summertime travel gets all the glory. But why not take advantage of your long weekends, holidays, and PTO this fall. You’ll be surprised at how much travel you can fit in. Keep the fall/winter season exciting with domestic trips that give you all the excitement without breaking the bank. All thanks to Southwest.
Here’s the breakdown:
Where can you go?
You’ll find discounted tickets to and from most airports. Sale fares apply to cross country travel, and even Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean! Whether you’re visiting a new city or revisiting your last beach vacation, this sale has fares to make your travel dreams come true.
What do the fares cover?
Southwest Airlines has multiple fare tiers, each with various benefits. Wanna Get Away fares start at $59, while Wanna Get Away Plus fares start at $89. You can also find great deals on Anytime fares, which offer priority boarding and express lanes. Then there’s Business Select tickets for a luxe experience at an affordable price point.
Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member?
You may think these sale fares are too good to be true. Is there a catch? Do you have to be a Southwest Rapid Rewards member to access them? You’re in luck — anyone can attain these fares for a limited time.
But, insider tip, you should consider signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards. With a free sign up, you earn points and miles with each trip you take. And with this sale, each dollar you spend on these discounted tix can stretch super far until you eventually earn free travel. The only thing better than a sale is free stuff.
I’ve been browsing the Southwest Airlines site, checking out flights and dreaming.