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September 27, 2019

AMA: What's unique about MetaLab's culture?

Ask MetaLab Anything submission: Hey MetaLab, Being an international team, with international clients, is there anything unique about MetaLab's culture that keeps things running smoothly? Thanks, Sean

On an ever-growing team with no shared timezone or location to rely upon, it can be challenging to ensure that no matter where in the world you are—be it in our physical offices or in some remote corner of the Internet—you feel connected to the positive culture vibes we’ve worked hard to establish. Our secret? A strict, “No Assholes” policy. This trendy rule is often overplayed and under-delivered on, but at MetaLab, it’s a core cultural pillar that we take more seriously than most everything else when it comes to keeping our culture on track.

What does “No Assholes” mean to us?

Be decent

As we say in our handbook: “No political climbers, bullies, yellers, or machiavellian BS.”  The culture at MetaLab starts and ends with empathy, and we screen every potential client or candidate relationship for red flags that might pose a threat to this climate of mutual respect.

Celebrate difference

Culture falls flat if it’s just a bunch of sameness. That’s why part of building the kind of culture we can be proud of means filling it with people and voices and experiences that are different from one another. Diversity brings a level of accountability to the table that pushes for greater representation and deeper understanding. We may strive to be morally homogenous, but the rest of our cultural fabric should be anything but. 

Push for pragmatism

Speak up and have a point of view but be prepared to be met with a perspective that challenges your own. We seek to find the solution that best serves the integrity of the product, not the one that will appease everyone in the room. That said, good ideas are deflated by disrespectful delivery, so it’s about mutual respect, early and often. 

Choose facts over feelings

Use context, experience, and knowledge—not feelings—to back yourself up. Basing communication and collaboration in a shared reality keeps things focused and productive, making it easier to sell sound logic and solutions through to each other and our clients.

No jargon or buzzwords

We think jargon destroys companies. It’s designed to make one person feel superior, while the other feels less than and nods along. Using simple terms that everyone understands lets our work speak for itself.

Be honest, not perfect

Egos are scared to fail. But usually, that’s the best way to improve. On our team, we own our mistakes and allow others around us to own up to theirs. Then, we work as a team to fix mistakes together. Acknowledge the gap between where you are and where you want to be, then take small steps every day to close it. 

Stay open

When you stop learning, you stop growing. We understand that everyone, no matter their experience or discipline, has things they can work on—and things they can share with others. Our favourite thing is seeing MetaLab veterans ask for help from new employees, because it sends the clear, important message that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and it’s more than okay to ask for help to get the answers you need. The work (and everything else) is much better for it. 

How do we screen for assholes?

We dedicate a large part of our interview process to ensuring that a candidate’s talent isn’t the only thing they bring to the table. Yes, those boxes need to be checked, but the “decent human” boxes are the ones we’re most concerned with. 

Our hiring teams have their bullshit detectors pretty dialed in, and look out for answers in applicant screening questions that paint their successes as an individual versus team sport. We don’t put much stock in awards and accolades, so an applicant who shows up with their trophy case in hand without a lot of heart or authenticity to back it up also gives us pause.

Raw talent is invaluable, but to us, raw talent that’s accompanied by a bad personality just isn’t worth it. We believe good things come from hiring good people, even though it might take a bit more vigilance, patience, and work on our end to stick to our beliefs and seek these folks out.

Fostering healthy client relationships

We bring a similar rigor to our vetting process for clients where our “No Assholes” filter influences who we do and don’t choose to partner with. We don’t just want to work with nice people because it’s more enjoyable— we want to protect the integrity of the work and the environment necessary for our team to thrive. Working for a disrespectful client is not unlike working for a domineering boss—it undermines morale and erodes the mental health of the team. On the flip side, positive client relationships foster stronger collaboration, ingenuity, and space to do our best work. 

Ultimately, keeping our company culture on track relies on a bunch of small decisions made by every person, every day, from wherever they are in the world. Modeling a mindset we can all get behind starts at the top, but shaping it and helping it grow is everyone’s responsibility.

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