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November 30, 2022
Work Appropriate
Onboard Me with Adrian Hon

In This Episode

Starting a new job is almost always stressful– there’s, of course, the tasks and workflow to figure out, but there’s also a whole new culture and set of norms to find your place in.  Throw in a pandemic and remote work, and it’s gotten even more complicated. Work has changed. It’s not going back to how it was. And it’s time for us to figure out new ways to onboard and mentor within this new way of working.

Joining host Anne Helen Petersen is Adrian Hon, founder and CEO of Six to Start, a game design company with an entirely remote workforce. Together, they answer listener questions about how to onboard new employees efficiently, what kinds of team-building activities won’t make everyone roll their eyes, and whether you should listen to the “new job remorse” you’re feeling.

If you’ve got a workplace quandary you want help figuring out, head to www.workappropriate.com and let us know.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Hey everyone. I’m Anne Helen Peterson, and this is Work Appropriate. [music break] people generally know what’s good about hybrid work. They tell me it all the time. They like the flexibility. They love not commuting, not doing their hair every day. The release from arbitrary expectations on when you should and should not be visible to your. Those are the very clear benefits, but there are clear drawbacks too, to not being in person as much or at all. And when I talk about hybrid work, sometimes people respond almost as if like, gotcha. Oh yeah, sure. You’re not commuting, but have you talked to new employees? Gen Zers, they hate it. Not everyone who started a job during the pandemic hates it or feels adrift or doesn’t know how to find mentors. But a lot of people do, and it makes sense in a lot of companies the entire apparatus for how someone was initiated into the company culture just totally disappeared. And everyone was way too stressed out trying to figure out how to do their own jobs and, you know, just live during a pandemic to try and plan a new way of doing things. The pandemic isn’t over, but that explanation is no longer sufficient. Work has changed and it’s not going back to how it was, and it is time for us to figure out new ways to onboard and mentor within this new way of working. And the good news is that there are companies that have been working on this problem for a long time, like far before the pandemic. So I wanted to talk to someone who has worked for an all remote company for a really long time. In fact, he started one.

 

Adrian Hon: My name is Adrian Hon. I’m CEO at Six to Start. We make, uh, smartphone fitness games. Like Zombies, Run! and The Walk, and I’m also an author, so I have a new book out called You’ve Been Played, which is a critique of gamification and how it’s been used by companies and governments and schools to manipulate us and sometimes to do good things, but often bad things.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: One of the reasons I wanted to ask you on the show is because you have a company that is resistant in some ways to being a normal tech company, and can you talk a little bit about how you, you know, even on your website you’re like, we are not a startup. Um, can you say a little bit about that?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. You know, we’ve been around for about 15 years now, and so, but you know, even after like five or 10 years, I think even a lot of tech companies still see themselves as a startup. You know, we’ve got a startup mentality and we’ll do what it takes. We’ll trench we’ll, we’ll get it done. And obviously, you know, it’s just an unhealthy way to work. You know, I’ve done that. In different companies I’ve worked at and I just ended up burning out and getting exhausted.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And that was, as you know, someone quite senior. So I wanted to make sure at the company that it was a place where people could stay for years or for even decades. And if you’re going to design a company to do that, then you need to make sure it’s a place where, you know, they a really good, um, work life balance, I suppose, you know, where the hours are really good, where people have the opportunity to grow where, you know, you do good work. And I mean, I should say that, you know, a lot of the stuff that we write about the company, it’s not written by me, it’s written by other people out in the company.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: So it’s not just me saying, oh, you know, we’re awesome. [laughter] You know, and, and because if you go to any company, they’re gonna say they’re amazing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Right. That’s not, that’s not really surprising.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: So, you know, we do say that and the people will join us and they’ll say, we had someone join us recently, just on Monday. And they’re like, wow, you do seem to have a really good culture [laughter] you know, they’re surprised by it. So in some ways, straightforward in other ways it does force us to make some difficult decisions, you know, about how we run the company and what we prioritize.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. And you are what is sometimes called a, a fully distributed company, right? Like you are, there’s not a home office and you have employees across the world?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. We started, um, you know, originally we were all based in London and we had a few different offices there, but then, um, over the years we started getting more and more people working from other countries, including developers and writers. So our artists moved to Japan and we had an artist on Australia. Our writers were always kind of remote elsewhere in the UK, but then, um, really it was like, like a couple of years, one or two years before the pandemic, where we started going fully remote, where we still had an office, but most people weren’t there. Then actually three months before the pandemic, we even gave of our co-working space, and so every single person was working from home. So that’s, you know, fully distributed. We don’t even, there are, for example, a number of people in Edinburgh where I live, but we don’t even have a hub here.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: We asked for stories and questions from our audience and readers about starting a new job. And this story that we have here from Janelle stuck out.

 

Janelle: I made the switch from working in non-profits to working as a consultant for a small technology partner that implemented solutions for non-profits. I had experience working with the product from my last nonprofit job and had worked with the consulting company as a client. I got the job on the recommendation of the consultant I worked with, but it became clear after starting that I did not have the level of knowledge and experience that I would need to jump in and start working with clients. But there was no real onboarding and taking certification tests was viewed as the way to show I was proficient and ready to work with clients. I was able to pass the tests, but there is a huge difference between that and actually having extensive experience with the product or consulting. I was totally thrown into the deep end, and it was an extremely tough transition. When asking for help, I would only get tidbits, and the expectation was I’d figured it out. I considered leaving many times, but stuck it out and eventually got to a point where I felt like I knew what I was doing enough to not be in a panic all the time. Four years later, I am pretty settled, but it was an extremely high stress period that could have been avoided with more guidance and support.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So Adrian, what do you think could have gone differently here?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah, I mean that sounds like a pretty incredibly rough onboarding, [laugh] you know, especially that it’s taken four years to get to get settled [laugh] um, that sounds kind of extraordinary cuz like four years is longer than a lot of companies exist for [laughter] so. My colleague Matt Wieteska, who’s head of production at Six to Start, um, really is a person who does a lot of training at the company because we onboard a lot of, uh, sound designers and production assistants, and, and that department has grown quite a lot in the last couple of years. And he does this thing, which I think he learned partly from his mum, but also that it comes from a lot of training schemes and surgery where you teach someone a new skill, a new task by making them watch one, do one, teach one. And so, you know, I hadn’t actually heard of it that much beforehand, but I think it’s a pretty, pretty well known idea. And so for example, if you’re trying to get someone to learn how to, you know, write a new contract or, or do a pitch, then first thing you’ll do is bring them along to see someone else do it and they won’t have to do anything. And the second time they will do it. Um, now obviously you have to be careful. They need to know that backup is there and you know, if something goes wrong, someone else can jump in. And the third time they go and teach someone else how to do it. Now, there might not be someone else who is actually onboarding at that time, but it’s almost like they’re teaching someone else in the company who maybe is just curious or they’re teaching, you know, a colleague and so. I think that’s a great system. It’s something that’s worked really well for us. Definitely worth copying other places. Having said that, if you have a company where it’s at hard to onboard people, I think that’s probably a couple of other problems.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Right.

 

Adrian Hon: The first one is, is, is probably to do with documentation. In in that it probably doesn’t exist. [laugh] Right. Like it should be possible to kind of read up on like, well, how, how am I supposed to do these things?

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm-hmm.

 

Adrian Hon: And we have a Notion Wiki that has just vast quantities of, of documentation. And I tried to set a good example cause I really liked writing documentation. Like I, I used to set up like Wikis, like in my spare time and like game FAQs. And so I think it’s like a superpower if you are able to write down good documentation, just instructions on how to do a job in a really clear way with steps and check boxes. I think it helps you understand your own job better, but it also protects against, you know, if you’re ill or, or that sort of thing. But then, you know, I think one of the great things that documentation does is it also suggests avenues for improvement. Cuz like sometimes I would show our documentation to our programmers and they’d be like, what on earth are you doing here? [laughter] This is the, uh, this is wild. You know, um, you know, why are there 20 steps of this? I can automate like half of this.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right.

 

Adrian Hon: And so, you get two benefits out of that. You help people understand what’s going on, and also you get skilled programmers or, or if you have them in your company to realize, oh, I, I see this is taking a long time and maybe I wouldn’t believe you if you just told me, but I can see literally this is how you do it. And so maybe it’s not a program you’re trying to convince. Maybe it’s just someone else in the company who trying to convince to buy a better tool or to change a process.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And so. I think that’s a way in which we’ve been able to reduce the amount of onboarding we have to do and to do it faster.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: You know, if you were Janelle in this situation and this was happening, how would you approach your workplace to be like, I’m flailing without signaling, I’m flailing. Right. That’s the tough part, I think is like, yes, the onboarding system is broken. How do I indicate that while also not like saying that I’m not up to the task somehow?

 

Adrian Hon: I think it’s really tricky cuz it’s gonna depend on your line manager.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right.

 

Adrian Hon: You know, and on the culture of the team. You know, I think that in some ways what you can do is kind of create your own documentation and say, well, like, here’s what I understand about what I’m supposed to be doing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Um, but I’d love to get your advice on, you know, what I’m missing here. Is there anything anywhere that I should be looking for? I mean, Maybe there is some documentation—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right.

 

Adrian Hon: —maybe someone did write something up about two years ago, but you can’t find it. That’s a pretty common thing— [laughter]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes.

 

Adrian Hon: Or maybe it’s just a little jab at like, eh, maybe you should think about doing this.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And so I think that that’s a way of doing it. Of course, if you feel comfortable of your manager, then, then you should be a bit more honest and say, look, this is, I, I’m having trouble, like trying to understand what I’m meant to be doing here. It’s gonna be a bit context, dependent.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. I love that you pointed to the fact that like, if this is happening in this company, there are several other things wrong happening in this company. And oftentimes I think onboarding and mentorship is such an overlooked but key component to any sort of culture building or any sort of like order of operations, like the way that things are done at an organization. And if that is fundamentally broken, you have a fundamental brokenness at the organization too, and it’s something to pay attention.

 

Adrian Hon: It becomes even more important in fully remote companies because you can’t just go and say, well, they’ll figure that out by someone walking by and telling them what to do.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Or overhearing. It’s like, that’s not how it works.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Oh, and this is a good segue into another thing that I I think about a lot, which is that after you onboard someone, like the very basic onboarding things, how do you do your job? Here’s how you sign up for benefits, or you know, the United States health insurance. Here’s where you like, here’s your computer, here’s your, your tech, that sort of thing. What is the process of onboarding someone into company culture? Like what are the, the things that make that possible? How do you set that up?

 

Adrian Hon: I think this is a really tricky one because, you know, if you try and like define it too much, you know, or specify too much that it becomes like a sort of weird induction process—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: You know, like an indoctrination process [laughter] and I don’t really want that. My feeling is, I think culture is something that a company does rather than something a company says.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And so that’s why I’m always, I always sort of like arch, my eyebrow company’s blogs who say, oh, we’re so amazing and we won this award. I’m like, really? [laughter] So, but in practice, you know, what we do is we try and make it easy for people to kind of get exposed to other people. Which is, which is hard online.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: But so for example, Um, people joining have free reign of Slack and Notion. So I encourage people to be nosy and to just look into like every channel that they want to. Um, we don’t really have any private channels. I, I try and, um, discourage DMs unless it, it’s like important.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Um, and so I want it to be possible for people to see, okay, here’s how disagreements get resolved, right? You know, here’s what happens when important decisions get made. Uh, here’s how people weigh in and how we talk to each other, and I think. Being able to document that stuff in writing is actually really good because it allows people to catch up really quickly. So for example, we have this new system, which I love, which one of our programmers who was with us at the start of Zombies, Run! that left for a few years and came back. It’s basically a request for comments system. Um, it’s kind of a technical thing, so if someone has a new idea, for like a new feature or they wanna change how the app works, or even if they just wanna change a process in the company, they will write up a document saying, okay, here’s what we do at the moment. Here’s where it’s not so good, and here’s how I’d like it to change specifically. And I’m inviting comments from everyone. So, you know, and here’s a kind of comments that I, you know, that I’m looking for, and that means that it’s not done in a meeting, right? You can have a meeting—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: —but it means like, because we’ve got people around the world, everyone can weigh in and you can answer questions. And so then the proposal will change. And we have like 20 of these that we’ve gone through, and it’s such a good. Sort of constructive way of doing it so you don’t end up in these sort of one on one like arguments. And I think that by showing new people, okay, this is how we do it here. And you can see the last 20 times we did it, you know how—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: —how that works. Rather than just someone telling you, trust me, it’s fine—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right.

 

Adrian Hon: —you know, that’s like an important thing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Or or being like, this is how we did it in our last meeting and it turned out okay. And like the perspective from everyone in that meeting is probably different. And also you can’t ever communicate everything that happened in a meeting unless someone were to watch the videotape of it, which would be dreadfully boring. But if you have that document—

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: —there with everyone’s feedback that that’s a very different way of demonstrating like, here is how we reach consensus.

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. I think that written communication skills are so important in an asynchronous workspace.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Right. I don’t think they were maybe as important before, but you know, in order to avoid getting into arguments and anticipating questions, you know, that’s, that’s what we do. And so we just have people who I think are really good at writing and very good at. Feedback. But yeah. You know, in terms of like establishing the culture, it’s also just stuff like making sure that people understand, oh, you do not talk to other people and you don’t tag people and you don’t DM people after hours or weekends or holidays.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And if, and if we see someone doing that, we’ll gently tell them off basically. And say, look unless everything is absolutely blowing up. And I can’t remember the last time that. Then it is just not acceptable to do that. Um, you know, people should not be working while they’re sick, that sort of thing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep.

 

Adrian Hon: And so that’s the culture of the company, you know, where we are trying to take care of people and, you know, we do write about that, but it’s more important than we do it.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Well, and that’s the, the difference too between a company that, you know, in their job ad it says, we really promote work life balance. But then you show up the first day. And you see people, you’re like, oh, you should just ping that person. They’re on leave right now. Right.

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Like that’s how, that, that is actually your company culture, not whatever it says in your job ad or on your website.

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. I mean, actually another thing that we do is, uh, we make sure everyone has a full hour for lunch. And people sort of only take, uh, only work for eight hours. And so people, some people will kind of like say good morning when they arrive. Yeah. And then they’ll um, they can see like I do it, I go and say, look, I’m off for an hour for lunch and you know, if you DM me, then uh, you’re not gonna get a reply. [laugh]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: We use scheduled, um, messages a lot in Slack as well, actually.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: So, uh, if you have a burning desire to tell someone something, they’re just going, you know, have it arrive when they get back, rather than them having to like think about this notification and that sort of thing. So, you know [both speaking] its tricky. [laughter]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Our second question is about building a remote work culture. So let’s hear from Gabby.

 

Gabby: I am an operations specialist at my nonprofit organization. I am fairly new to my company. And I work at a company that was remote before COVID. So we’ve had associates all over the US and this was before COVID. My manager has asked me to work on engaging all staff activities, but I feel like a lot of the Zoom teams activities that I’ve researched on are gimmicky and not really earnest. And they see more of time wasters. What are some good tips or things to keep in mind when creating fun, non-work focused spaces for coworkers by coworkers via Teams or Zoom.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: I love this question because it echoes something that I just hear constantly whenever I talk about hybrid or remote culture. People, especially people who are in companies that have gone to hybrid or remote scenarios after the pandemic are like, everything my company is trying is so cheesy, I cannot get on board. So have you found anything that you like?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really hard because, because some people do like the cheesy stuff, so—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally.

 

Adrian Hon: —you know, but when you look at things that are meant to be for the entire company, you know, one thing that we’ve done is we do a company on conference, basically every, you know, half year we used to do this in person and we started doing it online and on conferences, basically like an online event where anyone in the company can propose. Uh, not, they don’t need to have to propose it. They can just do a presentation or talk about anything they want.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: That is, um, you know, so it might be like, oh, here’s why I’m really good at skateboarding, or here’s this TV show I love. Or, um, it might be about something related to the company. Um, But, but often people don’t do that, and it’s usually quite short. So each session is only like 20 minutes, so people don’t have to prepare a lot.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Mm-hmm.

 

Adrian Hon: And it’s really fun because people will only talk about stuff that they’re really into. Like otherwise they just wouldn’t do it.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right.

 

Adrian Hon: And so you could feel the enthusiasm. Everyone likes hearing about what their other coworkers do, but it’s not so long that if you’re bored by it, you, you have to sit around for like an hour.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Like each of the sessions is quite short and it’s gone really well. Cuz I think that most people have, you know, something that they can be interesting about. Um, so that’s the one thing that we found has worked well. You know, we do have things like a film. Where every month, we’ll, we’ll watch a movie and then we’ll talk about it, um, for an hour afterwards. Um, and that’s been really cool. Yeah. Uh, and so we’ve been doing that for almost a year now. We’ve got different clubs, but that’s not for the whole company. I think it’s difficult to do stuff that is for everyone.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yes.

 

Adrian Hon: I think it’s, I think general speaking, it’s better to, to have smaller interest groups. But yeah, the on conferences worked well for, for all staff.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: So I did a version of that not to do with the workplace. Uh, it was called a Drunk Ted Talk series where you came up with, you know, anything that you wanted to present upon. And it was around 10 to 15 minutes and I did mine on January Jones’s Instagram account that she plays Betty in Mad Men. She just has a totally unhinged, like in a bizarre and lovely way Instagram, and it was great, and I think that it, like, it adds a dimensionality to someone, right? Like you might only know this person through the way that they work and through the product that they create, but here is a way to introduce some part of them and, and what they like or love that doesn’t feel overly intimate or forced because they’re doing it on their own terms. Right?

 

Adrian Hon: Exactly. And you know, obviously we do this on company time.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: So usually we take out like an entire day.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep.

 

Adrian Hon: We say, okay, for the morning we’re doing these, you know, short talks. And then for the afternoon, You’re just having fun playing board games or whatever. And so I think people are a bit scared about it first, you know, cuz they’re like, ah, do I have to make this really shiny?

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, [laughter] right.

 

Adrian Hon: But um, you know, one of my colleagues did, uh, a really good, talk about I think SuperWhoLock, um, stuff on Tumblr, just like a fan, fan existence on Tumblr.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And everyone was like, wow, this is incredible. I’ve never heard of this before. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a great.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: What would you do yours on, or what have you done one on?

 

Adrian Hon: My ones have been a bit more boring. [laughter] Like I did one about just like, cuz like the company’s been around for so long.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: One that I did in person was just like talking about the games that the company made before anyone actually still at the company was still were there. So I was like—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: —okay, you, you probably haven’t seen this, but like, here’s some stuff that we used to do.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Um, for publishers or for Disney, all that sort of thing. And that was, that was fun for me cuz it was like, I. Really get to talk about that stuff and people are curious what the history of the company is.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: No, and that’s such a great way to introduce people to company culture. You know, I listened to this talk one time from someone basically describing what he thought the future of the office headquarters is gonna be, and he thought of it as kind of like a corporate museum, like a place that you go almost as like a Mecca to put in face time or to meet, or to just even be in the audience of the leaders of the company, but also to like learn more about what the company was and is, and I think done wrong. It could be very much like in severance where it’s like a museum, [laughter] and fetishization of the company. But that sort of thing is like, is really interesting.

 

Adrian Hon: I think I read about how Nintendo, uh, I might be getting this wrong, but Nintendo has like a corporate museum.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: That new starters get to go to. Once. And it’s got like everything Nintendo for the last 150 years.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Oh, that’d be so fun.

 

Adrian Hon: And, and it’s so interesting, so you don’t get to keep going back. You can only go once. Uh, that’s how the story goes. I think that’s kind of really interesting. It’s like, okay, this is not meant to be like a fetish, you know?

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep.

 

Adrian Hon: It’s meant to be like, so you can understand this, but we don’t want you coming back here again cuz uh, you’re just gonna get too into it.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Um, you know, it, it’s important, you know, for companies to think about the history. Absolutely. [music break]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Our last question is one that I feel like is very common, but no one really talks about. This is from Marissa.

 

Marissa: How do you know if your new job remorse is real and should be acting on, or am I setting myself up for disaster? How do you disentangle the perceptions of job stability and expectations of sucking it up from intuition?

 

Anne Helen Petersen: All right, so Adrian, talk to me about new job remorse.

 

Adrian Hon: Well, I think this is really hard one, like I’ve not had a new jobs for a long time, [laughter] because I’ve run a company. But I did think about this one and I think, you know, there’s a few ways you can approach this. You know, if you have friends and colleagues, you know, former colleagues you can talk to about this, I think that’s a great way to kind of like suss out your feelings and, and get advice there that I’ve always found that useful where like, I’ve had this problem, I just go and talk to other people and they can validate your feelings or they can say, well actually maybe, maybe you do need to stick it out a bit more. I think writing down your expectations and your reactions to begin. You know, like in a diary, um, is really helpful so you can see if things change cuz you know, almost setting up some boundaries. So saying, look, if I don’t really feel any better about this in two months time or four months time, you know, that’s important. Obviously you should go and talk to people at the company, but, um, that’s not something you can control, right? The, the company is, gonna act as it as it does. Um, so you know, talking to people you trust, but also trying to decide what it is you want and not get held hostage by—

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: —a feeling that you need to just stick it out.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Well, and I love that idea of writing it down, even though I think some people might feel resistant to like formalizing in any sort of way. Even just like email yourself, right? So you have this documentation of like, here’s how I feel and I don’t wanna feel that way for longer than three months because so often we find ourselves like, oh, well I’m like, I’m surviving it.

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. And I don’t wanna let people down. All that sort of thing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, totally. The don’t wanna let people down is so huge. It’s like, I don’t wanna quit my job because it’s gonna make other people’s lives more difficult at my job. More oftentimes, the reasons why it would make other people’s jobs more difficult is because the company itself, like whether they don’t backfill positions that people leave, like that work gets spread onto other people. That’s the company’s fault. That’s not your fault. Right?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. And, and, and I say this as someone who, you know, um, runs a company, I would prefer if people who are unhappy left earlier than than sooner.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right, right.

 

Adrian Hon: You know, like it, it’s more difficult to replace someone who’s been around for longer than shorter. I know it feels weird. I have had people leave like fairly quickly and they’re really apologetic. I’m like, look, I get it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, you know?

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: And I’m, I’m glad you’ve done this cuz we, cuz it just takes a lot of time.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Um, to find someone good. So, it’s good that you think about your coworkers, but you gotta think about yourself.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: What do you think are the signs to you that someone should jump ship immediately? And it doesn’t have to even be like, I hate the company, or the company’s totally broken. Like what are the signs that it’s a misfit, do you think?

 

Adrian Hon: I think you’ve gotta be at least somewhat like, satisfied, you know, by the work you’re doing. And, and you’ve gotta feel like you’ve got some sort of agency and, you know, ability to grow in the role. I think it’s tricky to be able to understand that quickly because, you know, when you start maybe a slotting into position, which is pretty well defined. And the company might say, well, trust us. You know, we’re gonna go and teach you some new stuff, and they don’t.

 

Adrian Hon: Then you might want to be a bit explicit about when that might change, but I think even just, you know, the day to day of your job to begin with should be like decent, [laughter] you know, and, and, and unbearable. You shouldn’t be holding out for something, you know, that is completely different, if you see what I mean.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: You know, because I think if you’re like, well, if only I got to do this other job, you know, or this, you know, if only half of my job changed in six months time, then it’d be better. It’s like, yeah, but what if it doesn’t? What if it’s still like this? I think that’s a problem.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. What’s one thing at your company that you are trying to work on in terms of facilitating the transition from new employee to an employee who wants to be there for a really long time? Like what is something that you feel like is still a, something that you’re constantly trying to refine?

 

Adrian Hon: I mean, the hardest thing is accommodating growth, especially in a small company.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: You know, I think if you’re at a massive company, then there’s more spaces for people to sort of get better. That’s why we’ve had the case where people would actually leave the company when they got kind of too good. A lot of programmers would, would leave the company and then they’d go and work at Google or Apple and get paid enormous amounts of money. And then they’d get bored by that [laughter] and like actually be like, oh, I, I wanna make something good. And they’d come back to our company.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: When, when, you know, we’re able to kind of accommodate them in a different way. And I think we’ve always been better at that. In terms of production jobs because you know, there’s, it’s, frankly the market is just different. Um, and when I say production, I mean writers and production assistants and things like that. And that’s because there’s just a lot of different roles we can give people. I always get excited in when people like have new ideas about things they want do, and I’m like, look, if you wanna try something new, then like, I want you to do that. If you could figure out a way of like automating part of your job or. You want on us to do that, then we should go and talk about it. But if I look at a lot of our staff, you know, the staff that are fairly junior and then they become really great writers, you know, um, and professional writers or game designers or things like that. And it’s just something like, I’m really proud of that, you know, people who stayed at the company and also people who moved on. You know, it’s like, we’re I, I wish, you know, we got paid like money by the UK government cuz we trained so many people. [laughter] You know, and then they eventually leave the company and do something way better. So, but it’s like if we don’t do, that’s why we get good people, I think because. People know that if you join us, then you’ll get the chance to grow even if you don’t have like an amazing, you know, huge CV. Yeah, but it’s difficult cuz we are a small company and so, you know, you have to kind of balance. Doing some boring stuff [laughter] you know, and more interesting stuff.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: You know, someone was telling me about, uh, the culture at LinkedIn the other day, and that there’s this real message that like, hey we’re a company that tries to teach people how to grow and find new jobs. So we come at our jobs in our company with the understanding that this is a place for you to grow and maybe find a new job. Right?

 

Adrian Hon: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: And that’s so counter to this lie, I think that a lot of companies tell themselves, which is like, or maybe not a lie, but like a very old fashioned understanding, which is that if we train you, then you have some sort of loyalty or like you need to stay with this company forever, even if you grow past the confines of the company and a really healthy company understands it. Like sometimes people grow within the company and to really dynamic and cool roles, and sometimes they grow outside of the company and what the company can offer.

 

Adrian Hon: As a manager, it’s sad to see people who, who like and who’ve been with the company, you know, for a long time leave and you just can’t take it personally. You can be sad about it, but it’s also, it’s happened to be so many times now that, you know, when people caught me up apologetically and say, you know, I’m moving on. I’m like, it’s a circle of life. It’s okay.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah.

 

Adrian Hon: Like this is what happens. People, people join companies and they leave companies and they want it to be for the right reason and that they’re able to give you something that we can’t. And so I understand that if we can do that, then that’s great, but uh, yeah, I can’t, I can’t blame people for that. And so the best thing you can do is, you know, try and treat people well and. Like I say, you know, people have come back.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Yep.

 

Adrian Hon: And you know, that’s the best thing.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Right? What’s the maxim? It’s like, if you love something, let it go [laugh] like it’ll come back to you, you know? Like it, or I, I think of it like a hometown too. Like if you love a place, you need to leave it for a bit to, to realize what you love about it sometimes too.

 

Adrian Hon: Exactly. Yeah.

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Um, Adrian, thank you so much for joining me today. Where can people find you if they wanna hear more from.

 

Adrian Hon: I’m on Twitter @AdrianHon, a d r i a n h o n. And I’m also on Mastodon at AdrianHon@Mastodon.Social. [music break]

 

Anne Helen Petersen: Thanks so much to Adrian Hon for joining me on this episode. A couple weeks ago, I published an interview with Adrian about his new book on my Substack. If you’re someone who is held hostage by your Peloton or Duolingo streak, you should definitely check it out. And if you’ve got a workplace quandary you need help figuring out get in touch, you can find submission guidelines workappropriate.com. Or you can send a voice memo with your question to Work Appropriate at Crooked.com. Some of the episodes we’re working on include job hunting, how much of your identity to reveal at work, and just dealing with really weird behaviors from your coworkers. Work Appropriate is a Crooked Media production. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, your host. Our executive producers are Kendra James and Sandy Girard. Melody Rowell is our producer and editor. Alison Falzetta is our development producer. Music is composed by Chanell Crichlow. Additional production support from Ari Schwartz and a special thanks to Katie Long and Sarah Geismer. You can follow me on Twitter @AnneHelen or on Instagram @AnneHelenPetersen. You can sign up for my newsletter at AnneHelen.substack.com and meet me here next week as we answer your questions about quitting.