It was about 4pm on a Wednesday, and I was sitting in my dark, gray cubicle, working on my accounting spreadsheets amid a small sea of other drab cubicles.
My teammates were standing up and avoiding eye contact with me. Something was up. I noticed my boss, the assistant controller, was wearing his hat as if he was on his way out. I saw a coworker put on her coat, another his sunglasses. What was going on? The whole finance team, except for me, all 8 of them, were gathering to leave and it wasn’t even quitting time. The CFO came out of the elevator and everyone left, without me.
Then the office manager, who wasn’t on the finance team, messaged me: “Omg, the CFO invited me to go to happy hour with his team, but it was last minute so I didn’t go.”
I was crushed. I felt so left out. My colleagues were grown adults who were behaving like the mean girls in elementary school.
I had been at this job for about two years and had gone through a lot as I helped my team grow. Now, I felt like I’d been left out. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was already feeling frustrated with my role here, and this got me thinking about my next opportunity at another company.
Fortunately, within about 6 months, a former colleague reached out to me with an amazing opportunity to join a Series A startup as their financial controller. This was a huge step up and I gladly accepted.
When giving notice, I quipped to my boss, the assistant controller, that I’d keep him in mind if I ever needed an assistant. He did put together a nice counter offer, and it would have been more money, but it was too little too late. I simply felt like an outsider to a company where I routinely put in 70-hour weeks.
Everyone is invited
unitQ holiday party!
Being left out taught me to value how important it is for employees to feel part of a team, of a work culture, and not to feel left out. I’ve carried that same thinking to unitQ, a growing startup where I’m the senior finance director and I also lead the human resources function from our Burlingame, Calif., office.
I plan a lot of team-building events and virtual gatherings. Everyone is invited. I care deeply that my colleagues feel included, respected and valued.
Food bank volunteering!
When new hires join, we play 2 Truths and Lie over Zoom to get to know them. We have a Coffee Chat channel in Slack where people opt in to be randomly paired with another team member. It’s been a great way to interact with our hybrid-workforce team members stationed everywhere.
Don’t mess with us!
For co-workers in the Bay Area, I organize in-person team building events. For our holiday party, we not only invited all of our US-based remote team members to join, but we paid for them to bring a guest as well to the Bay Area. It was lovely to meet our remote team members’ significant others!
In the last few months, we’ve volunteered at a local food bank. Let me not forget about our team go-karting excursion that seemed more like a smash-em-up derby. And I’m still trying to recover from the hiking trip that seemingly was uphill on the way out and back! We also have weekly company dinners, too!
Getting to know each other outside of work has helped form deeper bonds, and only improves our working relationships.
Of course, things change as companies grow and scale. As headcount increases, it makes sense that certain events and celebrations will become team specific rather than for the whole company. My advice to growing companies is to make sure that, as you scale, you don’t push people out of a team into isolation. No one likes the mean girls. No one likes to be left out.
Does planning team building events and developing a stellar company culture sound like something you’d be into? Come work for unitQ. Take a look at the job description for our new People Ops Manager role! The ideal candidate will be based in the Bay Area and work in our Burlingame office a couple days per week.
Is People Ops not your thing, but working for an awesome startup with a fun culture is your thing? Take a look at all our open jobs!