Why treating your employees like adults is a radical idea

Growing a strong and relevant corporate culture today means making some bold moves - and one of the highest impact ways to do this is by cultivating safety and trust in the workplace. When there’s safety and trust, it’s easier for everyone to contribute brave ideas, give and receive feedback, and collaboratively drive results. There are many ways to accomplish this. Here are a few that contributed to Rebel.com’s now award-winning culture.

Lead with candor

We all want to perform at our best. Most of us want to know how to do better, and to understand what might be holding us back. But feedback can be hard to give and receive. That’s why it’s so important to build safe ways for employees to contribute feedback within an organization, and for leaders to model how to share and address it when it’s difficult to hear.

At Rebel.com, we provide systems for all staff to frequently communicate the hard stuff – through 1:1 chats, all-hands meetings, monthly team retrospectives, frequent surveys, and through various tools that offer anonymity if needed. When leaders address all feedback with openness and appreciation, cultures of trust and safety are born. Communicating the hard stuff gets easier, and space is made for greater collaboration, more engaged problem solving, and thoughtful team dynamics.

Don’t pretend to be flexible, be flexible

As leaders, you can’t say you are flexible about work-life balance, and then watch the clock. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have reasonable expectations around work hours, or know where your employees are. It does mean that you need to clearly communicate what flexible means to you, and then create systems that allow for work to be tracked and evaluated based on results - not hours.

At Rebel.com we run on Agile. This means that work is meticulously planned, and every team has monthly, weekly and daily check-in rituals to keep things on track. In our office, flexibility means we don’t really mind when you come and go, as long as your team knows how and when you’ll be contributing, and the work gets done. This system creates high degrees of accountability, and ensures that practicing flexibility doesn’t get in the way of progress.

Policies set the tone

This one is a little radical we know, but hear me out. Tracking and managing vacation is a huge expense. It takes managers and employees time away from productive work to instead document minor absences, and reinforces that work and rewards are all about terms of employment.

At Rebel.com we have an open vacation policy. Employees take the time they need. We simply evaluate performance based on accomplishing clear and measurable deliverables, instead of hours worked. No, this doesn’t get abused. We’ve had this policy for eight years and find that when you treat employees like adults, they reciprocate with strong work ethic and a team mentality. In fact, sometimes we need to remind employees that they’re due for a vacation.

Jana Dybinski is VP, Marketing & Culture at Rebel.com. She directs marketing strategy and culture-building initiatives that share the Rebel.com story and bolster the core belief – those who contribute make us better.