At the beginning of the year I got a call from a recruiter. “Lena”, he said, pitching a new role, “this company is like Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it.”
Well, since I decided to join GrantTree nearly six months ago, it’s safe to say I do love it. And it is the kind of place you don’t just like, or enjoy, no love is quite the correct word.
What makes GrantTree comparable to a famous yeast spread is its sharp departure from traditional organisational culture: you’ll either find it empowering to organise your own work or you’ll hate it. Instead of office hours and managers there’s self-management. Instead of top-down decisions there is a governance structure called Holacracy that allows everyone to make fundamental changes to how the company is run.
Simply put, I do find it empowering, for me, these last six months have been liberating.
On my very first day for example I attended my first ever Holacracy meeting. I eagerly tried to follow its structure using a cheat sheet – I still need to use one half a year on – but eventually just gave up and enjoyed how people were communicating with each other. No one waffled on about irrelevant bits, no one tried to big up their projects to proof they were ever so busy, no one interrupted.
Or take the fact that I’ve just come back from a three-week holiday to five, yes five, unanswered emails. Because everyone owns their own work and is in charge of communicating what they are doing as is needed, I no longer get copied into irrelevant email chains.
The most liberating aspect of GrantTree’s culture however is that I’m finally able to balance work and family. Ever since I had my first child four years ago I’ve tried to embrace both, family and a full-time job.
But in my experience the systems and structures most workplaces have in place make this impossible. Companies allow you to work flexibly or remotely but only if pre-agreed and signed off well in advance. This completely misses the reality of caring for small children. At GrantTree, if I need to work from home spontaneously, simply letting everyone know is sufficient, no sign off, no explanation, no pre-agreement needed.
Or if I need to head home early to tend to a teething, crying baby I just do so and pick up any unfinished bits in the evening. No questions asked. And why should anyone ask, I’m an adult capable of managing my own life, including my job.
The effect GrantTree’s culture of trust and ownership has had on me in just six months is profound: I am less stressed and therefore less tired and run down. I feel less fragmented and more whole, parenthood and work are no longer in conflict.
I still think the recruiter had a point, you need to be self-driven and open to ask for things or you will have a miserable experience at GrantTree, but for the right kind of person, it’s a truly nourishing environment. And for a parent it can be a complete game changer.