My first days as an intern at uxebu were hilarious… yes, hilarious for everyone but me: I didn’t get half of their laughs and furrowed eyebrows. Sometimes they were just looking at me astonished and baffled. Now, in retrospect, I can understand why.
I am a stranger in a foreign country, and, although Italy isn’t so far away from here, we are two very different people: we are in the PIGS, they are Germany. According to the modern economic literature, we are the boorish, they are the cool and efficient ones.
When I first arrived at uxebu, I really wanted to give a good impression: I wanted them to see that I’m a smart and polite person, no way related to the messy-Berlusconi-bunga bunga Italians (note: I didn’t say I didn’t wanted to be related to a pig; considering the industrial amount of food that I steadily devour, that would be impossible).
At the beginning, relatively to the fact of being polite, I asked for permission every time before going to the bathroom, before having a coffee, before everything… and that is where I started to see the first furrowed eyebrows: “sure you can!”; “why are you asking?” …… “STOP ASKING! You can do whatever you want”.
Yes, whatever. In this startup environment, basically everything works trusting each other. I wasn’t used to all this. Trust has to be gained, it’s not a right! Instead here things work the opposite way round: they trust in you as long as you deserve it. Trust concerns to most of the working relationships, everyday and in every situation.
And with regard to altruism? I remember when my boyfriend came to Munich to visit me. In order to see him asap, I really wanted to ask my colleagues if I could leave work half an hour before the usual time. But at the end I didn’t. I thought that the justification of my boyfriend visiting me wasn’t a good enough reason to leave earlier.
When they found out that he was coming, they told me out of their own volition “you should go home earlier today!”.
I could keep going on telling you more and more, but as you saw I don’t have the gift of synthesis, so better if I stop here with the examples.
I guess for some of you this working mindset and behaviors are completely normal, but I’m pretty sure that others are thinking “wow, lucky girl!”. Yes, I am.
“The psychology of work”…
While I was thinking about all this, I was reminded of an exam, the course’s name was “The psychology of work”… I know what you’re thinking … “that’s bullshit”. Basically you’re right, that was the typical exam after which you had the highest score ensured, therefore it was very popular. However, some of the contents were very interesting. Everything revolved around the fact of trusting the employees, being this a way to make them feel valued and respected, and by acting in this way probably the productivity at work would have increased.
What already bothered me at that time was that such a simple and obvious concept was instead so difficult to apply to the real life.
I constantly talk with people totally dissatisfied with their workplace, and the most of the reasons relate to the behavior of their bosses towards them: strong hierarchies, useless formalisms, overly strict rules of obedience to the chiefs. I mean, respect and obedience are totally fine, and in larger companies hierarchies are almost a must (trouble if not!). What I really don’t fully understand are excesses. Why? Where is the advantage of forcing people to dress in an overly formal manner? Why people aren’t allowed to have the freedom to act and think in the way that best suits them? Why don’t they realize that unhappy people work worse? (And, let’s face it, sooner or later dissatisfied people are going to speak badly of their working place, which certainly does not help the company’s image).
Perhaps startups exceed on the opposite side. But, know what? It’s completely granted to them. They are usually young, self-made, cool, working with friends in a co-working space. They can decide how to shape their one business as they prefer.
Startups are a world apart, unique and incomparable. But I still think that each of us has a lot to learn from them, both in the private life and in the businesses.
Trust should be the foundation on which to build our lives.
Obvious? Yes, Nevertheless….