Culture Scout: 4 articles that mix sweet, bitter and scary

culture scout

This week’s Culture Scout roams over the map with four articles that blend the sweet with the bitter–along with a dash of sci-fi scary. We’re also mixing it up on this week’s CultureLaunch Live, where we want to feature your questions and insights about this crazy, bittersweet working year. Please email us at and let us know how you’re feeling and coping!

1. Do better with your OOO holiday party

Many working people will cap off a pretty lousy year with an extra topping of sadness – an out-of-office holiday office party where friends won’t be gathering anywhere near to us. But be of better cheer – CNN shows some ways that companies are getting creative with virtual festivities. This year’s events range from Paypal’s 29-hour merriment marathon – complete with circus performers and cooking classes – to smaller firms’ more modest but still creative plans – from virtual mixology events to game-centric “12 days of Chrismahanukwanzakah.” 

Excerpt from the CNN article:

“ [Natalist] employees will be able to expense their lunchesto eat together virtually while playing games and doing a ‘mocktail’ show-and-tell that involves colleagues making their favorite holiday beverage and sharing the recipe. 

‘Those moments create a sense of belonging, and when employees feel they really belong somewhere, they are a lot more likely to make significant contributions, enjoy their work and are more likely to engage in a high accountability culture,’ said Chief Operating Officer Vernita Brown.”

2. Shareholder suit claims toxic culture permeated Pinterest 

A large shareholder has filed a new lawsuit against Pinterest, claiming the digital-curation giant has a toxic culture of gender and racial discrimination, The Verge reports. The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island, which is in charge of $8.5 billion in public assets, alleges in its suit that Pinterest failed to respond to “widespread” allegations of workplace bias, and violated securities laws by filing false statements about its compensation practices. Pinterest responded by saying it’s “committed to continuing our efforts to help ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported.” 

Excerpt from The Verge story:

“The CEO ‘repeatedly placed himself before the Company, surrounding himself with yes-men and marginalizing women who dared to challenge Pinterest’s White, male leadership clique,’ the complaint says. The company ignored or silenced employees who tried to speak out.”

3. The culture triumph of True Homes 

The purpose-driven culture of True Homes, a North Carolina-based construction firm, checks off all the boxes on how a great culture builds business – from employee engagement to boosting revenues (even in a pandemic). Named ‘The Best Place to Work’ since 2017 by the Charlotte Observer and ProBuilder’s 2020 Builder of the Year, it’s described by leaders as “having a heart for people,” and by employees for creating a family atmosphere in which “you feel like we’re all in it together.”

Excerpt from the ProBuilder article:

“When the pandemic interrupted life and work … the entire company moved as if it had the same heartbeat. What could have wiped out an entire second quarter of closings resulting in losing or delaying a couple dozen units … and no layoffs. The indelible takeaway for employees is not what they accomplished during the outbreak; it’s what their executive team partners did to demonstrate their love for one another.”

4. Short Stories: A sci-fi look at the future of work 

If you think there’s just been too much blather about the future of work, consider a brave, and compelling, new angle on the topic from Wired. Its ‘Future of Work’ series asks notable science fiction writers to imagine what working life will become, and they fired back short stories that are both scary and delightful. There are a lot of culture implications to be contemplated in this collection, which will unfold on the site throughout December. 

Excerpt from the introduction to Wired’s “Future of Work” series:

“Working from anywhere, we are peppered with bite-sized names that fit our lives into bite-sized bursts of productivity. Zoom. Slack. Discord. Airtable. Notion. Clubhouse. Collaboration means floating heads, pop-up windows, chat threads. While apps give us more freedom and variety in how we manage our time, they also seem to reduce our personalities to calculations divided across various digital platforms. We run the risk of collaborating ourselves into auto-automatons.”

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