Somebody Doesn't Work Here

A story about early Slack culture.

Somebody should fix that!

Somebody should do something about that!

Somebody should say something!

It’s easy to be a critic. It’s easy to find flaws. It’s easy to demand that “somebody” do something. But guess what? “Somebody” doesn’t work here.

One of my favorite stories of Slack of Slack cultural from the early days when the team was small is when someone would say, quite naturally, one of these phrases. “Hey, I noticed this is broken. Somebody should fix that.” The response would be “Yeah but somebody doesn’t work here”. If the problem is going to get fixed, yes, somebody will need to fix it. Somebody doesn’t work here, but you do.

When I was in Zurich a few years ago I was in awe of just how clean it was… everywhere! The water was crystal clear. The streets were free of trash. Everything was in order. The difference was so stark in contrast to San Francisco where I had just been that I was astounded. How does Zurich stay so clean? But as I was walked hastily in the morning rush on my second day, a gentleman a pace in front of me abruptly stopped dead in his tracks. I almost unattentively plowed right into the back of him! As I regained my balance, he calmly reached into his pocket, pulled out a tissue, crouched down and picked up a discarded cigarette butt in the tissue. Then he walked 30 paces out of his way and dropped it into a trash can. I stood amazed. Damn, that’s how they do it. People care with a sense of collective ownership. When they see something out of sorts, they don’t just say something, they invest and do something about it.

So the next time you hear yourself uttering “ugh, somebody should…”, remember “somebody” isn’t here, but you are. Instead of waiting for somebody to show up, be somebody who steps up.

h/t Johnny Rogers