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Is your company culture the upside down?: 7 ways to battle organisational Demigorgons


Full disclosure; Here at FPB we are “Stranger Things” nuts. The third series came out on Netflix a couple of weeks ago and we rinsed it in the first weekend.

So after the binge, we were all in the common room of FPB towers making milkshakes, discussing where we could get 80’s trainers, t-shirts and truckers cap whilst singing “Neverending story” by Limahl and we started to think about how could we possibly incorporate “Stranger Things” into the work we do?

After discussing and discounting the possibility of playing moody synth music during all our workshops or running them in Hawkins, Indiana; the narrative was actually pretty clear.

This is the basic premise of the series (thanks Wikipedia):

“Stranger Things is set in the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the early 1980s. The nearby Hawkins National Laboratory ostensibly performs scientific research for the United States Department of Energy, but secretly does experiments into the paranormal and supernatural, including those that involve human test subjects. Inadvertently, they have created a portal to an alternate dimension, "the Upside Down". The influence of the Upside Down starts to affect the unknowing residents of Hawkins in calamitous ways”

The ‘upside down’ is a dark reflection of the world above, full of shadows and monsters that begin to invade the “normal” world above. If you don’t tackle the monsters below they will escape and dismantle everything that has been built above…


I have definitely worked with organisations like that. A wonderful customer facing brand, a shiny image but with an internal employee brand and company culture full of shadows and monsters that begin to pull that apart and possibly ultimately destroy it. There are high profile examples of this, I’m sure you can think of some yourself, where a negative company culture has affected the power of the brand on the outside; Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation, Oxfam, Uber and look at the money that was wiped off Facebooks share value over recent years.

Is your company culture the ‘upside down’?

Have no fear. Like a group of eighties teenagers on BMX’s, we are here to help. Here are 7 FPB power ups to fight the rising darkness.

  1. AS ABOVE SO BELOW – Treat your employees as you expect them to treat your customers. I once worked with a large leisure chain who expected the employees to give five star customer service. The staff room, uniforms and treatment was at a lower level than MacDonalds. Engagement was low, NPS was low, attrition was high as were customer complaints. Not rocket science right?

  2. LEADERS HAVE TO ROLE MODEL – “Do as I say, not what I do.” doesn’t work. As a leader you must role model what you expect. A while back I was working on a large leadership away day. At the beginning, the CEO gave a great speech about “you get out of the day what you put in, we’ve invested in today so you need to be present etc”. He spent the rest of the day on his laptop and on his phone. What signal do you think that sent out to everyone that was there.

  3. IS THE WAY YOUR WORKING, WORKING? – Flexibility, trust, hours etc. Just because you can see people at their desk doesn’t mean they are being productive.

  4. TRANSPARENCY AND CLARITY ABOUT YOUR STRATEGY AND VISION – Allow everyone to contribute, and when things aren’t going well include them in the solution. Lack of transparency allows the monsters to rise.

  5. VALUES AND BEHAVIOURS - Make sure they are relevant, build from the bottom up. AND THEY APPLY TO EVERYONE. Be prepared to make difficult decisions if they are not being upheld. If someone is delivering numbers but behaving like Judd Apatow in “The Breakfast Club”…they got’s to go. Think about the affect they are having on those around them and their ability to perform.

  6. INSIDE OUT - Your internal and external brand should be the same! Sure, have different articulations, but your front and back facing purpose and values should be the same. What’s wrong with your customers knowing what your employee brand is, what you stand for? Customers are buying more ethically. People don’t want to buy a product however nice it is if it is created in non-ethical manner.

  7. LEAD THE LISTENING - Pay attention to your employee engagement surveys. If you ask for input, DO SOMETHING WITH IT. And do it more than every six months. What could you learn from pulse checks?

So that’s just a starter. If you’ve got any questions about any of this, give us a shout and we’ll grab a coffee.

And if in doubt #bemoredustin

And if you think this is all “touchy feely HR stuff”, put on the synth music and wait for the darkness to rise.


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