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The Pros and Cons of High Performing Environments


The Pros and Cons of High Performing Environments

If you are struggling to find the pros of working in a high performance position, consider this article from Paul Millerd.

Intense hard work within a great culture can be one of the greatest things in the world. It’s also damn hard to find.

I’ve experienced three stretches of working in such environments, one of which was my entire two years at McKinsey when I was 23. This experience was the greatest thing for my own skill development but also the worst because every work experience after that was disappointing. We like to think that we as individuals can conjure up great work through great effort. But it’s not true. We are only capable of what our environment allows.

Brie Wolfson shared a fantastic reflection on working at Stripe, a place that pushed her incredibly hard but was also immensely rewarding. For example:

My colleagues chimed in on my work—because I asked them to, and because it made the work better, not because they didn’t trust me. Once, the CFO called me after sending out notes from a “postmortem” I ran to remind me that we should use the word “retrospective” instead (it’s more reflective of what we were doing and a lot less morbid). My work was meticulously but warmly critiqued by my peers and leaders alike, and my work got better and better because of it.

If I never experienced a similar thing at McKinsey, I might write Brie off as delusional. A workaholic. But at McKinsey, I received similar kinds of criticism and by the end of my time there, craved it.

People get critiqued all the time in the workplace but rarely do they get to experience it in a culture of people that actually give a damn about their work. Brie talks about skipping a vacation and not regretting it because of how much people cared at Stripe:

Once, my manager asked me to reconsider the vacation I had been planning because my team needed me. “If you go, who will cover your work?” I looked around at my colleagues who were also regularly working 15-hour days and decided to stay put. I’m proud of that choice. Call me masochistic, but I have to admit that it felt good to care about anything that much. And, to be around people who I know cared that much too.

You might think this is counter to what I write about here on Boundless.

Would I have taken the vacation? Almost definitely. Would I have tried to work less than fifteen hours a day while still doing good work? Also 100% yes. But I also completely understand what Brie is talking about.

When you are around people that give a damn it is infectious.


Key points include:

  • Stumbling from job to job
  • The magic of good hard work
  • Experiences in high-performing environments


Read the full article, Working Hard and Having Fun?, on LinkedIn.