Work & Life: Can Company Culture Go Too Far?[Dr. Marla G.]

Culture has undeniably emerged as a potential contributor to organizational success. A healthy culture can impact a myriad of outcomes; directing behavior, encouraging cooperation and the ability to innovate. However, when does the content or strength of that culture become overpowering? I’ve had the opportunity to read the Wall Street Journal’s article, “Facebook’s Company Town”, reflecting on the organization’s recent plan to provide even more perks for its employees. The WSJ’s Reed Albergotti writes:

(Facebook) said this week it is working with a local developer to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices. Called Anton Menlo, the 630,000 square-foot rental property will include everything from a sports bar to a doggy day care. (…)

The development conjures up memories of so-called “company towns” at the turn of the 20th century, where American factory workers lived in communities owned by their employer and were provided housing, health care, law enforcement, church and just about every other service necessary.

While most of us are firm supporters of a strong and guiding culture, the article left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. Of course, I do not wish to cast doubt upon the value of work life integration – or call well-meant intentions into question. (Housing is an issue in this geographical area.) However, at what point does involvement in employees’ lives become intrusion in employees’ lives?

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