- Everyone wants to be kind to each other and see each other be happy.
- Everyone wants Bungie to be successful and to become a better and better place to work.
- We want people to feel comfortable being goofy, authentic, and unguarded while at work. We want people to feel that they can bring their whole selves to work and express themselves freely, while feeling psychological safety.
By default, number three opens an incredibly wide space of acceptable behavior, while the combination of one and two gives us some safety buffer when something in three inadvertently offends (for any number of reasons, not limited to ID&E-related scenarios).
However, we don’t rely on that safety buffer for everything—we’re not building a culture where you can say anything you want and everyone has to tolerate it. This is explicitly unlike the broader US legal system (guaranteed free speech in public spaces, etc.) Bungie’s explicit intent is to pursue shared goals with high cohesion and trust, so we want to be a tighter-knit and less-combative group than the country at large, so we design and evolve our culture to support that goal. So, we go back to that wide open space of personal expression and we add some guardrails to reduce the potential for conflict and hopefully increase overall psychological safety. For example:
- At Bungie it’s not OK to be unwelcoming in ways that are widely recognized as such in US culture.
- For example, you’re expected to know that it’s not OK to use any racist slur.
- At Bungie it’s not OK to be unwelcoming to people in ways that we know matter to them, even in ways that seem more accepted by broader US culture.
- If someone at Bungie tells us “I personally find this unwelcoming,” we take that incredibly seriously.
- This is closely related to the Platinum Rule: we treat others as they would like to be treated, rather than as we would like to be treated.
- This isn’t only about traditional ID&E and URG scenarios, it’s also about following patterns that support a collaborative culture with high psychological safety—a culture that is deeply welcoming to human beings and their talents, and where it feels safe to be vulnerable and to make mistakes. Here are some examples of constraints we place on naive free expression to pursue that goal:
- It’s not OK to tear down the morale and alignment of the people around you with cynicism. There’s lots of subtlety in the line between cynicism and candid criticism, which we do want!
- Candid criticism is encouraged, even in groups, as long as it’s straightforward, respectful, constructive, and doesn’t ascribe evil motives or incompetence to others. If criticizing someone’s work helps make it better, that’s wonderful, but remember that you want them to be happy. Make sure that your style of criticism reflects that intention. Of course, it’s possible to take gentleness of criticism too far here—we don’t want to be a culture where we’re all talking in deeply-couched euphemisms about how the emperor might be a tad underdressed for the weather. You’ll want to tune your bar as you work with people—the typical loop is to try what you think is a friendly critique style for the situation, and then ask for feedback afterwards! Sometimes the person will say, “Yeah, that hurt my feelings a bit, I wish you’d done X,” and sometimes they’ll say, “You spent way more time on disclaimers than you needed to, you can be more direct!”
- If you think that a leader’s decision is wrong, and you spread cynicism and FUD about that among your peers instead of escalating it to that leader in a professional way, that’s not OK.
- If you catch someone in a mistake, and you call them out on it in a hurtful way, that’s not OK—we don’t want people to fear that negative emotional experiences will be the result of any mistakes, because that results in (a) excessive caution and (b) hiding mistakes rather than learning from them.
- Demagogic point-scoring in groups is not OK (leveling a rhetorical attack that sounds compelling but is actually oversimplified or deceptive).
- In virtually all cases, punching down is worse than punching up in these areas—there’s more of an onus on leaders to consistently create psychological safety because of their relative power and security. These guidelines do still apply across any pair of people in the company though—it would be much worse for the CEO to personally insult an associate engineer than vice versa, but neither is OK.
- There are many more examples like this across our Values Handbook.
With those kinds of guardrails constraining the space of acceptable personal expression, our initial wide space of tolerance-of-expression is now a good bit smaller, but we believe that this makes our culture stronger, especially for the purpose of combining our strengths to make great games!”
Excerpt from the Tone and Inclusivity Guidelines for Bungie Engineering & Test