37signals Employee Handbook
For over 10 years, we didn’t have a handbook. In those 10 years, when a new person joined the company, they were expected to figure things out for themselves. But when we grew from a company of 10, 20, 30 employees to now a company of over 80, our “introduction by immersion” style stopped working. New hires felt lost and isolated, and their first weeks or even months on the job were stressful because of it. It can be unnerving to join any company, but perhaps 37signals in particular, given how different some of our practices are. There’s as much to unlearn as there is to learn. Prior to this handbook, navigating that path was both somewhat random and almost entirely oral. For a company that prides itself on clarity and writing, that just wasn’t right.
So, this is where we’ll try to share what’s worth knowing about 37signals the company, our culture, our process, and our history. It’s a guide to understanding what people are talking about when they call for “judo” (redefining a hard problem into an easy one) or whether it’s okay to take your vacation when you’ve only been with us for a month (yes).
This handbook also offers us an opportunity to clarify who we actually are as a company. What do we stand for? How should we work? Codifying those beliefs into a handbook makes them tangible and, most importantly, editable. Making the company our best product is a guiding principle, but we can’t easily improve what we haven’t articulated. So whatever version of this handbook you’re reading, you can be sure it’s not the last. Please do help keep it up to date! And by up to date, we’re not just talking about misspellings and team changes. It’s just as much “we say we’re about X, but what we’re really doing is Y”. So many of these employee handbook projects turn out to be ideal-case prescriptions rather than real-world descriptions. They cover all the ways people should act, not the ways they actually do. That’s a sham. Let’s not write a handbook like that. Let’s keep it honest.
If you’re reading this just after joining the company, it’s particularly on you, actually. It’s harder for us slowly-boiled frogs who’ve been with 37signals for a while to spot the broken ways. Please take advantage of that glorious, shiny ignorance of being new, and question things.