written by Sean Eagan, corps member serving on the Walmart Team at Hart Middle School
In recent years, firms and organizations have paid an increasing amount of attention to the culture of their workplace. In some companies there are large regular gatherings, retreats and picnics, Christmas parties and luncheons. In others, people keep to themselves socially, taking lunch at their desks and sharing little interaction outside of the work related. The culture of a company can be an important factor in employee morale and productivity, and is sometimes adjusted as employees and managers change. In the corporate world, these small cultural differences can seem of little significance to an outsider, but management students have studied corporate culture in their classrooms and the environment of a workplace comes up in discussion in board meetings across the country. The culture of City Year would certainly give any boardroom a lot to discuss.
City Year’s culture is unique; it reflects an organization motivated not by self interest and profit, but a desire to increase social welfare for all. Corps members may be competitive individuals, but we understand that honoring City Year Values like cooperation is the only way to achieve the organization’s lofty goals. This is where CY could easily run into a problem. Fortune 500 companies operate in competitive environments where bonuses motivate the hardest workers to increase productivity and move to the top. City Year members work the same long, stressful hours, but they are not profit motivated and they know exposing a weak colleague does more to hurt the team than help the cause. City Year’s culture has helped to tackle the stress and strain in a corps member’s day, keeping them focused and motivated while sharing the City Year mission with the public.
The City Year Unity Rally is one of the most recognizable aspects of City Year culture.
Every other Friday, corps members don their bright red jackets and seek out a public place to perform Physical Training exercises. The exercise is not particularly rigorous; it is similar to a Boy Scout troops’ formation, or a cheerleader’s chant or a football team’s pregame ritual than it is to a real workout. PT is designed to achieve the same goals as these troops and teams, to unite a diverse group of people around their common goal, and to illustrate that while one person may not be able to achieve a goal, together no problem is unsolvable.
Outside of the unity rally, there are plenty of other components of CY culture, from silly songs to callbacks to team names. To outsiders, to corporate boardrooms or even occasionally to corps members, City Year culture might seem silly or hard to understand. But City Year culture is as unique as its goal: to bring people together and emphasize that social change is only possible through cooperation. The culture stays with each corps member, reminding us that even when quitting seems like the best route, there is a whole organization that counts on you.