Work culture lessons from Brooklyn 99 for Start ups

Udita Pal
6 min readOct 1, 2021

I don’t think I can mentally put myself in a position where I can open some site and start watching Brooklyn Nine’s final season. What began as a casual show while sitting in a nice hotel because the weather screwed my plans is now a massive part of me and the culture we want to build at Salt.

When you philosophically look at TV shows, yes, many of them give life-altering lessons; someday, I will probably turn it into a series, Lessons about work culture I learned from different TV shows.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine started as a quirky cop comedy. Still, they managed to talk about issues like Homophobia, Sexual Assault, Racism, etc., in its beautiful way while leaving us with enough things to ponder upon.

A bit of fun; it kills no one: When we first started thinking of hiring a team, we wanted to find our Jake Perelata, someone who has a sense of humor, someone who lifts everyone’s mood up and at the same time manages to complete the task list with great passion. We all need someone who can tickle the funny bone in everyone without doing it at the cost of hurting someone’s emotion — a great cheerleader for the team.

Overplanning is okay: While chasing perfection should not be promoted, it must be appreciated and embraced if someone brings it onboard themselves. Amy Santiago is one of the most strong portrayals of ‘good nerd’ and strong women of today’s generation. Just like many women in today’s era, her character is not being boiled down to a stereotypical ‘powerless figure who sits on the computer all day.’ You never know how and when overmanagement will help.

Transparency is everything: Over time, we realized, being a founder is not a stick to beat employees by constantly mentioning that life is tough; instead, it is a pedestal at which we have to normalize emotions we are going through because someday your team will go through it too. At this point, our team has seen us go through so much that they respect moments of silence and moments of overwhelming pressure, they help us in any way they can, and that’s the kind of trust you only build by opening up.

We would love to get into this separately, but we need to create a comfortable environment that no gender ever feels uncomfortable. And if something like this happens, We need to make employees feel safe enough to talk about these things without worry about consequences or losing the job.

You can keep a part of you private: While we understand colleagues often turn into friends and friends are your chosen family, there should be no compulsion to open every single aspect of your life to them, you can choose to have your own pace, time and moment of trust to open up. For example, many people think Rosa Diaz as a character that will not work very well in real life. On the contrary, I see her as a great inspiration of calm, composure, and private person who still manages to be a great friend to everyone while staying in her comfort zone.

Metrosexuality deserves to be normalized: Unfortunately, people often insult men who care about themselves, their surroundings and are respectful and kind to people. We appreciate that in our company and so should everyone else. Empathy, sympathy, love, and kindness know no gender, and a patient soul who wants to help others will always contribute to culture.

A balanced voice of authority creates balanced culture: Raymond Holt is an excellent example of how you can balance your friendship with your team without affecting your professional reputation with them. There is a balance between protecting your team, being strict, letting them go every once in a while, and sometimes having fun with them, and he has done a fantastic job with it.

Diversity helps develop a solid team: We have always been very vocal with our team and outside while communicating how vital diversity is (to us and the industry). But, more importantly, respect is essential for us. We have people from different cultures, different states, different beliefs, and different areas of expertise. Still, when they sit together over lunch, the laughs, chuckles, and respect they have for each other make us proud. Hopefully, as the team grows, more people of different backgrounds, genders, and orientations will join, we will keep maturing ourselves up to a place where they feel welcomed and loved.

And we will welcome them with open arms.

Please don’t give in to stereotypes: When we think of someone crushing stereotypes (quite literally), we think of Terry, for someone of his physique and status, he is very polite, soft-spoken, and very team-driven while leaving no stone unturned for being a great father and husband to his wife. He shows a perfect balance of work and actual life. The way he treats his team is unparalleled.

Love yourself enough: Everyone should look at their team as Gina Linetti looks at herself. With tremendous confidence, love, and affirmation, they will kill it every day at whatever they do. She also teaches you to hustle to the top; while we understand there are no shortcuts to success, the journey is worth it if the long road is this amazing.

Mentorship knows no age, position, or gender: It is imperative to realize that not everyone knows everything, and knowledge grows with sharing. A great peer-to-peer bonding over understanding each other’s pain point and selling point and being there for evil and good helps create a safe place for people to be vocal about what they are going through emotionally — also, an excellent environment for learning new things while feeling shame.

Trust your team: While I understand when you are a founder, everything feels like it is your job, but I think one should let go of strings every once in a while and watch the team do something together, end to end. It is time for you to watch them fly, ‘like a proud mama hen.’

Physical and mental well-being is crucial for everyone, especially when you are a small team growing in fast pace company. It is vital to create an environment where your team can reach out to you when they need you without ‘fear’ of consequences or anger. Mistakes happen, you learn, you move on as long as you have a great culture, understand, and immense trust. Everything gets balanced out eventually.

PS: Love your dog enough, be it Cheddar or Kiwi :)

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Udita Pal

Co founder @salt.pe, making trillions of dollar industry more accessible globally