Valve's employee manual may just be the single best workplace manifesto I've ever read. Seriously: it describes a utopian Shangri-La of a workplace that makes me wish — for the first time in my life — that I had a "real" job. It is so goddamned good that I couldn't pick just one (or two) passages to quote.
Why do I need to pick my own projects?
We've heard that other companies have people allocate a
percentage of their time to self-directed projects. At Valve,
that percentage is 100.
Since Valve is flat, people don't join projects because
they're told to. Instead, you'll decide what to work on
after asking yourself the right questions (more on that
later). Employees vote on projects with their feet (or desk
wheels). Strong projects are ones in which people can
see demonstrated value; they staff up easily. This means
there are any number of internal recruiting efforts
constantly under way.
If you're working here, that means you're good at your
job. People are going to want you to work with them on
their projects, and they'll try hard to get you to do so. But
the decision is going to be up to you. (In fact, at times
you're going to wish for the luxury of having just one
person telling you what they think you should do, rather
How does Valve decide what to work on?
The same way we make other decisions: by waiting for
someone to decide that it's the right thing to do, and then
letting them recruit other people to work on it with them.
We believe in each other to make these decisions, and this
faith has proven to be well-founded over and over again.
But rather than simply trusting each other to just be
smart, we also constantly test our own decisions. Whenever
we move into unknown territory, our findings defy our own
predictions far more often than we would like to admit.
We've found it vitally important to, whenever possible,
not operate by using assumptions, unproven theories, or
While people occasionally choose to push themselves to
work some extra hours at times when something big is
going out the door, for the most part working overtime for
extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in plan-
ning or communication. If this happens at Valve, it's a sign
that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected. If
you're looking around wondering why people aren't in
"crunch mode," the answer's pretty simple. The thing we
work hardest at is hiring good people, so we want them to
stick around and have a good balance between work and
family and the rest of the important stuff in life
Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too
good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the
hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit and Stump-
town-roasted espresso, dropping off your laundry to be
washed, and heading into one of the massage rooms, don't
freak out. All these things are here for you to actually use.
And don't worry that somebody's going to judge you for
taking advantage of it—relax! And if you stop on the way
back from your massage to play darts or work out in the
Valve gym or whatever, it's not a sign that this place is going
to come crumbling down like some 1999-era dot-com start-
…Valve pays people very well compared to industry norms.
Our profitability per employee is higher than that of
Google or Amazon or Microsoft, and we believe strongly
that the right thing to do in that case is to put a maximum
amount of money back into each employee's pocket. Valve
does not win if you're paid less than the value you create.
And people who work here ultimately don't win if they get
paid more than the value they create.