Atoms on “Give a Shit” – the Quintessential Atomic Value

When we ask clients or interviewees to name their favorite Atomic value, most say, “Give a shit.” It’s pretty unusual as corporate values go (they’re usually more like “quality” and “service”), so I always assumed that’s why it stands out.

But now I’m not so sure. The experience of writing these posts has shown me that “give a shit” isn’t just the most unusual Atomic value, it’s also the quintessential Atomic value. It’s the value that explains why we do all the other ones. As Shawn Crowley said:

“Give a shit” seems like the foundation of all the other values. “Give a shit” is a predisposition. “Owning it” is a manifestation of “giving a shit.”

We “give a shit” by striving to do everything well, at all times, in all situations.


1. Give a shit about people, not just projects.

If we chose, we could all work at companies where designers and developers never interact with clients or users. But we’d rather be at Atomic, doing the hard work of figuring out and responding to people’s real needs.

This includes the people who hire us:

We act like we’re spending our own time and money — not our clients’. We strive to optimize value. We actively worry and innovate to deliver results. We thrive on validation of quality and success, and that means a focus on efficiency and effectiveness for our clients.
– Shawn Crowley

Our clients receive top-notch work and a professional experience. We are invested in the work, and do what is required to make it what the customer needs.
– Justin Kulesza

It means continually working to go deeper in understanding my clients’ needs and goals for their project. It also means understanding what they need as a person to do their job well.
– Brittany Hunter

It includes the people who use the software we create:

We represent their user and the value the product provides to them. We understand that anything less than the best will impact the client’s bottom line and the user’s experience with the product.
– Jenny Carroll


And it includes the people who sit next to us every day:

Keeping an eye on other atoms to monitor their well being and checking in with them.
– Jeanette Head

Household duties, caring about colleagues when they need support, lending an ear or helping a colleague on a project outside of their own work. And doing this consistently!
– Jenny Carroll

Shoveling a snowy entrance walkway, not because it’s your job, but because you care about others. Helping a client over IM even if they are not your current project client.
– Karlin Fox

2. Give a shit about the results, not just your tasks.

Atoms take pride in the products they build. We aren’t here to check a few things off our to-do list, clock 8 hours, and then go home. We work at Atomic because we love making cool stuff, and making it well.

To me, it means caring deeply about what I do. I don’t do poor-quality, mediocre work: I take the time and energy to be sure that I’m doing quality job.
– Justin Kulesza

It means that I rarely say things like “that’s not my job” or “somebody else will take care of that detail.” We all need to be watching out for the details. If there’s a problem in an application, and I can’t fix it, I need to find somebody on my team who can and work with them to get it done.
– Brittany Hunter


3. Give a shit about getting better.

Because all of Atomic’s products are unique, how we work is extremely important. Software is our craft, and we’re always sharpening our tools.

We’re constantly working to improve our practices in design and development. We give a shit about being the best at those things. Our clients benefit from having the some of the best people in their business working on their projects.
– Brittany Hunter

Since we’re a consultancy, we need to stay actively informed about ongoing developments in our respective domains, or our skills will depreciate.
– Scott Vokes

4. Give a shit, even when it gets difficult.

Every job involves tasks that are hard to do — mentally, emotionally, interpersonally. Giving a shit means doing them anyway, and not letting yourself settle for “good enough.”

It’s addressing hard problems head-on, sweating the details, doing the right thing, being consistent, being responsive.
– Karlin Fox

Initiating a hard conversation on budget with a customer before it’s too late. Challenging our clients on their assumptions about features, users, and the product itself.
– Carl Erickson

It also means I don’t mentally check out at 5 PM. My mind is often going late into the night about things i can do to improve Atomic or promote it to outsiders, ways I can serve my clients better, how to solve hard problems on my projects.
– Brittany Hunter


5. Give a shit about the company.

Atomic has great leadership, but it couldn’t have grown into the strong, diverse, constantly-evolving company it is today if “keeping Atomic awesome” wasn’t part of everyone’s job.

Participatory governance of Atomic is a huge example of giving a shit. It wouldn’t work out if people didn’t care deeply about the company. It can result in some pretty interesting conversations/conflicts at times, but it means that everyone’s caring about and wrestling with what it means to be and run our company. It also means we’re conscious about getting the company’s name out there and participating in marketing efforts — being aware of sponsorship opportunities, people we should connect with on a professional level, events we should attend, etc.
– Brittany Hunter

Not allowing yourself to live with unresolved fear, uncertainty, doubt and anger about your job or the company. Bringing new ideas into the company and teaching others. Not letting yourself get rusty. Looking for opportunities for Atomic, and bringing them to the company.
– Carl Erickson

Being vigilant of Atomic’s culture (who we work with, how we act and treat each other).
– Shawn Crowley

Six Words

I asked everyone to summarize “give a shit” in just six words. These are my favorite answers.

  • We feel compelled to do right. – Karlin Fox
  • Doing the needed, not just requested. – Justin Kulesza
  • Ensuring a task gets done right. – Shawn Crowley
  • Deliver great quality no matter what. – Jenny Carroll
  • Nobody says, “that’s not my job.” – Brittany Hunter

This is the last post in a series on Atomic’s values, described by the Atoms themselves:

  1. Own it.
  2. Share the pain.
  3. Teach and learn.
  4. Act transparently.
  5. Give a shit.


  • Dax Fohl says:

    I noticed a while back it briefly changed to “care deeply”. Not quite the same impact.

  • Steven M. Stewart says:

    “give a shit”…perfect for the state that gives you the homicidal uber driver
    Was the CEO an ex-con? …No class sums it up…and one might presuppose your “corporate culture” lacks the intellectual capacity i.e. fully functional brain matter to fathom a more eloquent and meaningful descriptor. We can safely assume the company is run by a clueless vapid lefty…devil may care about the details…whoever came up with the idea for “give a shit” is a complete and utter moron ,

    • Paul W Hillman says:

      Wow, this guy, Steven, seems to not “get it,” does he? After working in this industry for 30 years, I read “give a shit, ” and I love it!! It isn’t vulgar; it is authentic. It uses everyday language to convey what your people care about. I congratulate you for not sugar-coating it and just calling it for what it is. I’m also impressed that you let trolls comment on your page and don’t pull down their comments. Clearly, when you created these are core values, you knew it was going rattle a few cages, and you are confident enough in your own skin to handle people like Steven.

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