Liz Gannes

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Charlie Ergen on Dish’s Company Culture: It’s Not That We’re Mean, It’s That We’re Like an Indiana Jones Movie

Dish Chairman and co-founder Charlie Ergen is well-known for being combative both inside and outside the office.

In an onstage interview at D: Dive Into Media, CharlieErgen1Ergen specifically addressed the description in a recent Businessweek story of Dish as “the meanest company in America,” and himself as the meanest boss.

Ergen called the story a superficial take on Dish. It’s not a good thing that Dish was the single worst-rated employer on Glassdoor last year, he said, but Dish’s culture of hard work has its own merits.

“It takes a lot of guts to work at this company,” Ergen said. “We’re a little bit like an Indiana Jones movie, where we’re always in trouble and we always get out of it. We’re going from alligators to arrows to snakes.”

Dish’s culture is about pride, adventure, hard work and personal responsibility, according to Ergen. But no, it’s not a place that charges five cents for a fork in the cafeteria, he said.

At that point, the Ergen session turned into a military pep talk. “There are only two kinds of employees that I’ve run across in 30 years,” he said. “There are ones that get results, and ones that make excuses. If you’re in that second camp, you’re not going to like Dish.”

“I care about our employees more than anybody in my company. I care about my kids, too, but that doesn’t mean I give them everything that they want.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik