Workplace Engagement

Workplace Engagement

A few months ago, I came across an incredible article written by Chuck Blakeman. It was entitled Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea. Then recently, it popped up again on my Twitter feed. It still felt so relevant and was, again, a fresh perspective that I needed.

I have always been a huge proponent of a positive and encouraging workplace environment. People laugh at Google and other “young” companies that provide food or bean bags or an on-site gym but it makes employees feel wanted and that their company cares for them.

Not only does your work environment affect your work output, but so does your buy-in. I saw this very clearly when I was employed at Target just after graduating college. The employees (or Team Members) who felt they had a stake in the company, their section, the outcome, worked harder and smarter. They didn’t complain about coming in early or staying late, or doing something beyond their job description. The people I worked with who couldn’t care less about their job were transient. They didn’t stay long, they made problems, and were generally a pain in the butt.

But there is a different, yet similar issue in many workplaces. Chuck Blakeman says:

Employees are Children
This view of work (and life) turned adults back into children. You were taught that the most mature person was one who obediently took orders, did what they were told, didn’t question authority, was blindly loyal to those in charge, and lived passively as others directed their lives. Pretty much what we want a four year old to do.

In order to keep the children from ruining the house, and to make them extensions of machines, the Industrial Age boxed people in with extremely clear and narrow limitations on what they could do, the hours in which they could do them, and endless limitations on being human and “adult” at work. It stripped them of their need to think, create and solve because the machine didn’t need them to think, create and solve. It just needed them to do.

Let me give you a few highlights and then I suggest you read the whole article here.

 

“Employees are “Silent”

Employees are Children
This view of work (and life) turned adults back into children. You were taught that the most mature person was one who obediently took orders, did what they were told, didn’t question authority, was blindly loyal to those in charge, and lived passively as others directed their lives. Pretty much what we want a four year old to do.

Employees Are a Disease, not a Cure
Because of the Industrial Age, the word “employee” has become synonymous with “child”.

Stakeholders are Adults

Stakeholders Require Leadership, not Adult Supervision

Stakeholders Focus on Work, not Promotion to the Next Title

Stakeholders Create Better Teams

Stakeholders are Self-Motivated

Stakeholders Make You and Themselves More Money

 

So why in the world would you want an employee when you can have (and easily so) stakeholders?

Another article that came across my desk recently was entitled What I got wrong in the Peanut Butter Manifesto by Brad Garlinghouse. He originally wrote and internal memo at Yahoo that was leaked and “made it big.” More than six years later he revisits this idea and addresses some gaps he sees. Here is a quote form his article:

Yahoo!’s strength had emanated from the passion and entrepreneurial zeal of its employees, but these muscles had atrophied. The company’s core culture no longer encouraged and celebrated innovation with the same zest and ardent ambition to change the world—too often this had been displaced by half-hearted maintenance of the status quo.

Marissa’s immediate focus on improving the company culture to make Yahoo! a great place to work again is evidence that this inertia endured. Though people can deride perks like free food and iPhones (or giving everyone an iPad mini for Christmas!) as buying loyalty with trinkets and toys, there is an underlying—and more fundamental—impact.

Whether you give people the latest gadget or deck your office space with beanbags and foosball tables, the point is to make work a fun, interesting and inspirational place to be. The Shower Principle (thank you, Jack Donaghy) states that great solutions are often conceived when your mind is not focused on the problem. Sometimes interactions need to happen beyond the ping of an email or the (god forbid) drone of a PowerPoint presentation.

Do you see the trend here? Abuse your employees, whether obviously or subtlety and they won’t do the work as well as you want them to do. Honor their creativity as human beings and professionals in their field, understand that they have lives and issues outside of the workplace, and be compassionate and you will receive the work product you want and deserve.

Now by no means am I recommending to be irresponsible or reckless in these tactics. They are just that, tactics… not meant to bankrupt a company or interfere with work but to enhance it.

So what do you think? Are employees and thin peanut butter here to stay or are we starting a revolution lead by stakeholders?

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Comments

  1. Talia,

    It’s an honor to have you building on the thoughts from my blog on this subject. Thank you. I too, had just seen Brad Garlinghouse’s Peanut Butter Manifesto a couple weeks ago.

    We’re not alone in seeing the world moving away from the Industrial Age view of “employees” and the other “business diseases” of the Industrial Age. Let’s keep challenging people to make meaning, not just money. If we do, we’ll all make more of both. Best, Chuck

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