Catchy headline from a New Republic article a few weeks back. I’d like to highlight three things:
It seems like an age-old lesson; because it is. If you give someone power over something or someone; almost always they want more, as yes, we’re using power=authority for the time being. So we add checks and balances (usually policy, more management, etc.), eventually over time, the folks that have power create a system to 1) retain 2) add to their power. Hierarchy is created, tenure is invented. All for what purpose? To better the company, to “help” others get “better.” CEO pay has risen and is at an all-time high, topping 300x or more over the average worker in the company. Who can oppose that?
Simple point, few people like being told what to do and how to do it. Professional workers, don’t need overseers, they don’t need to be told how to do something. How would you like being told what to do all day long, month after month? How would you like being told HOW to do your job? I’d venture to guess most if not all people don’t.
People should manage projects, not other people. That might even stem workplace politics. Have another post coming on this… stay tuned.
Freedom makes people happy
Freedom from management allows people to do. If we’re paying people to manage products, the result is the production of a good or service. If we pay people to manage people, the result is bureaucracy and more workplace politics. People in professional environments are expected to be task-driven.
Do X by Y; that’s pretty simple. I don’t need an overseer to make sure I do X by Y, because that’s what the product/project manager does. If I don’t get my X’s done, it’s coaching time. If X gets done, but not by Y, maybe we need a larger conversation, with the team (who should also be experts on their professional role). If this is sounding like Scrum, you’ve got it. Let groups of people decide goals and outcomes. Groups are always smarter than individuals; and while we’re at it, add more women already. Groups don’t need leaders, but need clearly defined outcomes.
Also, being able to express yourself, makes people happy. Why wouldn’t this translate to the workplace… it does! Goofing off and being yourself are two different things. Should it really matter if I’m wearing a t-shirt or a suit… as long as I get my X done by Y? I can speak from experience, me working in a t-shirt is much more productive than that of a suit… and yes, in consulting I’ve done both (the workplace suit dates back to the 1800s). I know some people can’t handle expression and still work with others. That’s a culture and individual problem… and chances are those people don’t belong in a professional workplace anyways.
Happy people work harder and longer and better
Is DA appropriate here? I don’t even need science to back this up, though a quick Google search is all one needs. Think about it, personally, are you at your best when you’re pissed off and sad? Most certainly the answer to that is no. Allowing people to wear the clothes they want, have the color hair, or body art; that makes people happy, and thus more productive. Do onto others the way you want done on to you is about the only rule the office place needs. If someone is acting out, or behaving in a way that’s disruptive, the group almost always corrects. Anonymous reporting and monthly happiness meetings? Maybe.
Oh, and while you’re at it, turn the damn thermostat up already!
Originally published 2/21/2016.
About the author:
Andrew lives in Portland, OR and has worked in tech for over 15 years. With a foundation in philosophy, political theory, and communications, he is an avid thinker & tinkerer, constantly learning and exploring the world around us.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License © 2019.