Photo by SliceofNYC

I am a member of a Linkedin group called: “Harvard Business Review – Reader’s Forum” where discussions are being held around topics that appear in HBR. One of these ongoing discussions revolves around the following questions: “Is it beneficial for a company to allow its employees to use social media at work for personal usage? Why?”

I personally not only think it is beneficial, I also think it is inevitable. Many participants, however, disagree. Today, these two comments were added to the discussion:

I strongly discourage such social networking at work, not only it creates distraction at work, it also increases the risk of information security. There are other ways to promote social networking by placing PCs outside the work zone where people can use open internet (and remember not to put chairs there : ) ).

Would you let your workers go visit family and friends and having nice time during office hours….. definitely NO……..then there is no reason we should let this culture permeate through our work culture via any other medium (social networking sites), i agree with (name taken off)… rather that barring such activities all together….. one can keep them for those leisure seconds during work….by making them a part of the leisure zone where one can one can easily curse their work and bosses…

These kinds of comments make me both sad and angry. Not because I disagree with them. It is ok to have conflicting opinions and not everybody should think like me. Moreover, I am sure that there are some circumstances, be they cultural or contextual, where my opinion might be wrong and it will be a good idea to ban social media.

What made me sad and angry is that the people who wrote these comments hold a world view that sees employees as chattel. They see employees as cogs in a machine. What I imagine them thinking to themselves as they write these comments is something like this: “We need to make sure the employees work all the time. We must be productive. If they want to ‘socialize’ they can do it in a cage. Not on our time’.

While this kind of approach might work for certain industries I believe it is not going to work for most. And if in your place of work employees have the potential to access social media , your place of work is probably in the list of places where this kind of approach is not only irrelevant, it is detrimental to the work itself.

Seth Godin wrote in his blog today:

The easiest form of management is to encourage or demand that people do more. The other translation of this phrase is to go faster.

The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.

I agree. Better. Not faster. Not more. Not cheaper. If we want people to do better, we have to let go of the mechanisms of control designed to stimulate productivity. We have to celebrate and stimulate passion. We have to stop fearing what we don’t know. We have to treat our employees as partners, not as serfs. We have to trust them and enable them to do their work on their own terms and hold them accountable. We should respect them. The comments quoted above show disrespect for other people. And I think disrespect for other people is reason enough for me to be both sad and angry.




Musings about teamwork inspired by @gapingvoid


I got the above cartoon as part of Hugh Macleod (@gapingvoid) daily newsletter (sign up for it here). This is what he wrote about it:

I got this line off of a generic “Teamwork” motivational poster. Then just to be my usual sardonic self, I added a bunch of oppressed, Stalinist worker slaves.

If this doesn’t get everybody “Soaring Like Eagles”, I don’t know what will…

I totally emphasize. In the last few weeks I am doing a lot of research work in the area of teamwork. It is surprising to find how much the academic and popular literature takes this kind of view towards teamwork.

The idea that someone “from above” will “direct” the individual accomplishments is not only outdated, it is insulting. It reminds of me of how serfs were treated in the old days.

Instead, we need to understand that teamwork, like passion, creativity and initiative (all the required ingredients for success in the today economy) are emergent properties. Teamwork is not about doing what the boss says. It is about Synergy. And Synergy cannot be commanded and controlled from above. It can only be emerge by an enabling atmosphere.



Re-recruiting employees

Photo by bgottsab


Adam Bryant conducted an interview with Linda Heasley, president and chief executive of The Limited, and published it on The New York Times. Interesting interview overall and I loved this quote:

Q. And what’s your philosophy of leadership?

A. I believe that it’s not about me. I believe it’s very much about the team. I believe that my associates can work anywhere they want, and my job is to re-recruit them every day and give them a reason to choose to work for us and for me as opposed to anybody else.

So it’s about making it fun. It’s about making it exciting. It’s about keeping them marketable. I encourage people: “Go out and find out what the market bears. You should do that and then come back and help me figure out what you need in your development that you’re not getting, because we owe you that.”

Usually managers, consciously or unconsciously believe that everybody working with them should be thankful. That going out looking for alternatives is a kind of betrayal. I wrote in the past on the tendency of managers to look at the people working with them as serfs. If you are the king, everybody needs to be loyal to you. But just like the best kings in the fairy tales, the best managers understand, that the power of a manager comes not from fear and blind loyalty, but from giving, trusting and serving others. The manager is the serf and not the other way around.

Bruce Temkin wrote about the same quote from this interview in his blog:

This is the right attitude. Every manager should take on the personal responsibility of making their team members continuously chose to be on their team. Often times, that means preparing them with skills to leave the team… or to leave the company. When you can no longer re-recruit someone, it’s probably time for him/her to leave.

I agree. By treating employees like partners and not like subordinates we let go of the fear and enjoy the benefits of trust and human connection. Yes, some will leave. Yes, some will take advantage of you. But most won’t. Most will revel in the trust you put in them and will reach levels of performance unparalleled because you, as a manger, are there to make sure that they have what they need and because you both know that they are there as a result of a choice.


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