Posts Tagged ‘employee’

How Apple is Helping Microsoft

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

When I started working, decades ago, the work place comprised of cabins and cubicles. The senior managers occupied cubicles and us, lower rungs, sat around in cubicles.

One took an appointment to meet one’s boss, because the doors were made of wood or had frosted glass thus not knowing if she, or he, would be busy. Similarly when the boss wanted to talk to you, he had to send his secretary out looking for you, or he came himself.

As you can imagine it was an office with ‘formality’.

Yet a lot of physical activity. Walking to and fro from cabins and cubicles. This movement created a sense of motion in the office and more importantly you met colleagues as they were walking the corridor. That gave opportunity for conversation, office gossip and a few laughs. Many a friend I have made in those years.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago with the emergence of  the open office. Except the head of office or the managing director, everyone sat in full view of the rest. Even the 2 – 3 cabins that existed seldom had floor to ceiling walls and the doors were always simple see through glass. This created a new dynamic. A visible office. You saw your team mates. Other colleagues. If you wanted to see if a specific person was in her/his seat all you needed to do was stand up and spot the head.

And then use the phone. Or shout across the hall.  Sometimes conversations would be conducted in this manner. This invariably got some smart aleck remarks too. In addition to the visible, it also was the noisy office.

Irrespective of the office type there was an energy in the office.

Fast forward to today. We are still in the open office mode. (My current office is as open as can be. We don’t even have partitions separating two work spaces). But what’s happened is that we now have silent offices. There is very little cross office conversation. Barely anyone walks around either.

What you do see however is that nearly everyone has two wires sticking out of their ears. Yes the ipod. It’s changed everything. Everyone has one. Maybe 2 or 3. When they are at their work station they are plugged into the network as much as the ipod. And that has completely changed the dynamics of the workplace. Not much walking. Not much talking.

Silence reigns. (Here I refer to advertising agencies where the change has been dramatic. I find client organisations have been like this for pretty much all the time that I remember visiting them. Their offices have also physically changed to the open office. But the silence has always been there.)

Even if one called out to a person you wouldn’t get a response. I am a ‘walk up to the person’ kind of person. Not a shout across the hall type. And even I find, that it is not just enough to walk up to the person, you need to even tap the shoulder.

What I have seen growing alarmingly in the work space now is Instant Messaging. And here I mean people chatting with their colleague sitting a few spots away or even across them. It saves the walk. It guarantees attention, as you cannot ignore the flashing blue tab in the bottom of your screen.

If you have an ipod IM becomes your prefered mode of communication. And given MSNs dominance in this space, Apple is basically helping Microsoft grow. I imagine the two Steves have frequent laughs over this.

As more people move to communicating via IM, the less conversations will we see. And ideas come out of conversations.

Will one day companies have to ask people to turn off their ipods like you turn off your phones on a flight? The phones go off for the safety of the plane. Will ipods need to go off for the safety of the organisation?



What kind of manager are you?

September 14, 2009 1 comment

A recent conversation with a colleague got me thinking about the Q above.

He and I were talking about his earlier job and two bosses he’d worked with.

I knew both the bosses. The widely held perception is that boss 2 who we’ll call J was a much better person to work with than boss 1 who we’ll call M.

J was easy going, bright, approachable and had a reasonably good track record in the company.

M was bright, but a bully, low EQ, and generally not well liked, but a star in the company nevertheless.

They are both from the same background ethnically and from an education perspective.

And they were managing an office in an ‘alien’ culture.

I mention all this so that you have a context.

So back to the chat I had.

My colleague said that M was a greater success than J and that people in office remembered M more fondly than J.

I was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted.

M was known to shout at people, micro manage, etc. Yet he was viewed positively?

Then my colleague explained.

He said M treated everyone at start poorly. So essentially your opening account with him was 0. Then through interactions with him your score improved. And as the score improved you got treated better. Hence you felt a sense of development and achievement. This motivated the employee to do more and set off a virtuous upward spiral.

J was the exact opposite. Everyone was treated like they were a star. An extremely valued member of the team. You felt great. And as expected, as time went by and actual work interactions occurred. Some times you did well, and many times you did not meet expectations. And when you did not meet expectations, your ‘points’ reduced. Which meant that it impacted subsequent interactions. And this in turn set off a downward spiral.

So with M your relationship could improve and often did. With J there was only one way. Down.

So over a period of time staff felt a greater sense of achievement with M than they did with J.

Now factor in two other attributes.

Culture: Often this is an inhibitor in clearly defining expectations in the first place. And in this particular case J & M were in a land where English was not the first language. So one can imagine the issues around explaining expectations.

Feedback: As I blogged months ago, most organisations are not good at giving negative feedback. So in the case of J when expectations were not met, the true feedback never came. Just a sense of distance and ‘points reduction’

This got me thinking about Theory X and Theory Y and accepted norms of management.

Not for a moment am I suggesting Theory X as a style, but there is some kernel of truth in the impact of M’s management methods.

If people get a sense of progress then they feel motivated them. This of course sounds like common sense.

But I sense that with new management methods actively promoting Theory Y it becomes an excuse for lazy management and good employees can become disillusioned quickly.

If I were to give J feedback, and he was my boss once upon a time too, it would be ‘set clear expectations’. ‘give clear feedback’ and ‘use the fact that people like you to help them improve their performance’. The good start of the relationship is a great asset that should be utilised.

Neither J nor M is recommended, though M seemed to end with more motivated staff!!

Laid off? Dress up and stay quiet

What do you do when you get laid off?

Tell everyone what a lousy boss you had? Or what a terrible company it was?

You are not alone. Apparently that’s the norm. No surprises.

This article in WSJ suggests a couple of simple things to do when the unfortunate event happens.

1. Start dressing up. You need to start making a positive impression again

2. Take a break and collect your thoughts and manage your emotions. With social media so easy, it doesn’t take a lot to put that facebook comment about our boss or tweet.

Simple, sensible advice. Easier said than done of course.

Full article here.

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Employee as brand

Just as I finished posting the previous article I stumbled upon this.

Apparently an employee at Wendy’s put some pubic hair on a sandwich he served, of all people, a law enforcement officer!!

Talk about the impact of that on the brand and what no amount of advertising, or any other messaging, cannot overcome.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
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