Imagine bringing humanity to work

Imagine a workplace where you can bring your whole authentic self to work: where you don't have to hide your beliefs or your sexuality or your ethics.

Imagine a workplace where the same standards of social interaction apply as anywhere else, where any behaviour that is unacceptable in any other social context is also unacceptable at work, such as shouting, bullying, patronizing.

Imagine a workplace where people care about each other as much as they do in any other community (although maybe that's not a good suggestion right now).

Imagine a workplace where every individual is valued for what they bring to the diversity and creativity of the group, where everybody is allowed to have dignity and respect.

Imagine a workplace where we build trust to start from an assumption of goodness, that we are all on the same side working with best intentions to achieve the same vision. When things go wrong, we look to the system first to understand how it is preventing people from achieving.
When behaviours are bad, we look first to the system to see how it creates frustration and anger.
Most often, good people are victims of poor systems.

Imagine a system where we don't set people up to fail by taking big bets on complex systems, where nobody can possibly know the outcome with certainty.
Imagine if we worked iteratively and incrementally, to mitigate risk. And we accepted failure, in fact welcomed it as an asset of the organisation, a positive contribution of value from its opportunity to learn and improve.

This may seem idealistic, and the reality is that there are dysfunctional behaviours that need to be dealt with; and even dysfunctional individuals who are unable to participate in the work community. But we should deal with these as individual issues, which is one of the purposes of Management. We should not design our entire system around dealing with dysfunction, suppressing diversity, and creating cultures that would be unacceptable anywhere else.

You can treat slaves, manual workers, industrial workers, and clerical workers badly, and get higher productivity out of them through such mistreatment, but you cannot do that to knowledge workers. Knowledge work is invisible: the only way to get good work out of knowledge workers is to create a safe environment and invite them to be part of the production. So even the most psychopathic executives should realise that the path to an optimum organisation is through the restoration of humanity and the creation of a healthy culture.

This does not mean that all beliefs are acceptable at work, any more than all behaviours are.
In the same way that we socially moderate behaviour, we should also socially moderate beliefs at work.
In particular we should expose behaviours at work which are covertly driven by unhealthy beliefs such as racism. As well as making the workplace healthier this will also make society healthier as many people who harbour toxic beliefs spend most of their working day completely unchallenged in the current models, making them feel validated.

If people can be their whole authentic self at work, and exist in an environment of psychological safety, then they will be productive and collaborative and content.
This will also have the reverse effect of shaping the culture and then the vision of the organisation.
If people work for an organisation that they can believe in and feel safe in, then their productivity goes up by an order of magnitude. [No I don’t have data for that assertion]
Again, this has the broader social benefit of creating more ethical and moral organisations that represent the better beliefs of the society in which they function. This is clearly not the case at the moment: good normal people somehow twist their ethics to work for organisations which are acting in the interest only of their shareholders and creating a negative social impact. I'm going to guess this applies to the majority of the people reading this who work in private enterprise. What tax does your employing organisation pay?

These work ideas are not hypothetical. They have their roots in philosophy and reason which goes back decades, including Kaizen, lean, chaos theory, postmodernism, feminism, safety culture, and agile. They draw from the work of Ohno, Deming, Rother, Goldratt, Wilbur, Laloux, Kahneman, Sinek, Taleb, Drucker, Reinertsen, Snowden, Seddon, Owen, Denning and countless others.
Pioneering organisations all around the world are demonstrating how they make work better faster safer cheaper and happier.

Beneath the movement in work ideas, there is a deeper and more profound shift going on in society, where for centuries truth has become separated from beauty and goodness. That is to say, science has become separated from ethics and art. The workplaces that we work in today are primarily driven by science and truth, with insufficient influence from ethics and aesthetics.
The world is gradually returning to a reunification of these three. Postmodernism is not my favourite thing but it is a step in this direction. As we focus on bringing more of our authentic whole self to work, we must also focus on making that workplace more authentic and whole: where we move from an obsession with shareholder value - the Friedman idea which is under serious attack in the economic world as we speak - moving from that obsession with value to a focus on values plural; ...and ensuring that the values of our workplace incorporate truth, goodness, and beauty in equal measure.

Learn more about new ways of thinking here, and about what we do at Teal Unicorn.

Syndicate content