We Are Responsible
Sheldon Kopp | Elizabeth Kolbert | Francesca Gino | Jobland | Jeffrey Pfeffer | That's Not What Bossism Means
Quote of the Moment
We must live with the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
| Sheldon Kopp
From the Archive
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds | Elizabeth Kolbert (2017)
A far-ranging examination of the flaws in human reasoning from the perspective of our evolution as social beings. Many of our biases are derived from the need to make sure members of our tribe aren’t screwing us over, in a time when we didn’t have to understand how toilets work, or why some immigration policy is stupid. Includes great insights, like ‘As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding’.
Let Your Workers Rebel | Francesca Gino (2016)
Gino digs into the natural tendency toward conformity in the workplace:
In a recent survey I conducted of more than 2,000 employees across a wide range of industries, nearly half the respondents reported working in organizations where they regularly feel the need to conform, and more than half said that people in their organizations do not question the status quo.
Organizations consciously or unconsciously urge employees to check a good chunk of their real selves at the door. Workers and their organizations both pay a price: decreased engagement, productivity, and innovation.
Leaders have been overly focused on designing efficient processes and getting employees to follow them. Now they need to think about when conformity hurts their business and allow — even promote — what I call constructive nonconformity: behavior that deviates from organizational norms, others’ actions, or common expectations, to the benefit of the organization.
So much effort is directed toward upping engagement in the workplace, but constructive nonconformity is seldom considered.
A new feature of Substack allows me to see where subscribers are located. The usual suspects, although I guess I’m surprised about Russia.
More subscribers in Russia than in the American heartland. Strange.
For a relatively short piece, Prarthana Prakash, in The CEO of Morgan Stanley, James Gorman, says employees can't simply choose to work remotely, manages to raise my hackles several times. First of all the final title is ‘‘This is not an employee choice’: The CEO of Morgan Stanley gets real and says employees can’t simply choose to work remotely’.
So, by demanding workers should get back into the office, Gorman is ‘getting real’? (He does concede that ‘there are different kinds of jobs’ and ‘five days in the office for everybody is not going to happen again’.)
The comment that annoys me the most?
During an event in March 2022, he noted that many people had adopted a mindset of “Jobland” where employees just showed up to work to do the job, versus “Careerland,” in which employees learned and developed skills from in-person interactions.
My bet is that smart management would be trying to step past the blinders of the past, to a new era, where learning and gaining skills can be accomplished with significantly less face-to-face. But dinosaurs will be slow to change, if they change at all.
Remember the Great Resignation? The number major reasons people quit was lack of opportunity to develop new skills and lack of opportunities to advance.
Related: Stanford business school professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer, says the ‘copycat behavior’ of tech firms undertaking massive layoffs is actually killing people:
Melissa de Witte: What are some myths or misunderstandings about layoffs?
Jeffrey Pfeffer: Layoffs often do not cut costs, as there are many instances of laid-off employees being hired back as contractors, with companies paying the contracting firm. Layoffs often do not increase stock prices, in part because layoffs can signal that a company is having difficulty. Layoffs do not increase productivity. Layoffs do not solve what is often the underlying problem, which is often an ineffective strategy, a loss of market share, or too little revenue. Layoffs are basically a bad decision.
Melissa de Witte:Any advice to workers who may have been laid off?
Jeffrey Pfeffer: My advice to a worker who has been laid off is when they find a job in a company where they say people are their most important asset, they actually check to be sure that the company behaves consistently with that espoused value when times are tough.
That's Not What Bossism Means
Nadia Rawlinson spews a bunch of libertarian finger-wagging about the layoff mania raging in Techland, basically declaring the end to mollycoddling workers:
For nearly two decades, tech companies heralded an approach that centered on making workers happy with benefits that were intended to seamlessly integrate work and life. They made well-being programs and unlimited vacation, initiatives that prioritized the whole person, standard employee benefits. This, along with high salaries and equity packages, was a way to not just win but dominate the war for talent. The rapid growth and success of Silicon Valley companies, driven in part by their unique people practices, reimagined workplace culture for a generation.
Times, as they say, are a-changin’. The industry is facing an uneven macroeconomic environment and a roiling stock market that is putting pressure on public tech companies and making for a less-than-ideal I.P.O. environment for private ones. Tech chief executives are now optimizing more for profitability than for growth at all costs, sometimes at the expense of long-held organizational beliefs.
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