I’ve had numerous conversations over the last several months that have given me pause as an HR professional. Wait, let me amend that. Conversations that have given me pause as a business professional.
These conversations were with employees, managers and leaders who work in fly-over country for salt-of-the-earth, middle America, un-sexy companies in non-glamorous industries. Insurance companies, manufacturing plants, and hospitals. Restaurants, transportation providers, call-centers and governmental entities.
You know…real jobs with real people; not the “world of work” we’re fed via the glossy pages of Fast Company magazine and its brethren.
This, my friends, is the world where punitive attendance polices still exist (as opposed to flexible work/life integration practices) and performance management programs cozily snuggle up next to forced rankings. A place where business owners and/or organizational leaders still feel it’s A-OK to suggest that a female candidate can be paid less because “she’s probably not the primary bread-winner for the family.” A reality where not everyone has access to Slack or Dropbox or, believe it or not, even a mobile device with WIFI capability. This, of course, means that work schedules are posted on a bulletin board and employees take a bus across town to physically visit the workplace to check their schedule for the next week. And, in a perverted distortion of humanity, if they can’t physically view their schedule (or get hold of anyone via telephone) and thus miss a scheduled shift, they are then penalized via that draconian attendance policy. Full circle in a Kafkaesque world.
These are the workplaces that are veritable orgies of old-school management practices overlaid with a slick (and false) veneer of culture, values, and sexy branding. The sort of places that win a “Best Places to Work” award conferred by the Chamber of Commerce, local media conglomerate, or a third-party Rewards and Recognition vendor that paid big bucks to ‘sponsor’ the awards.
Workplaces where, sometimes, the managers/leaders still operate as if they’re running a Dickensian workhouse. Why? Sometimes it’s due to…
- Narcissistic love of power – “I’m in charge and I make the rules” (Waah ha ha!!)
- Managers who developed their personal style of management at the knee of a mentor (raised up in the 70’s) and are too afraid or too lazy to adjust at this stage of the game
- The ingrained belief that “everyone is out to screw us” (most often evidenced in business owners as opposed to leaders in an enterprise organization or governmental entity)
When will the day arrive when more workers can reap the benefits of our “new way of working?” Will we ever bridge the digital divide and find a way for everyone to benefit from the use of technology? What about workplace flexibility and the ability to take sick leave and not be ostracized for giving birth or having surgery or spending time with an ill family member? I think we can look back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (106 years ago) and see vast improvements…but there are still locks on the doors. Those barricades, placed on the doors by owners and managers, are now preventing people from opportunity and freedom of another kind.
Note: this post, and its title, was inspired by a recent conversation with a business owner who said that her company’s policy around unlimited vacation for employees is “take off whatever time you need, just don’t be a dick about it.”
Simple. Easy. Common sense.
image: via tshirt hub