Malaise of modern corporate workplaces

An Indian corporate workplace thinker/designer is clueless today. Influenced by status quo and conditioned by cherry picked cases, the modern workplace has spawned into a cesspit of mediocrity and monotony.

But the environment of workplace is not only a function of architecture, it is also that of people. So the larger malaise of the modern corporate workplace will be explored along these two dimensions – architecture and people.

What are the so called problems of modern corporate workplace?

  1. Open architecture seating: The modern corporate workplace has no concept of isolated/solitary private space- where an employee can engage in active thinking/learning. Ironically the architecture was made “flat” so that there is a cross-pollination of ideas. But this has become a self-defeating aim because to cross-pollinate ideas you have to have ideas first.
  2. The people factor:  Flat architecture also served as a preventive measure for stopping employees from wasting company resources. However it was a classical example of trying to right a wrong by building another wrong. There is no substitute to good self-motivated people. There is no substitute to people who are sincere and think for themselves.
  3. A lack of people development and plenty of people management: The modern middle managerial paradigm revolves around getting the work done and not making a person skillful enough to get the work done. The nuance is subtle. But the end effect is devastating. The entire onus of skill development falls down upon the employee. No active grooming/mentoring is undertaken.
  4. Mediocrity breeding mediocrity: I am a big proponent of measurable performance. Measurable performance doesnt imply quantifiable performance, but measurable implies clarity in results. This is one reason why there is so less “politics” in a hedge fund. You eat what you kill. But in all other places, the rules/measures are gamed and promotion is first decided then goals are given. So if the consensus is promotion will be done only when some process improvement takes place, an artificial project on process improvement is done- which has no bearing on the real improvement.Thus this mediocrity is passed to the upper level where they judge performance from their lens of mediocrity.

The solution ahead? Its difficult, complex to execute and will require a lot of effort. An intense focus on people hiring quality is important.Hire slow, but only when there is a clarity in the value that the person brings to the table. Boston Beers follows a rule of hiring people better than the average.

Invest, a lot in people development/ idea development/wisdom development. And when I propose invest, it doesnt imply resources but managerial efforts. How will the leader of tomorrow grow when the set of challenges an employee of today has faced is limited.




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