When you visit a new workplace, whether you’re on a job interview or you’re calling on a prospective client, you get a good feel for the atmosphere. You can tell within a few minutes of walking in the front door what it would be like to work there.
You can tell whether the employees are chatting happily with one another and excited about their work, or trudging through the day with one eye on the clock.
You can tell in little ways. In the lobby of an office, people are either making eye contact and saying “Hello!” to one another or racing by without acknowledging that there is another person around them.
Anywhere people gather, you can feel the energy. It might be open, flowing and positive energy or closed, dark energy.
Human beings are an old species. We know when we are in a safe and friendly place and among people we can trust, and when we’re not.
Walking in as a visitor from the outside world, the good or bad energy in a place is evident. When you work in an organization, you can easily stop noticing the energy, like fish who can’t tell that their fishbowl is getting dirty.
It can take a while for your gut-brain to kick in and tell you that it’s not good for you to stay in a place like that.
A Human Workplace is a workplace where the energy is fast-moving and positive. That’s because the topic of energy in the organization is itself a vital business concern. It isn’t left to chance, or worse, ignored completely.
A Human Workplace has very few yardsticks imposed from on high. The people in a Human Workplace don’t measure everything in sight just because they can. They know how much they sell and what it costs to make the stuff they sell. They measure profit and loss and return on investment and other things that matter.
They don’t measure every internal process, and they don’t create contracts within the organization specifying how one department must serve another. Service Level Agreements for internal relationships are about as anti-Human Workplace a process as one could imagine. When we share the same goals and trust is strong, we don’t have to spend time proving to our own colleagues that we’ve done our jobs.
In a Human Workplace there are ten or twenty ways for good ideas to bubble up, down and sideways. An Employee Engagement survey is not one of them. Managers talk with their employees all the time, and employees from different groups mingle and share ideas. There is a confidential hotline to call, email or text when something untoward happens, like sexual harassment or a labor violation or safety issue. When a problem emerges, it gets solved, rather than swept under the rug and minimized.
There is no Chief Human Workplace Officer to enforce the culture, because there is nothing to enforce. Fear itself is the enemy, and enforcement in general is Godzilla’s favorite tool. Trust is the antidote, and that means everybody has to soften. Managers can’t fall back on “Because I’m your manager, that’s why” in place of a human conversations. Leaders don’t hide behind pronouncements. They know they won’t build trust that way.
The goal in a Human Workplace is to fulfill the organization’s mission, not to create bureaucracy and preserve it against all reason.
Physical safety comes first, so Human Workplace employees aren’t asked to put their safety at risk for the job unless that requirement is central to their job descriptions (like police officers). If there is a risk to employees, their well-being is the first priority in any decision-making process.
In a Human Workplace, your manager does not control your progress or your career path. Your manager is a coach. There is a minimum of red tape, and there is as much conversation about good (= human) process as about any other business topic.
You don’t need multiple signatures on every form. Bad process sucks energy from the organization and hinders its forward motion. Every practice and procedure is not defined so closely that a spark of inspiration would be snuffed out immediately.
The question “How could we do this better?” is on everyone’s lips, and these Godzilla World adages are never heard:
- This is how we’ve always done it.
- We tried that one time, and it didn’t work.
- That isn’t your decision to make. It’s mine.
- I don’t pay you to think.
- Just do your own job, please.
- That’s not my job.
- Read the policy and do what it says.
There aren’t very many policies in a Human Workplace, and the policies that exist are there to keep people safe (physically and otherwise). They aren’t even policies in the traditional “You must/you mustn’t” sense but more like commitments. Human Workplace employers commit to keep their organizations free of sexual harassment, employment discrimination, wage and hour violations and unsafe conditions, for instance.
Human Workplace leaders never speak to their employees, verbally or in writing, as though they are children or potential miscreants a la “It shall not be permissible to….” When they write and speak, they sound like fallible human beings. There isn’t any corporate speak zombie language in a Human Workplace. There isn’t any need for it, in the employee handbook or anywhere else.
Human Workplaces are places where people act like human beings. They don’t check their personalities at the door when they come to work. They bring their enthusiasm, flights of fancy, personal entanglements, way with words, random sense of humor and every other human attribute to work, because they know that their employer hired all of them, not just the suit.
Human Workplaces are more fun, more productive, more profitable, more sustainable and healthier than other organizations, un-shockingly. They get to their goals faster and have more fun doing it. They delight their customers and put their investors in a swoon. You don’t need any more policies. You don’t need any more rules. You don’t need to measure how long it takes an employee to go from his desk to the bathroom and come back. All that stuff comes from fear. Let the fear go and trust the brilliant people you hire.
We didn’t have the time or inclination to install reams of policies when U.S. Robotics was a young company. We were moving too fast to bother with that stuff. We hired 10,000 employees without a hitch and without an Applicant Tracking System to tick off the candidates and slow things down. We didn’t have problems. I can count ten years’ worth of employee concerns and issues on one hand. Why is that? Why were we so fortunate? It was obvious walking in the door that we valued the people around us. Otherwise, why would we hire them?
You can have a Human Workplace. It’s not difficult and it doesn’t cost anything. You only have to let go of the idea that managers know more than employees do. You have to let go of the idea that rules make a place more efficient (whatever that means). You have to trust yourself enough to trust the people you hire. Can you step into the Human Workplace mindset and unleash the talent in your organization?
This article was written by Liz Ryan from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.