Work Futures Weekly | Lean Out

| 7 Corporatisms | Menopause Taboo | Employee Voice | More Than Words | The Downside of Always-On Work Culture |

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

2020–02–10 Beacon NY | According to the groundhog, Puxatawny Phil, winter will be short. I hope so.

Quote of the Week

Enough Leaning In. Let’s Tell Men to Lean Out. | Ruth Whippman punches lean-in psychobabble in the mouth:

Research shows that rather than women being underconfident, men tend to be overconfident in relation to their actual abilities. Women generally aren’t failing to speak up; the problem is that men are refusing to pipe down.


Until female norms and standards are seen as every bit as valuable and aspirational as those of men, we will never achieve equality.

7 Corporatisms I never want to hear again | Pete Ross is hilarious and points out the emperor has no clothes. Even the caption on the photo is killer:

Fucking hell Karen, did you actually just say the word “disruption” again? God, I need to get out of this place.

Mission, vision or values

For God’s sake, no one in your company believes or buys into any of this crap. Most rank and file just want to be left alone to do their work. If they’re lucky, they find meaning in their job and what they achieve in it, they don’t need an added layer of bullshit on top to feel good about it. If they already dislike their job, that layer of bullshit is just going to piss them off even further.


Is Menopause a Taboo in Your Organization? | Megan Reitz, Marina Bolton, and Kira Emslie point out that there are 61 million women in the US workforce, and basically no discussion of the impact on working women from menopausal symptoms.

The paucity of reports that examine the costs associated with menopause in the workplace is yet another sign of the suppression of conversation about the topic; there are even fewer accounts about the costs of the silence that shrouds it. This silence stifles the possibilities of implementing work practices that could assist women, such as flexible working or workplace environment changes. Lack of openness — and even worse, outright derision or bullying — can lead to reduced job satisfaction, unnecessary stress, anxiety and even depression for women who feel unable to seek support. The costs are also high for colleagues and the organization as productivity decreases and in some cases female employees decide to leave the workforce altogether.


Employees Speak Out — Against Their CEOs | Rachel Feintzeig, Charity L. Scott and Sharon Terlep report on recent controversies at Away and G/O Media where employees engaged in social media campaigns to attempt to force changes on their organizations:

Such episodes come as companies are trying to attract younger skilled workers who survey data show crave a heightened purpose from their jobs and want their employers’ values to overlap with theirs. In response, high-profile CEOs such as Walmart Inc.’s Doug McMillon are speaking out on issues that matter to their workers and seeking to foster workplace cultures that encourage open debate and employee feedback.

By empowering employees to speak out, though, company leaders are opening the door for workers to criticize the boss, said Ronnie Chatterji, a professor of business administration at Duke University who has studied CEO and employee activism.

“This is a double-edged sword of openness and transparency for a lot of companies and something that the new generation of CEOs is grappling with,” he said.

Employees are demanding a voice in the company’s culture, and are unwilling to be quietly loyal. In a tight job market — where they can get a job across the street — the economic pressures to shut up and sit down have much less force.


More than Words | Moving from vertical to horizontal organizations means bigger changes than terminology. | Stowe Boyd

The Downside of Always-On Work Culture | We are opting for mediocrity instead of excellence. | Stowe Boyd

Work Futures Weekly | Collaborate and Improvise

| Charles Darwin | Another Google Chat Tool? HR at odds with itself | Chipotle Fined $1.4M | Work About Work |

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–02–01| I have taken on several research and writing projects that are constraining the time available for Work Futures newsletter activities. For the next little while, at least, I will be writing a combination of longer pieces and the Weekly, but no dailies.

I have found that writing longer, standalone posts get significantly higher readership, anyway.

Quote of the Week

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

| Charles Darwin

The Information reports (paywall) that Google is planning to roll out a new mobile app for business that rolls up functionality from Gmail, Drive, Hangouts Meet (video conferencing), and Hangouts Chat (real-time messaging). This would be part of G Suite, the productivity arsenal for business.

I like the idea of a single integrated mobile tool for Google services, and I have been expecting something from Google to counter the Microsoft Teams and Slack surge. I just hope that they release an online version so I can minimize the tabs in my browser.


2019 Global Human Resources Census — The Talent Strategy Group | A fascinating report that finds HR at a difficult turning point:

The research concluded that “HR is a function at odds with itself” and said HR must decide whether it exists to serve people or the business: “Either viewpoint is valid but only one can exist in a company at any point in time.” Additionally, HR leaders rated themselves low in important skillsets, including “knowing our business deeply and thoroughly” and “influencing others.”

The report contrasts the ‘humanistic’ versus ‘capitalistic’ motivations for being in HR and sheds light on the skills mismatch between today’s HR teams and tomorrows challenges. For example, people analytics is rated as very important but practitioners have little or no experience with it.


Chipotle Is Fined $1.4 Million in Vast Child Labor Case | More than 13,000 violations from 2015 to 2019:

Chipotle Mexican Grill was fined nearly $1.4 million on Monday over accusations that it routinely violated Massachusetts child labor laws, with the authorities estimating more than 13,000 violations from 2015 to 2019, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office said.

The authorities examined the records of six Chipotle locations across the state, finding that the chain regularly let dozens of 16- and 17-year-old employees work more than nine hours per day and more than 48 hours per week, in violation of state law, according to the Massachusetts attorney general. The authorities then used those findings to estimate that Chipotle had violated child labor laws 13,253 times across 50 locations in the state.

The downside of a tight labor market, peopled with vulnerable teenagers.


Asana Anatomy of Work Index Reveals: Employees Spend Nearly Two-Thirds of Their Day on Work About Work |

Recently Elsewhere

The Future Has Arrived | One of the barriers to robots taking over in warehouses has been demolished | Stowe Boyd

Woke, or Broke? | The corporate chieftains attending Davos are talking up ‘woke capitalism’. Remain skeptical. | Stowe Boyd

Building A Zettelkasten In Typora | A ‘system of knowledge’ based on an infinity of markdown files | Stowe Boyd

Paradoxes of Engagement: Remote Isn’t | Do remote workers make their managers better? | Stowe Boyd

WFD | Seating Charts

| Distributed Work | Prosocial Lies | Restaurant Work | Shorter Day, Not Shorter Week | Future Skilling |

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

2020–01–23 Beacon NY | Writing a lot elsewhere, so I’ve been distracted.

Quote of the Day

Even at the largest and most successful companies on the planet, so much of what employees come to know about how the organization functions is left to the lottery of seating charts.

| Noah Brier and James Gross, Learn Where You Work [an issue of their newsletter, which seems email only]

You Have To Go Slow To Go Fast

Is synchronous, always-on communication eroding productivity and causing stress?


The Future Of Work Is Distributed | Brad Feld wonders about distributed work. Good comments.


Lying for a benevolent reason makes people trust you | Judi Ketteler discusses research by Emma Levine about prosocial lies:

Telling a lie for benevolent reasons — what behavioral scientists call a prosocial lie — may just be a crucial leadership skill. Emma Levine, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, studies these types of lies and has found that prosocial lying isn’t just seen as acceptable, it’s seen as essential. Her research has found that we perceive those who tell prosocial lies to be more ethical than those who tell hurtful truths, if we understand the intentions of the deceiver. In other words, we favor benevolence over honesty, when it’s clear someone told a lie for benevolent reasons. She’s also found that prosocial lying can increase trust — which flies against the conventional wisdom that deception always destroys trust. In many situations, it’s seen as far more ethical to lie than to deliver raw truth.

(hat tip to Connor Joyce)


How 6 restaurant brands are boosting retention | Restaurant retention is just like everywhere else: people don’t quit the job, they quit their bosses:

“Research is pretty clear on why employees leave a foodservice operation,” Riehle. “It generally has to do with the immediate supervision.”

Keeping managers happy is a growing area of focus across many chains, especially since stable management can help with overall store metrics. Major restaurant chains have recently made investments to improve employee satisfaction: Taco Bell is testing a $100,000 manager salary in select markets this year, while Shake Shack is trialing a four-day work week for general managers.

Attracting and retaining better managers leads to better employee engagement and customer satisfaction.


A life of long weekends is alluring, but the shorter working day may be more practical | Andrew Veal looks at the historical background of reductions in the workweek and suggests it might be better to push for a shorter workday than to advocate for a four-day workweek.

I’m on the fence in terms of how it would work after general implementation, a decade from now, say. But I bet it will be easier to get adoption of shorter workdays in a still five-day workweek arrangement.


Fixing the Global Skills Mismatch | I like a lot of what is said in this BCG report, but there is a large mismatch between some of its observations. For example, the authors state

We are insufficiently focused on training for jobs that have yet to appear. It is expected, that by 2022, 27% of available jobs will be in roles that don’t yet exist.

Contrast that with this:

Employees must take responsibility for their own professional development so that they can choose their career paths and unlock their full potential.

How is an individual worker — one whose skills may be partially or completely out of date, or who may never have received appropriate training in the first place— supposed to be able to choose their career path if almost a third of future jobs don’t exist yet? And where are they supposed to get that training for future jobs?

No. I am sorry. Business will have to take a leading role — in partnership with educational institutions and government — to future proof the workforce. We can’t hide behind individual ‘choice’ in training and careers to act as a smokescreen for business indecision and inaction.

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WFD | A Lazy Future

| Writing Solidifies, Chat Dissolves | Microenterprises at Zappos | Treat Us Like Adults | Save The Future Of Work | Paul Valery |

Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2020–01–14 | I wrote CPO Skepticism Is High this morning, relating a lively interchange that took place on Twitter following a reference to a Kathryn Newbery story, Seven key HR trends for 2020, in the January 10 issue of my Work Futures Daily newsletter. The title says it all.


Also, I am migrating the deep content I developed over 2019 at the On The Horizon publication over to a section at Work Futures on Medium. You will be able to see all that material via the On The Horizon navigation element at the top of the main page, as well as a selection of the most popular stories in the From The Archives.

Guide to Internal Communication, the Basecamp Way | Basecamp has a great set of principles for internal communications, like these:

2 | Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time.

3 | Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.

4 | Give meaningful discussions a meaningful amount of time to develop and unfold. Rushing to judgement, or demanding immediate responses, only serves to increase the odds of poor decision making.

5 | Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.

6 | Writing solidifies, chat dissolves. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it’s important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don’t chat it down.


Q&A With John Bunch: Holacracy Helps Zappos Swing From Job Ladder to Job Jungle Gym | Sounds like Zappos is adopting Haier-style microenterprise model (see Evolution of the Platform Organization: 3 Haier, Rendanheyi, and Zhang Ruimin’s Vision):

… we are working on internal market-based dynamics, which essentially means that each circle in the organization would be run like a micro-business. In this system, each micro-enterprise would be funded by the customers. These can be internal customers or external customers. Instead of a top-down funding model, we are shifting our funding as being derived from the customer of whatever work you do. In a traditional company, employees might not see the value that they are creating. This change is relevant to the employee’s personal value because employees won’t think of themselves as a cost to an organization. By creating these internal customers through these micro-business interactions, employees can really see the value that they add to the company.


Why we treat employees like adults | Manuel Küblböck has aa succinct run-down on the elements of what I call the fast-and-loose business.


5 Ways to Stop Corporations From Ruining the Future of Work | Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, has created a manifesto for how we need to take back the future of work from corporations:

First, workers need a stronger voice, from the boardroom to the shop floor.

Second, if we want corporations to invest in innovation and their workers we need to reform Wall Street.

Third, we need to rebuild strong collaboration between government and business in researching and developing new technologies, so they work for the benefit of all.

Fourth, a more open and forward-looking industrial policy can help steer the nation’s economic growth toward combating our central challenges— climate change, poverty, our crumbling infrastructure, costly and inaccessible health care, lack of quality education.

Finally, we need to assure that our workers are protected from the downsides:That new information technologies along with their increasing potential for monitoring and surveilling workers don’t undermine worker autonomy, dignity, and privacy. That the use of algorithms to manage workers doesn’t give top management unwarranted power in the workplace. And that workplace technologies don’t make work more unpredictable for millions of workers.

Workers need a voice. Government needs a responsible role. We deserve a forward-looking and open industrial policy. And the rules of the game need to be fair. We should all be able to steer the direction of technological change and influence how new technologies affect our lives.

Quote of the Day

The future arrived but it’s lazy.

Paul Valéry

Work Futures Weekly | Automation Discourse

The great American labor paradox: plentiful jobs, most of them bad. | Gwynn Guilford

Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

Beacon NY 2019–12–21 | I’m happy to say that I have a lot of interesting work on my plate. That’s nice, but it has gotten to the point that I had to resort to a spreadsheet to estimate the impact of one-more-project on the sanity quotient, my shorthand for work/life balance.

Work Futures Daily is a labor of love but I am kicking off a new phase and a new format, driven by the need to reduce the time involved in writing and editing it. Note that I am NOT planning to reduce my investment in research, but I will be more selective in what I surface in the Daily, and how it will be presented.

What I going to try is this. I’ll try to pick a single story that I think is important and focus on that in each issue, which I am limiting to three or four a week. I will also provide links to a handful of other stories, with a line or two of commentary. The Weekly will be similar, with a single in-depth story with one line summaries of the lead stories of each Daily. This is the first of the new Weeklies. (Note I have been so busy, I haven’t been doing weeklies on a weekly basis in months.)

Because of this new format, the subtitle of each Weekly and Daily will be a one-line description of the lead story, rather than a long series of teasers. (This is one of the tasks that made this time-consuming).

There are going to be other changes. Wish me luck.

Quote of the Day

The return of automation discourse is a symptom of our era, as it was in times past: it arises when the global economy’s failure to create enough jobs causes people to question its fundamental viability.

| Aaron Benanav, Automation and the Future of Work — 1

The Lead

The Job Quality Index is the economic indicator we’ve been missing | Gwynn Guilford offers up the essence of work in the US, today:

The great American labor paradox: plentiful jobs, most of them bad.

Which can now be measured:

A team of researchers thinks they may have uncovered the Rosetta Stone of the US labor market.

They recently unveiled the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (or JQI for short), a new monthly indicator that aims to track the quality of jobs instead of just the quantity. The JQI measures the ratio of what the researchers call “high-quality” versus “low-quality” jobs, based on whether the work offer more or less than the average income.

A reading of 100 means that there are equal numbers of the two groups, while anything less implies relatively lower-quality jobs.

And here’s the 30-year slump:

The bottom line is that fewer good jobs are being created. Time for that long-awaited infrastructure push, to get away from carbon-based energy.


Vox Media to Cut 200 Freelancers, Citing California Gig-Worker Law | Marc Tracy and Kevin Draper report on some of the fallout from AB5 in California, which is leading media companies to drop freelance writers who live in the state

from Work Futures Daily | Dominating Nature


Post-Work: The Radical Idea of a World Without Jobs | Andy Beckett collates points of view on a world where ‘work is not working, for every more people, in ever more ways’.

from WFD | Post-Work


A Few Cities Have Cornered Innovation Jobs. Can That Be Changed? | Eduardo Porter cites The case for growth centers: How to spread tech innovation across America by Robert Atkinson, Mark Munro, Jacob Whiton.

from WFD | The Time of Monsters


Most Employees Want Their Bosses to Give Them More Responsibility | James Davis spoke with Mark Robinson of Kimble Applications about a recent research survey involving 1000 full-time employees in the US: The survey found that 72% of American employees wish their boss or manager would give them more responsibility.

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