Dilbert has been poking fun at corporate America for quite some time now. It wouldn’t be so funny if it did not contain some truth. Corporate America is broken and we all know it. “Why Employees are always a bad idea” explains why Dilbert resonates so much and what we can do about it.
The Industrial Age Versus The Participation Age.
So much of the disdain of corporate America stems from the fact that so many of their practices stem from the industrial age. In the Industrial Age corporations needed factory workers. They needed people who followed orders and didn’t question things. They needed people who could act as extensions of the machines. Human doings, not human beings. It was a bad practice then, but just how bad it is has become even more evident lately. We’ve entered the Participation Age where most workers are knowledge workers and yet corporate America continues to treat them like assembly line workers. It is laughable, hence the popularity of Dilbert.
People Are Smart And Motivated If You Treat Them That Way.
The key difference between the industrial age and the participation age is that in the participation age people are allowed and encouraged to make decisions. The industrial age never wanted the assembly line worker making decisions, just simply following the process that some other smarter person had laid out. All of industrial society is based on the principle that people are dumb and lazy. They’ll only work if there is a manager, who happens to be smarter and more motivated, standing over them telling them what to do and constantly pushing them to produce more. The sad thing is that this system ensures people stay dumb and lazy regardless of if they started out that way. People live up to your expectations. The participation age solution is to recognize that most people are smart and motivated and treat them that way. All you really need to do is give them the tools they need to get started and get out of their way.
Reward What Really Matters: Results Not Seat-Time.
The industrial age did a lot of damage to society. One of the most lasting impacts is valuing presence over results. We all know that the person who is sitting at their desk when the boss comes in the morning and is still there when the boss leaves is more likely to get promoted regardless of what they actually produce. All this while the person who manages to get all their work done in 7 hours and decides to head home early is likely to get punished. We need to focus on rewarding the behaviour that we want to see repeated.
Diseases of the Industrial Age
Those are just a few of the diseases of the industrial age laid out in this book. It’s amazing that even though the golden age of factories and mass production is behind us (at least in the US), many businesses still treat their employees like production line workers. It makes no sense to continue to treat anyone that way yet alone knowledge workers like software engineers. It doesn’t have to be that way. This book is your key to recognizing the bad habits we’ve picked up from the industrialists and getting rid of them.