Want REAL Office Transparency? Here is an Idea

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“O Transparency, Transparency, wherefore art thou Transparency?”

Transparency–yet another flavor of the day concept in modern corporate culture that references an inclusive office environment where leaders actively involve their workers in decisions and initiatives that significantly impacts the organization. Almost all of the HR gurus blab on about the importance of transparency and provide a few tactical ideas to help drive openness in a historically extremely departmentalized system–that is, big corporations.

And it seems that most of the largest corporations are getting in on the action by crafting language and imagery to reflect that of an office culture that is inherently team oriented and open to the opinions of others.

Just spend a few minutes perusing their career pages and you may see verbiage that suggests that authentic transparency is as common as staplers and sticky notes. For instance, here is some verbiage I took the liberty to compile; “the best ideas are encouraged and rewarded, we value thought-leadership, open door policy, extremely team-oriented, the opinions of our associates are priority.”

This is the part of the story where I call “BULL” on the bosses for not practicing what they preach. You see, when I interview workers at many of these “transparent” organizations, the feedback I receive is exactly the opposite of a culture that is transparent. Sure, your workers noticed that you paid big bucks to lower the cubicles walls, install LED light fixtures and declutter meeting spaces to make the office look open. But that’s where the notion of transparency stopped–at mere appearances.

Here are just a few actual quotes from workers of these so-called “transparent” organizations:

“My manager recently had a meeting with the VP about my project and didn’t even bother to invite me.”

“So they would rather pay expensive consultants to tell us the stuff we already knew…if they’d just ask for our input, we could have gotten to the same place much quicker and cheaper. Shows what they think of us.”

“Look Steele, they’re having a meeting to discuss the new value proposition and as always, they didn’t include me. But they’ll be asking for my help when it’s time to implement the whole thing. And they wonder why our EOC scores suck…they don’t care about us!”

And there’s much, much, more. So based on countless interviews, surveys and personal observations, it is no stretch for me to say that there is still a very long road to travel in order to get to the place where workers really feel like they are being included in most matters of the business. To that end, REAL transparency doesn’t exist; it is more like “faux-parency” (yes, I made that up).

But the milk already spilled and the tears of a few million workers dried a long time ago–so let’s move onto something more productive shall we…

A’ha a possible (and bold) solution
I’d like to introduce a program to any organization that has the guts to make valiant efforts to move their work environment to a place of genuine transparency. But let me warn you – if you aren’t really serious about cultivating a culture of true transparency in your workplace, simply direct your cursor to the small “X” in the corner of this window and click. This idea may be too bold to stomach for many.

OK, if you are still with me, good–let me tell you about a policy that you heard here first (I admit, it’s a cheap plug). I simply call it, “The Fly On The Wall Policy,” created with the intent to help remove some of the barriers that keep workers in the dark. Quick Disclaimer–this policy is not a magic bullet that will solve all of the problems associated with the lack of transparency in the office environment…it is just one idea that I believe, if implemented correctly, would show workers that your office is serious about cultivating openness.

The “Fly On The Wall” policy:

1. The What: Workers can politely and quietly invite themselves into any* meeting, in progress or forthcoming, via phone or in-person, to listen, observe and take notes (photography is not permitted, sorry folks).
*Alright, so not every meeting can be attended because of course there are a few (and I do mean a few) that involve an individual’s compensation and/or performance. No need to contribute to the current cesspool of office gossip.

2. Claiming “Fly On The Wall” Status: Think of this as a backstage pass where workers will have the opportunity to walk right into the meeting and simply claim the “Fly On The Wall” status which, should not cause any alarm to the original meeting participants.

3. A Few Ground Rules: To keep things civilized, the “Fly On The Wall” worker cannot talk, ask questions, be disruptive, play on their smartphones or do anything an actual fly on a wall could not do (ever seen a fly check email? I didn’t think so). Be a good insect and sit silently.

  • A) The “Fly On The Wall” worker cannot attend a meeting after 15-minutes has transpired (at least be a timely fly).
  • B) The “Fly On The Wall” worker should make a good-faith effort to notify the meeting organizer in advance where possible. However, this should not be a requirement, just a courteous rule of thumb.
  • C) If a meeting is in progress, the “Fly On The Wall” worker should, upon entry, politely show their handy “Fly On The Wall” badge (without saying a word) and sit in the farthest seat away from the meeting participants to avoid being a distraction.

Again, I am not foolish enough to think that this will solve all of the problems associated with the lack of transparency in the work environment. However, we believe that our “Fly On The Wall” policy will help open some of the doors that once kept workers ignorant of the critical initiatives, events and projects happening around them every day. The feedback and data suggests that workers desire to be included in significant business matters. And of course, the corporate world will get closer to the precious transparency that they all claim to cherish. And ultimately part ways with this “faux-parency” crap that exists in most office environments.

Is there one…just one daring organization out there with the courage to step-up and implement a bold initiative like our “Fly On The Wall” policy? All revolutions began with just one.

Come on bosses; aim for transparency…REAL transparency.

-Steele

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Avoid Feedback from These 3 People

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Question—have you ever tossed your annual review in the trash, without reading it, within seconds of it landing in your hands?

I have…twice actually. I can explain…but a little later.

As a society, we have become so fixated on the idea of receiving feedback, or the practice of someone offering their opinion about another person, based on performance. And feedback channels seem to be popping up everywhere that they are beginning to go unnoticed. From electronic bracelets that track our footsteps to smartphones that monitor the rhythm of our heart, feedback is the new norm. Read more

The Inverse Pyramid Is Killing Employee Engagement

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“Look Johnny, the CEO is at the very bottom of the pyramid – serving the average workers at the top. How thoughtful.”

Said no corporate worker in their sane mind.

Almost everyday, corporate workers are subjected to copious heaps of internal communication dogma. And the infamous inverted pyramid is by far the most offensive and ridiculous of them all. The inverted pyramid implies that the few top leaders of the corporation prioritize the needs of the workers above their own. And like unicorns and Sasquatch, that notion is so far from the reality that is obvious to every corporate worker with just half of a brain.

Here’s the deal…
The reality for most corporate organizations is that the workers (who are actually at the bottom of the organizational pyramid) cater to the needs of the very few top leaders. I can attest to the fact that, as a young mid-level manager working at a place that had the traditional pyramid organizational structure, the general rule of thumb was simple – the big bosses got what they wanted when they wanted it, period. I distinctly remember every request that came “from on high” received the white-glove treatment. Workers would immediately stop whatever they were doing, regardless of importance, and take care of the request from the senior leader. Trust me, you do not know the true definition of CYA until you have witnessed your managers scramble to ensure they are not in the cross-hairs of the big bosses. Like rats running to the deck level of a sinking ship…

What I have just described sounds like the exact opposite of the CEO’s cherished, self-deprecatory, inverse pyramid illustration (or shall I say, inverse pyramid illusion).

I wonder–did the top leaders wax romantically about the efficacy of their beloved inverse pyramid?

Did the senior leadership team drink their own Kool-Aid and think that employees would buy into their banal attempts to appear as one of the regular guys?

Be honest…
Let’s face the facts–CEOs are so removed from the average worker that it is laughable to think otherwise. How “removed” you ask? Well as of 2013, CEOs make 273 times more than the average worker. Million dollar salaries, million dollar bonuses, personal security detail, personal drivers, private jet privileges, reserved parking, personal chefs and housing allowances make up just a few of the many perks these senior executives reap.

Seriously Steele, what’s your problem?
My issue with the inverse pyramid and other corporate internal communication falsifications is actually really simple–they make a mockery of the workers’ intelligence.

One last word to the senior executives…
Don’t tell workers that your number one mission is to serve their needs when in reality, workers spend their time busting their behinds to fulfill all of your requests.

And while you’re at it, don’t tell workers that your main priority is to serve them, and then in the same breath tell Wall Street that your main priority, above everything else, is to take care of shareholders. How can you serve two masters?

And don’t tell your workers that titles are not important, yet you and your senior team have reserved parking and private elevators. You think workers don’t see that?

It’s really simple, either practice the things your internal communications convey or simply put an end to hypocritical, absurd communication efforts. Everyone knows that they work in an environment that closely resembles a monarchy and not the democracy that you strive to convey.

Your workers are your number one asset–don’t make a mockery of them.

Your workers live in reality.

Just in case you forgot, they’re not sheep that simply go along with every shenanigan placed in front of them.

Practice what you preach… or just stop living in your fantasy world and flip the inverted organizational pyramid back on its natural side.

-Steele

A Champion’s Cause:

“No one sat me down and taught me this stuff. I had to learn it all on my own by bumping my head and watching others do the same…so I freely give away all that I know to help others just like me.”

- Steele A. Champion

I really hope that this post helped you in some way or another. And if it has, do me a favor and share this with someone or better yet, go ahead and provide your name and email address below to subscribe to TalkLikeTheBoss.com. We’ll send you more posts just like this directly to your inbox.

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Stop Calling Minorities – “Inner-city” and “Urban”

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Who woke up one morning and decided that it was a good idea to refer to minorities and low-income people as “inner-city” and “urban”?

Not cool.

I suppose I was in third grade when I learned that the word “inner-city” literally referred to the center of a city, and “urban” as an area within or in close proximity to a city.

Nowhere in my adolescent education (and the dictionary for that matter) did I observe the terms “urban” and “inner-city” used in a way to refer to African-American, Hispanic and other minority communities as those terms are often used today.

Sure I get it, well-intentioned people want to avoid using words that can be perceived as offensive to certain cultural and socioeconomic groups because, as many have witnessed recently in the media, news of people caught saying inappropriate words travels at eye-blink speeds (just ask Paula Deen).
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Transformational Change – Featured Buzzword

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Transformational Change

Obviously because change that doesn’t transform is no longer good enough these days. Don’t get us started on this phrase…we will just keep it really simple and say that it means to make a significant change that would put the organization on a different path or trajectory. In the age where most big companies are clawing to “reinvent themselves,” this phrase has become prevalent in most large companies.

“We are striving for TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE this year and we cannot achieve it without the help of our greatest assets, which of course is all of you guys.”

Drive (Driver) – Featured Buzzword

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Drive (Driver)

To lead or serve as the leader of an initiative.

“We need Jesse to DRIVE this exercise by staying on top of the business owners and ensuring that they are executing against the recommendations.”

When Opportunity Knocks, You Better Run! – Buzzword Alert

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Every now and then I hear a buzzword used in a way that angers me to the point of almost punching a hole in a wall. The buzzword “opportunity” is one of them. Let me explain…

Opportunity used to mean something good. As a child I was taught to seek opportunities and be thankful anytime I ever received one. Dictionary.com defines opportunity as: a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.

Well, leave it up to big corporate to change this once promising term to the complete opposite of its original meaning. When I hear the word “opportunity” said in the office, my skin crawls. Why, you ask? These politically correct, best-practice mongers had the gall to alter the word to mean weakness, or to reference an area that needs improvement.

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Disconnect – Featured Buzzword

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Disconnect

A buzzword referenced when there is not a mutual understanding among at least two parties.

“They sent over the wrong files again…I believe there is a DISCONNECT in our communication of the project requirements.”

Is Your Company Stealing Your Salary?

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Is your company robbing you of the salary you deserve? Possibly.

The one thing I painfully figured out early in my young career is — the method in which companies are able to cheat many of their employees out of the salary they rightfully deserve.

Are you wondering if you’re one of the many victims? Keep on reading because you probably are.

Aside from the most popular method of salary thievery, which is, the initial salary the worker receives upon being hired, the next method of thievery is executed through a series of internal promotions.

So how do they rob me of the salary I deserve?

Companies use the internal promotion, or the practice of hiring an internal candidate for an open role, to secretly whittle away at their employees’ salaries. I painfully uncovered this discreet practice from a personal experience with one of my first employers. And to ensure that I wasn’t being picked-on, I validated my suspicion of this practice by conducting interviews of over 50 professional colleagues from varying years of experience, organizational rank, industries and corporations (and about 50% of them were HR executives).

It works like this; with each internal promotion a worker receives, the company will strategically pay the worker below the market rate, which allows them to save money (an external candidate will more than likely get the market rate). Add up a few of those salary haircuts with each promotion and before you know it, your poor salary could be significantly lower than the going rate for that role (well in the double digits from a percentage stand-point).

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Pivot – Featured Buzzword

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Pivot

To change from the original direction or idea.

“OK, it’s time to PIVOT now that we’ve explored all of the possibilities around the direct mail marketing campaign.”

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