I read this article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Who’s the Boss? There Isn’t One.” It talks about having a boss-less office.
On one hand, I get it. Reducing corporate hierarchy and bureaucracy can be a great thing for companies. Putting decision making in the hands of employees who directly deal with customers can be effective and efficient.
But going manager-less does have a few drawbacks. Many years ago, I was involved in a project to implement self-directed work teams. A group of us sat in a room for literally months talking about how to implement a manager-less environment where employees worked together on all aspects of the operation. After implementing the teams, we discovered two things:
- Someone ends up being the de facto boss. While a company might say, “We have no managers.”, the reality is someone ends up doing the job. They just aren’t being recognized for it. And eventually, they become resentful for taking on the job and not getting acknowledgement for it.
- Employees must be trained on how to manage themselves. Simply making the announcement, “There are no more managers. Make it work.”, is not sufficient. People need some tools – problem solving, conflict management, and change management to work effectively on their own.
There’s a fine line between removing managerial roadblocks and creating organizational anarchy.
Managers are being asked to assume different roles in today’s workplace. That doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary. While I can see managers spending less time solving problems for employees or directing an employee’s career path, I do see managers taking on the new role of being a facilitator of information.
Managers who are doing their job properly bring value to the organization. In fact, any employee who is doing their job properly should be adding value. If that’s not the case within your company, the answer isn’t to eliminate managers. It’s to hold them accountable for your expected results.
Image courtesy of Zen is Stupid2