Work Futures
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Work Futures

Work Futures Daily | The Opposite of Profound

Should Diversity Be Secret? | Company Lying | The Resurrection of American Labor | Office Space Analytics

Beacon NY — 2019–02–19 — Secrets and lies in the corporation are the theme today, it seems, although the title of today’s issue actually comes from the quote of the day, because it’s a bit more interesting and uplifting.

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Why Companies Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Treat Their Diversity Numbers as Trade Secrets | Jamillah Bowman Williams reports (paywall) on an odd corner in the diversity efforts at tech companies: they often treat their diversity data as if it were a trade secret.

“One might argue that placing high value on diversity through a trade secret framework sounds like a positive development. However, my research suggests that this approach ultimately harms diverse talent, hinders transparency and accountability, and limits the potential of diversity efforts to advance workplace equity.”


4 Ways Lying Becomes the Norm at a Company | Ron Carucci found (paywall) four factors linked to dishonesty in a 15-year longitudinal study involving 3,200 interviews at 210 organizations. They found that a drop in trust leads to real impacts in missed revenues. “The four factors:

  • Lack of strategy clarity — ‘it is 2.83 times more likely to have people withhold or distort truthful information’ when companies lack consistency between mission, objectives, and values and the everyday reality felt and seen by employees and market. ‘A 10% increase in clarity can … improve truth telling by 5%’.
  • Unjust accountability systems — When the ways of assessing employees contributions are seen to be unfair or unjust, ‘we found it is 3.77 times more likely to have people withhold or distort information’. ‘Research on organizational injustice shows a direct correlation between an employee’s sense of fairness and a conscious choice to sabotage the organization. And more recent research confirms that unfair comparison among employees leads directly to unethical behavior.’ Improvement of 20% leads to 12% increase in truth telling.
  • Poor organizational governance — When needed conversations about tough issues don’t happen, ‘truth is forced underground’. ‘We found that when effective governance is missing, organizations are 3.03 times more likely to have people withhold or distort information.’ A 23% improvement leads to 20% increase in truth telling.
  • Weak cross functional collaboration — ‘When cross-functional rivalry or unhealthy conflict is left unaddressed, an organization is 5.82 times more likely to have people withhold or distort truthful information.’ A 25% improvement leads to a 17% increase in truth telling.”

Note that in each case countering the negative factor has to be larger — more broadly based and involving more leadership — than the final outcomes across the organization. Lack of trust is like a cancer, and it requires very strong medicine to root it out.


The Resurrection of American Labor | Janet Paskin investigates traditional and innovative approaches to the power of labor organizing.

“Workers aren’t waiting for the traditional forms of organizing, as provided under labor law,” says Tom Kochan, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research. “They’re looking for new options, whether that’s Google employees on a one-day walkout or workers filing online petitions with their management about everything from scheduling to fringe benefits.”

Kochan has been studying what academics call “worker voice” — how much influence employees feel they have over their working conditions — since the 1970s. At the beginning of his career, about one-quarter of workers were represented by a union and another third, according to a national Quality of Employment Survey, said they’d join one if they had an opportunity. The next time the question was fielded, in the mid-’90s, workers’ interest in joining a union had barely budged.

Kochan and his colleagues put the question to almost 4,000 workers in 2017. The results: Almost 2 out of 3 said they had less of a voice than they felt they deserved, and nearly half said they’d like the opportunity to join a union. “That doesn’t mean they want an actual union in the traditional sense,” Kochan says. “It’s more of an expression that they’re looking for some form of voice, a desire for real influence.”

Go read the whole thing.


WeWork Is Trying a Creepy New Strategy. It Just Might Signal the End of the Workplace As We Know it. | Betsy Mikel reports on WeWork wanting to become the ‘Google Analytics of space’, meaning office space.

“WeWork’s chief product officer Shiva Rajaraman told TechCrunch they’re moving towards becoming the “Google analytics for space” to make sure rooms are used most efficiently.

The positive spin on this technology is that it could inform decisions about how offices get designed. If a company better understands how different meeting rooms are being overbooked or under-utilized, they could make improvements. This could mean fewer room-booking snafus that any today’s office workers know all too well.

But tracking employees as they go about their work days presents obvious privacy concerns, too. Frankly, it’s creepy. It feels particularly Big Brother-y — especially if employees aren’t aware it’s happening.

Rajaraman assured TechCrunch that the technology would not capture anything personal or identifiable about people. “We’re looking at the aggregate level to understand how space is being used,” he explained.”

They aren’t tracking people’s movements, per se, but the utilization of space. Except, of course, if it can be used the other way. And the ostensible purpose is to minimize space: squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

Quote of the Day

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

| Niels Bohr

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The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future

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Stowe Boyd

Stowe Boyd

My principal obsession is the ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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