The way the world works has completely changed in the last 50 years. Today, organizations, work culture, and the roles of people are more knowledge-based. The standard management policies designed for maximum efficiency by Frederick Taylor more than a century ago are no longer relevant because the basic structure of work has changed.

Under New Management (2016) by David Burkus gives us an insight into this change and how to adapt to it to become successful managers in a work environment that is more flexible, more creative, and more unpredictable. 

David Burkus, the author, discloses new management strategies that are in line with the new workspace, discusses management strategies that never worked earlier, and busts some management myths that have ruled the roost for a long time.

Myth 1 – The Customer is the King

Most management and marketing studies have stressed the fact that the customer is king. Today, organizations need to be more employee-centric. This is because organizations are finding out that happy customers are a result of happy employees. This might sound radical, but to best serve their customers, many leaders now put their customers’ needs second and their employees’ needs first.

This was supported by a study conducted in 2008 by Son Lam and Stephen Brown from Houston University. The study revealed that the service given to customers by happy employees was of much better quality, as perceived by the customers. This was evident even for customers who did not have much interaction with the employees.

Myth 2 – Employees Need to be Micro-Managed

Organizations need to put their trust in their employees. The age-old, rigid micromanaging structure is detrimental to employee engagement and managers need to give their employees more space because the way of working has changed from the manual labor-based work of the past to knowledge-based work today.

Netflix’s unlimited vacation policy and no standard working times are a great example. It is the employees’ discretion to decide their work schedule based on the amount of work they have. They can themselves decide when they need to take time off.

Such a work environment has actually led to a reduction in travel costs for the company because the employees actively make decisions in the ‘best interests’ of the company. 

Myth 3 – Only Leaders Know Who to Hire

Conventional methods of hiring involve recruitment interviews to be done by one or two people, mostly managers and upwards. They focus on qualifications and past work experience as determining factors. 

A new employee, at any level and designation, has to work with a team. And there is no guarantee that an employee with a great past record will fit well with a new team.

This is due to the fact that even top performers need the right team to push them to excel. Moreover, even star performers could bring the morale of the entire team down due to conflicts.

It is wiser to include the entire team to participate in the hiring process. A classic example comes from Whole Foods, where they allow the prospective hire to work with the team for a few weeks, after which the entire team votes to hire the person or not.

Myth 4 – Underperforming Employees Should be Fired

Underperforming, disengaged employees are bad for all companies. They are unproductive, skip work, and/or affect the working environment negatively. However, the better way to do it is to let them go with a good payoff.

Disengaged employees mostly linger around because of the amount of time they have invested in the company. Moreover, they find it difficult to admit that their efforts in their current job were poorly invested.

Paying them a good quitting bonus works in three ways – 

  1. It helps such employees see a reason to why they should move on 
  2. A cash bonus helps alleviate the pain of parting to some extent, and
  3. Helps in creating a better relationship with a parting employee 

Myth 5 – Strict Timetables And Job Descriptions Keep The Organization Organized

The days of manual and repetitive work usually done in factories are over and it is the era of knowledge workers now. Earlier, during the industrial revolution, most work was manual. Productivity was mostly proportional to the number of hours a worker put on it. This gave rise to the necessity of a top-down organizational structure where job descriptions were fixed and strict timetables were maintained.

In creative and knowledge-oriented jobs, having fixed timelines are difficult. At the same time, roles are also dynamic, where employees are organized around projects. Having a flexible work environment allows employees to be intrinsically motivated and more productive.

Myth 6 –  Offices Mean A Closed, Quiet, And Serious Workspace

Many organizations like Facebook are moving out of the typical office, and incorporating open offices. Gone are the cubicles for workers and corner offices for managers. Integrating open workspaces with closed offices in the right amount today facilitates communication and teamwork.

Unlike the myth, Facebook used both open and closed workspaces giving employees the freedom to choose where they would like to work. Such freedom and personal space in work have shown to increase productivity.

Myth 7 – Emails Are The Best Communication Technology

Yes, technology did bring us one of the most convenient and quick forms of communication – emails. However, studies have proven that emails are the biggest distraction for employees. 

One research showed that an average employee checks their emails 36 times an hour. Thus some companies like Atos SE custom-designed an internal network system that helped reduce the use of emails, and thus reduce distraction at work.

Myth 8 – Non-Compete Clauses Are Good For Business

Non-compete clauses prevent employees from joining competitor companies and sharing corporate secrets. While this might seem like a wise business move, it actually led to the fall of Boston’s Route 128, an erstwhile competitor for Silicon Valley.

In actuality, the ‘big idea’ that propels a company to success is often related to something that an employee learns from his previous work experiences. The flow of ideas, development of successful networks, and increase in knowledge take place only when employees interact, take information and knowledge to the next place, and innovate with previous and present knowledge.

This brings up the point that companies should maintain good relations with their past employees because companies with close ties with their ex-employees are better suited to re-hire them or tap their network in the future.

Myth 9 – Performance Rankings Are The Best Feedback Systems

Yearly performance rankings have been the norm in most organizations. However, they do not prove to be productive for new-age companies, considering they are done only once a year – a yardstick that does not do justice to the amount of work an employee does in a year. Performance rankings push employees to focus only on the yearly ranking, killing creativity, because they also foster competition among peers rather than collaboration.

Microsoft showed the way to change. They moved to a system of timely, personal feedback, assessing how people have performed on the goals set in the past and what the employee would like to achieve before the next meeting. This system proved efficient as employees felt fairly assessed, felt that there was lesser comparison with peers, and felt that the company took interest in building their personal skills.

Myth 10 – Salary Details Is Confidential Information

It is a common occurrence in organizations that discussions around salary are secret. Pay scales are considered confidential information in most organizations today. 

However, research has shown that companies are better off being transparent with employees about their salaries. Being transparent prevents them from feeling shortchanged, or feeling envious towards their peers and at the same time shows employees that the company is fair.

For example, in Whole Foods, the salary and performance data of all employees is available for everyone to see. This has resulted in the employees enjoying a great sense of teamwork.

Busting Old Management Myths

All the myths busted above point out to one key feature that new-age companies should understand and imbibe. The key concluding idea is flexibility. Organizations should understand that this new age is brimming with knowledge workers who will appreciate flexibility and autonomy in the workspace. There’s a definite shift in the wind, and it’s going to change management as we know it in the next few decades.