Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

No jerk zones

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An article by McKinsey-if-you-can’t-put-a-metric-or-wrap-a-process-around-it
-it’s-not-worth-paying-attention-to about Building a civilised workplace (registration needed)

…there is a business case against tolerating nasty and demeaning people.
Companies that put up with jerks not only can have more difficulty
recruiting and retaining the best and brightest talent but are also
prone to higher client churn, damaged reputations, and diminished
investor confidence. Innovation and creativity may suffer, and
cooperation could be impaired, both within and outside the
organization—no small matter in an increasingly networked world.

The most important single principle for building a workplace free of
jerks, or to avoid acting like one yourself, is to view being a jerk as
a kind of contagious disease. Once disdain, anger, and contempt are
ignited, they spread like wildfire.

Or as Bob Sutton says:

[W]hen you work with assholes, you don’t change them for the better, they change you into an asshole.

Apparently, the problem is more widespread than you might think. No shit Sherlock, in a set-up where power comes down from the top, jerks are inevitable. It’s like being surprised that the Inquisition had people who were sadists. This is not a cheap dig at the Inquisition – whose history I believe is full of controversy due of its evil ways and a lack of understanding of its context – but a statement that systems with centralised or unchecked power attract people who wield it enthusiastically and ruthlessly. Using that power, in exchange for perpetuating the system, they shape others to its rules. Nasty things become possible in the name of the institution/system/organisation… It’s one of the mechanisms behind corruption by power.

There is good news and bad news about workplace jerks. The bad news is
that abuse is widespread and the human and financial toll is high. The
good news is that leaders can take steps to build workplaces where
demeaning behavior isn’t tolerated and nasty people are shown the door.

The No Assholes Rule would be a good start. Giving employees more autonomy even better.

All in one place

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A report from the corporate front with the internet open communications. If you detect a hint of frustration or god forbid sarcasm, it’s just my impatient nature. Obviously.

  • The benefits of decentralised communications and human conversation are explained to people within corporations – PR, marketing, communications, executive types, you named it – anyone who’s interested and would listen.
  • They see the point, even get excited, add their two cents and…
  • …after a few months embark on a cautious attempt to think of a ‘project’ that would achieve ‘decentralised communications and human conversation’ as a deliverable and with appropriate metrics.
  • After many back and forths regarding details, scenarios, possibilities, objections, identifications of risks (e.g. an errand asteroid hitting the earth) and occasionally opportunities, the ‘project’ proceeds at a snail pace.
  • A flurry of meetings, conference calls, emails with grown-up attachments ensues punctuated with conversations that restore some of the passion for the idea.
  • A first practical implementation appears – like a snowdrop on a barren ground with grey patches of old snow.
  • After a few more pushes and rays of sunshine from the outside (i.e. competitors embarking on something similar), the people involved are spurred to further action.
  • The finishing line is nigh, but compliance/legal/IT/little green men magically appear on the scene raising more objections than a lawyer in a discrimination case.
  • A killer objection is suddenly identified by the people who have been involved from the start and supported the idea. Example: We can’t talk openly about the problems we face and put our side of the story because that would look too negative. We need to be more positive and talk about our achievements and opportunities and rephrase our ‘about section’ or re-purpose our strategy/objective/perspective.


I have heard a similar argument several times by now and last night a friend of mine faced the same objection to a project that is brilliant and almost up and running. His frustration was palpable.

It eludes to some people that the internet is already providing the ‘one place’ where others can find anything about anything. Pretending that the bad stuff is not out there is no way to protect someone’s image. Or pretending that the image the world sees is the one they are presenting of themselves. Image silos are down just as much as the communications silos. Credibility is a function of several things – transparency, speed of response, expertise and authentic voice. By admitting to mistakes or addressing others’ mistaken perception of actions, companies can demonstrate two things – confidence in their own identity and respect for their audience by not shoving anodyne and watered down versions of it. Otherwise, others will do it for you.


But let’s not be beastly, let’s be positive and practical. A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the organisation is their worst enemy:

  1. Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
  2. Find people inside the organisation who understand both how important and good such change is and the original reason behind processes that are stopping it.
  3. Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
  4. Gradually connect these people in a network that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’, i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating alternative ways of doing things.
  5. Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
  6. Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
  7. Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.

Good luck.

Hydra of Web 2.0 adoption

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This is very relevant and nicely summed up. The stages vary for different company but as long as the end state is the same, let’s not be dogmatic about it. :)

  1. "We have wikis, internally"
  2. "We have blogs, internally"
  3. "We have employees who write blogs"
  4. "We have employees who write blogs, hosted upon a corporate blog server"
  5. "All our press releases are posted on the blogserver and have a RSS feed"
  6. "Several of our CxOs have got blogs"
  7. "The CEO has a blog and actually writes his own postings"
  8. "We have wikis, externally, and allow employees to modify them"
  9. "We have employees who read and comment upon blogs of their peers, partners and customers"
  10. "We assign our employees a significant percentage of time to write, read and comment on blogs"
  11. "We have wikis, externally, and allow anyone to modify them"
  12. "We stopped writing press releases, and started communicating with people instead"
  13. "We wash our corporate laundry in public on the blogserver"
  14. "We disabled AJAX hyperlink popups,
    realising they are evil"
  15. "We fired our public relations and marketing staff, realising they are no longer relevant"

The stages above operate against the backdrop of Parallel reinvention and management argumentation:

  1. we don’t need this
  2. who’ll pay for it
  3. here’s our solution we bought it and people will use it irrespective that it sucks
  4. oh to hell with it let them do what they want
  5. management adoption of the field’s preferred tool

And the whole things should be capped with words of Doc Searls

I don’t use the term "Web 2.0" either. When asked a
long time ago to define what it meant to me, I said it’s the name we’ll
give to the next crash.

The human need to increase what we know, and to
help each other do the same, is what the Net at its best is all about.
Yeah, it’s about other things. But it needs to be respected as an
accessory to our humanity. And terms like "social media", forgive me,
don’t do that. (At least not for me.)

It don’t do that for me either.

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