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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Business Week's New Corporate Culture...Are You Kidding Me?

Did you read the story in the NY Times by Stephanie Clifford, about the new work environment of Businessweek since Bloomberg took over? Not only has the magazine been redesigned, but so has the corporate culture.

After many layoffs, Businessweek is now a corporate culture based on monitoring dashboards of web hits that will be used to calculate their writers rate of pay. Pay is now partially based on the number of website hits (even though hard copy print is not tracked.)

The corporate culture of monitoring also now includes the time the you clocked in to work and with that, the time you logged on is displayed next to your name on all your emails. Everyone now sees what time you arrived and logged on. Heaven help you if there is a need to reboot the PC or to leave work early, even for a story. Slacker, slacker, slacker!

But there is more. If you forget your ID badge, the term ‘Forgotten Badge’ appears next to every e-mail message you send to co-workers throughout that day. You might as well also pull out the letter "A" and put it on your chest (remember Hester Prynne and the Scarlett Letter?) or better yet, wear a dunce hat and sit in your cubicle so everyone can come by and know you failed the number one company rule; bring your badge.

Big brother, I had no idea you had so many nooks and cranny's you felt needed to reemerge in today's environment. Who knew that the primary goal and output would become time reporting and monitoring at a magazine rather than generating and sharing business information? Very interesting shift of thought and motivational strategy, Businessweek.

In addition, now every writer and editor gets a copy of “The Bloomberg Way,” including a guide and on how their articles can be written, including what details can be shared. The new management wants to make sure everything is standardized and becomes a cookie cutter of discipline and writing. This will make sure there is no coloring outside any lines, just like it was way back in grade school.

Being monitored, controlled, micromanaged, with that oppressive undercurrent of fear is the new corporate culture at Businessweek.

What I read in the Times article made me gasp and shiver. This kind of work environment does not lend itself to being motivated or even producing good results. The culture has been replaced with a new agenda which is conformity and control through fear and intimidation.

We are living at a time in history where we probably know more about human behavior, motivation, and what makes companies successful than any other time in the history of humankind, and yet, here we have a company going back to the management aspects used from the past; control, fear, control, fear.

So my advice (yes, I’m finally getting around to giving advice), get your popcorn and watch the new Businessweek magazine slowly fade into the sunset. I’ll bet employees within the walls of Businessweek have lots of ideas of how to improve the magazine and how to make it thrive, but they will forever be stifled because they will be focused and motivated to clock in on time, create a sensational headline to get someone to click on the article, and never to leave their computer to look for new stories. It sounds like the results Businessweek must be looking for, because this is clearly the environment being created.

Under this type of controlling regime the eventual outcome will be 1) watch the magazine fail or 2) change the management and work environment to allow ideas to grow and flow.

Leadership matters. The work environment matters. How you motivate employees matter. Creating a work environment that allows people to take risks and feel safe is important. This is what history has taught us. The work environment at Businessweek shared by the Times is an environment that will eventually lead to failure.

For more, I suggest reading “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Drive, The Surprising Truth as to What Motivates Us” by Daniel Pink.