Seven Beliefs We Need in the Workplace

Providence Public Library - Creative Commons License
So much of what happens in a day work is unproductive politics and posturing.  Here are seven fundamental beliefs or commitments that need to be present in an organization's culture to suggest real work may be possible.

Being open, honest, and direct with others is desirable.
Far too much time is spent in organizations dealing with anything but the truth because individuals see being open, honest, and direct as too risky. I am not without empathy for such a perspective, but the only way to overcome it is to start being open, honest, and direct. Perhaps then others will see that doing so does not lead to immediate death, and they too might try the behavior on for size.


How others do what they do is their business.
What is it about some people that causes them to spend so much of their attention and energy worrying about how their colleagues do what they do? Of course, we might all have opinions on the best way for someone to do something, but it is their responsibility, not ours. We can suggest, and in some cases even direct, how others approach a task. In the end though, as long as their work gets done, how others do what they do really is little of our business.


We are always in a position to do better.
Sure continuous improvement can get old after a while, but we can always improve on what we are doing and how we do it. To suggest otherwise, limits individual creativity and stifles organizational progress. Good organizations celebrate the group successes and individual accomplishments that regularly occur along the long road to high achievement. But even superstars know their star can shine a bit more brightly with additional effort.


People are not put into positions for which they lack the requisite skills or talent.
Call it the Peter Principle, the Pam Principle, or plain idiocy, but far too many people get moved into positions for which they are not a good fit. I've seen too many talented individuals in one job get promoted to management positions when they would have been better left as a doer. Organizational politics often lead to staffing patterns that make little sense in terms of true talent, but seem to succeed at keeping individual foes far from each other in the organizational chart. Much to my surprise a fair number of top executives can't (or don't) confront failing middle managers, so they just keep moving them around the organization or appear unaware that line workers abhor their manager's shortcomings. Yeah, that's a team I'd want to devote my very best to supporting.


The structure and processes we use to do our work are fluid, evolving regularly to support the work being done.
Control freaks find this one a bit difficult to swallow. I'm all for structure when structure helps get the work done. But the work we do changes as does the environment in which we do it. Given those realities, it only make sense that an organization's structure and processes remain fluid and regularly evolve to match the new work that is being done. In many organizations though, such a suggestion would be pure heresy to the latent disciples of good ol' father of scientific management Frederick Taylor himself. Without their clipboards and stop watches, they wouldn't know how to get through the day. Enough already.


We prescribe trust in, and assume the best about, our colleagues until proven wrong.
For some people, they have been "burned" too frequently by colleagues in the past to approach new folks with anything less than a wary eye. Understandable? Absolutely. Fair? Hardly. Carrying your mistrust resulting from a relationship with another individual into your relationship with me is not the way you and I are going to develop the ability to work together. I am not the problem, so don’t approach me as if I am. Sure, you don't know whether I am going to be like your worst nightmare colleagues from the past or your favorite office co-worker. Why not assume it will be the latter? It's a prophecy more likely to come true if you do.


Taking time to think is seen as honorable.
Probably one of the greatest perceived luxuries I have as a writer, facilitator, and consultant is longer and more frequently available blocks of time to read, reflect, and think. While my current professional role certainly affords me more of this than the average individual, having them as a large part of my weekly work schedule was a habit engrained in me by my earliest mentors. When you take the long view of progress, you realize there are windows of opportunity, not just one window. As such, you value growth and innovation over time and not just today or this week. Accomplishing continuous growth and development of that nature requires ongoing reflection and reassessment. Committing the time for such activity should be seen as an honorable trait in all individuals. 



What principles would you add for a more human and productive workplace?