Last month, I let you know that I was scheduled to sit down with the authors of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution,” to discuss the theory and reality behind the results-only work environment.

A few weeks ago, I did indeed interview Jody Thompson, one of the book’s co-authors. My full Q&A with her will be available soon in the April 15 EBN, but I promised an excerpt, and I keep my promises, so here it is.

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EBN: Obviously, you don’t think work actually sucks. So, as opposed to saying that work sucks, what is it about our current work environment that isn’t working well — it our work processes, our workflow, the culture of the corporate environment, a combination of those things?

Thompson: When we say ‘work sucks,’ we don’t mean it’s the work that people do that sucks. People like what they do. But what sucks about work is the culture and the way that people are forced to do the work.

What makes people stressed out, feeling resentful and feeling overworked and overwhelmed is the 1950s roles and guidelines from the industrial era are still running the workplace today. We’re expected to show up, put in our time. If we have to do something in the middle of the day, we have to take time off or ask permission. It’s a very paternalistic structure, and that’s what sucks about it. We don’t have control over our time.

EBN: Why do you think that structure persists even now in the 21st  century? Is it a sense of employer distrust — they don’t trust employees to be truthful about where they are, how they’re managing their time?

Thompson: You hit right on it — it’s about not trusting people. But the other thing is, people aren’t clear about the outcomes they’re expected to achieve, and they’re not clear on how to measure it. So, it’s easier to look at time + physical presence = results. So, if my people show up every day — even if I don’t know what they’re doing — at least they’re at work.

The trust thing comes in because they’re not sure what people are supposed to be accomplishing. And so teleworkers get asked by their managers, “I need to see what you’re working on every hour.” But they don’t do that when you’re in the office!

Then, people feel guilty if they aren’t in the office or feel judged if they don’t put in a lot of face time.

It’s interesting that we don’t trust people unless we can see them, but even if we can see them it doesn’t mean they’re doing work. It just means they’re at the workplace.
So, the [ROWE] concept is around identifying exactly what people are supposed to accomplish and how to measure it. And in every job, you can figure that out.

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How do you figure it out? And how are things like employee work preferences and team morale affected? Read the interview, “All work, no play—no more,” in EBN April 15, available online in two weeks. Meantime, share your thoughts in the comments about what Thompson said. Does work really suck? And if so, will ROWE fix it?

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