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Eureka: Three types of organizations
by Joseph Gatt
2018-01-16 09:49:43
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Having worked and visited several companies, patterns emerged. You have companies who treat staff like roommates, companies who treat staff like children and finally companies who treat staff like guests. Let me elaborate on this further, using personal experiences and general examples of companies and how they treat their staff.

Treating staff like roommates

When you have a roommate, there are rules. But the rules apply to everyone. You don't date roommates as a rule because that would lead to conflicts over how to divide the rent. You have your space and your roommate has theirs, you don't just go to your roommate's room without knocking on the door. You keep the house clean and pay the bills, and for the rest you do your own thing and your roommate does theirs.

organ01_400In many countries, this type of organization mode is preferred. You have your mission, your goals, you can talk to your co-workers without invading their space. You take care of your mission and your colleagues take care of theirs. Pay can be equal or can vary on the size of the mission, just like rent can vary depending on the size of the room or space available. You are expected to be polite and cordial and you don't want to give your roommate too much of a hard time, otherwise they tend to leave and find another roommate.

The notion of personal space is an important one when staff is treated like roommates. They have their personal office, and have the right to privacy. When sharing an apartment with roommates, you want to minimize the time spent with other roommates, because as they say familiarity breeds contempt. You can talk to your colleagues about your projects as long as it does not invade their personal space. Such organizations have become rare, social media has something to do with it, as well as a tendency for companies and organizations to prefer group projects to invidividual projects. I have had many friends who worked for such companies but have not worked for such a company yet. Such companies tend to be prevalent where shareholders control the company, meaning that no single individual or family is to be pleased with results, but a group of people is to be pleased with results.

Treating staff like children

Such companies have vertical hierarchies where you come in and the company starts counting the amount of time you spend working just like we watch children grow in age. Such companies tend to assign you to generalist positions, and watch you suffer through the first few years just like a child learns how to walk, speak and move independently. In such companies, you can not work independently until you have worked for several years, anywhere from five years to twenty years before you can initiate projects or lead teams. Such companies are prevalent in East Asia or in countries where individual or family ownership of large companies is the norm.

Such companies believe that you can not be born a genius. Everyone has to learn how to walk, talk and act the way they are supposed to act at the company. The first few years spent at the company tend to be observation periods where no serious task is asked of employees. Employees tend to perform general tasks that are meant to be for training purposes rather than for performance purposes. Once the employee has mastered the general tasks, he can move up the ladder and start working on more meaningful or concrete tasks.

Of course such companies treat employees like children and scold them like children. In many cases, employees can not perform individual tasks as in choosing their meals or going for breaks. People who work for such companies tend to complain about high stress levels, because as much as it is difficult to satisfy an individual or a family, the owners tend to play golf while their “children” do all the dirty work. I've worked for such companies, and it was not pretty. Each time I started working for such companies, I felt like I was locked up in a cradle waiting for big boss to come feed me with work then spank me for doing it the wrong way. Like a child I had to wait for the explanations to come and was not allowed to ask questions, and was only allowed to be given the explanation once. Like a child, company problems and secrets were kept away not to be revealed by the bosses, who kept a lot of secrets among themselves as well.

Companies who treat staff like guests

“Why would you want to spend at least 5 years working for us?” is a question I got a lot at companies who treat staff like guests. Like a guest, you get free coffee and cookies, you can take all the breaks you want, and you're not expected to help with anything, although offering a helping hand is always welcome.

Things start off great. Your boss makes everything easy for you. But your boss is surprised why you would want to spend several years working for them. Gradually your little quirks start irritating your boss. You smoke too much, or hang out too much. Your boss takes away that comfortable chair you put on the balcony where you used to enjoy the sunshine during breaks. The easy tasks you were given start getting more complicated. Your boss hints that your time is up. The only way you can stay at the company is if you marry the leadership's family members, otherwise you're told you're no longer needeed.

I worked for two such organizations. At the first organization I was welcome as a guest, I was a teacher, and was constantly supervised in the classroom. At first no one would point out my mistakes, before mistakes were gradually pointed out. After six months, they really wanted me out, because I was not behaving like a guest. You see guests tend to be shy and insecure, and tend to apologize for you hosting them. I was not shy, certainly wasn't insecure, and did not apologize for their efforts hosting me. Needless to say I was completely banned from teaching in South Korea.

The second organization was a bit of the same story. I was also a teacher, had my spot for breaks, but again was expected to be shy, insecure and apologetic. Given that I was neither shy, nor insecure, nor apologetic, problems started being created out of thin air and I was let go.

Conclusion: what to make of this

Domestic politics and international relations has something to do with this. Europe expects its immigrants to behave like guests, immigrants want to be roommates. Some Middle Eastern countries, which are declining in number, want Israel to behave like a guest in the region, while Israel treats its Arab minority like roommates. Some universities treat students like children, while students want to be treated like roommates. Before the Arab spring, people in a number of Arab countries felt like they were being treated like children when they should really have been roommates. The list goes on and on.




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