Maxims in Need of a Makeover
Forget those management cliches. These professors say it's time to follow the evidence
Life and Work Should Be Kept Separate
It is a truism that dominates almost every office building in the country. Intraoffice dating and marriage are no-nos. Jobs aren't offered to people who "smile too much." Senior partners frown on dogs or kids in the office. "You should consider your coworker your enemy," former CEO James Halpin of CompUSA once told his employees.
But wait. Why are businesses so determined to keep work and life separate? There is certainly plenty of evidence that companies willing to gray the line between work and play aren't suffering as a result. Google, for example, asks employees to spend 70 percent of their time on the company's core business, then gives workers the remaining 30 percent to work on other projects related to new business--something akin to what they would do for fun. Does it work? The proof may be in the pudding. Out of this "free time" Google News, Google Earth, and Google Local have emerged.
Southwest Airlines has gone a step further--tossing the old maxim about intraoffice relationships to the wind. About 2,200 of the 32,000 employees at the company are married to someone at Southwest. "We've talked to our employees from Day 1 about being one big family," Colleen Barrett, the company's president, told the authors. "If you stop and think about it for even 20 seconds, the things we do are things you would do with your own family." Southwest sends birthday cards and letters of congratulation on the anniversary of each employee's hire. The company acknowledges when employees' children are sick or when there has been a death in the family. And the message seems to be getting through: One study of the major carriers in the U.S. airline industry found that Southwest employees did, in fact, talk about the company as if it were an extension of their family. They use "we" to describe their employer. Southwest attracts 30 or more applicants for every job opening. Driving a wedge between work and life is a fool's errand, says Pfeffer. "The idea that you can separate those two is just impossible." The more companies that realize it, the sooner work won't have to be a four-letter word.