When it comes to treatment of employees, many employers operate in ways ranging from authoritarian states to full-blown Communist thugocracies. When you read your employee handbook you may notice at least 3 rights trampled upon that we who live in happening Western democracies take for granted. In the interest of flagrant clickbait, let’s list them:
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. A key element of a totalitarian state is the control of information. Although increasingly difficult in the Internet era, it can be done–perhaps via the application of massive social engineering or the occasional public assassination. From the Stasi to the Great Firewall of China, the State has its ways. Same for your employer.
One of the first documents you sign when you get your employee handbook is a Non Disclosure Agreement. This makes sure you can’t reveal any trade secrets publicly. This also means anything you say anywhere (especially on Facebook, Twitter, or a blog) can be held against you. If you enjoy expressing yourself online, you might carefully consider your choice of employment. Do you think I would write a blog post like this if I had a real job?
PRIVATE PROPERTY. The hallmark of most failed states is either a ban of private property or the inability for the rule of law to protect said right. Your employer is no different. As we have discussed before, oppressive Invention Assignment contracts are designed so workers have no ownership of not only what they create on the job but anywhere else. Some employers may even want your sex tapes.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT. The Berlin Wall was perhaps the most famous icon of the Soviet Union. Its construction was a massive PR blunder for the Soviets, but also one of the few ways they could keep people from fleeing the State. Box them in and shoot anything that moves. Anyone who has plead with HR to use vacation days or spent some time as a veal in a cubicle anchored to an inefficient 9 to 5 schedule may relate.
I’m the first person to admit there is no substitute for face to face communication. However, there are a lot of cases where people may get more work done in isolation at home or a coworking facility.
Also, if you are a CEO trying to recruit top talent, many prospects may want to stay put. If you really want your ninja rockstar, a telecommuting arrangement may be a good idea. Even local candidates can benefit from flex time. Yet many managers want their programmers to spend 3 extra hours a day in front of a steering wheel instead of a keyboard.
TEAR DOWN THIS WALL
Some employers are better than others. It seems the worst ones are those with the strictest policies. Indeed, these rules tend to need more enforcement as your organization grows larger. Maybe it’s too large?
Management may be mystified as to why employees don’t last long before hopping to startups or competitors. I imagine much like Soviet apparatchiks were seemingly clueless as to why Soviet citizens risked being gunned down or tortured to hop across Checkpoint Charlie. A dosage of Glasnost, or perhaps entrusting your employees with a taste of freedom might lead your organization to new highs. Otherwise, it might be time for a visit from David Hasselhoff.