Managers always told us to embrace change. Until it happened to them

ALSO: join the live audio chat this Thursday at 5pm / HR TikTok

Make Work Better is a weekly newsletter about work & workplace culture. If you’ve ever told anyone ‘our secret is our culture’ then this is the place we’re trying to find out how to rebuild it. Shout out to all the people who sent kids back to school this week. Let’s pray we can undo the harm that has been done.

Let’s try something new. This week on Thursday 11th March at 5pm I’m going to hold a Twitter Spaces chat about the year ahead in workplace culture featuring Professor Dan Cable author of ‘Exceptional’ and Annie Auerbach author of ‘Flex’ plus a participating audience (including you).

What’s Twitter Spaces? It’s an audio only chat room hosted on Twitter that allows anyone to participate (a lot like Clubhouse but not exclusive to tech bros).

Anyone can join on the day - and in fact we can bring anyone who turns up to the stage. Who knows how it will go but it’s like a live conference on your phone so it could be fun.

To make sure it’s a good experience for the audience I’m trying to work out who will make a valuable contribution. If you want to share your company’s approach or something you’ve been inspired by contact me by replying to this email.

I’m looking to answers to some of these reasons to call:

  • ‘first we were like ‘nooooo’, but now we’re like ‘woahhhhh’’

  • ‘we know remote is a fad and we've got the evidence to prove it’

  • ‘we're getting rid of the office, find us dialling in from the Highland Glen from June’

  • ‘Keith hasn’t had his camera on since October and we’re worried about his yucca plant’

  • ‘the Boss doesn’t like it but we’re doing it’

If I can work out how to record it I may even put it out as a podcast. To join follow @brucedaisley and come to the Twitter phone app at 5pm on Thursday (12 noon ET, 9am PT)

(Normal rules apply: no PR blather and I generally say no CEOs).

‘Managers always told us to embrace change. Until it happened to them’

Thanks for your comments to last week’s newsletter. I was really inspired by something that Julia Steel replied on my LinkedIn. She said “Leaders are so used to asking their people to change that now the shoes on the other foot its all starting to get a bit dicey”.

Never has a nail been hit more squarely on the head, every pocket Steve Jobs who believes that they are a great leader has been presented with a conundrum.

Many of them like feeling in control, it’s natural, it’s one of the ways that we most feel resilient. Having our teams out of eyesight makes us feel a little helpless.

But I was struck by what one huge company told me this week, they said when they were building their hybrid working policy for the future they took out one critical phrase. When it came to allowing three days homeworking a week they deleted ‘with your line manager’s permission’.

The leader who told me said anything that needs line managers’ permission suddenly changes. Two adjacent teams get a different experience based on the insecurities and anxieties of their boss. The leader told me: ‘it was a deal breaker for me, we’re creating something new here, something positive and motivating, something that will help us hire top talent and I’m not allowing a manager to quietly abolish it for his team’. Such a brilliant lesson in that.

We’re all artists but it’s better business to deny it

I loved loved loved this this week. A clip of David Bowie explaining how the establishment benefits from escalating chosen artists to an elite rather than accept that everyone can create art.

As the tweeter says “My fav Bowie clip ever is him talking about how the Art establishment co-opts particular voices out of a fertile art movement to kill off that movement by creating singular voices to perpetuate the idea of Art as rare commodity by geniuses rather than something within all people“. His example of street art is spot on. If you’ve quietly wondered why Harding or Basquiat is better than some other street artist then this is the answer. (Hat tip to @markbanham who shared the clip on Twitter).

I’m a big fan of Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis from Squiggly Careers - they did a zingy TED Talk last week about how we should rethink our careers

HR Tok

I’ve spoken a bit about TikTok over the last few weeks. I’m really enchanted with how it surfaces so many varied voices and there’s so much GenZ political mobilisation on there it’s impossible not to be inspired by it.

There’s a whole vibe of HR Tok going on right now - and like it or not it could well end up happening to your firm. The #HR hashtag is a bit of a Wild West but has over 700 hundred million views on posts associated with it (about a third of them seem to be genuinely about HR). But the conversation is largely schooling GenZ’s that HR really isn’t your friend and that if you’re badly treated at work you have a voice.

Here’s some examples:

HR is protecting the company - not you!

Google walkout ‘how HR tried to spin optics on an employee protest’

‘Google hates black people’ (sorry to single Google out, there’s just a lot of unhappy former employees being vocal about it)

Culture: Firms will make you believe work is a family to exploit you [homework exercise: does your culture initiative pass muster versus this?]

Response: How firms use ‘family culture’ to avoid you joining a union

Imposter syndrome seems to have no power over mediocre white men

Stupid: HR requesting you back to the office

The interesting thing about TikTok is that as it increasingly displaces Instagram as the app of choice for a lot of people the format does favour small pieces of substance and campaigning. The algorithm is so heavily optimised that something that hits a chord can suddenly find itself reaching hundreds of thousands of people. Not everything is as filmic as this (the Hollywood twist means it’s done 30 million views - across two versions - in two days as I write) but content dissing firms blows up. One to watch, swipe, and watch.

Make Work Better is created by Bruce Daisley, workplace culture enthusiast. You can find more about Bruce’s book, podcast and writing at the Eat Sleep Work Repeat website. 2nd book writing progress: ███░░░░░░░ 30%