“Bossless office” leads to organizational problems

The age of traditional business setups is on the way out. Company space filled with cubicles, filing cabinets and corner offices are old news, being replaced by open space and communal thinking. We are so far removed from the old days that even bosses could be on the way out.

A recent NPR piece examined a new trend that is known as the “bossless office.” This is just what it sounds like. Instead of one person in charge of all the decision making, the entire team takes responsibility for budgeting, hiring, firing and any other business critical operations.

Rich Sheridan, the co-founder and CEO of Menlo Innovations — one company that operates under this strategy — is interviewed in the piece.

“If you look at a baseball team in the field, no one would say, hey who does the pitcher report to, who does the catcher report to? People who really understand baseball would say, well, they have a role to play but their real purpose is to win the game. To be on the field with each other and trust each other to know how to play,” said Sheridan.

The company is currently headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has embraced the “new age office” with an open floor plan for the 50 workers that are currently employed there. Menlo codes and develops computer programs but does so in what looks like a cafeteria, instead of a traditional office. Sheridan has a desk out there with everyone else instead of a private space in the corner.

The reason for all of this is that by eliminating the layers of red tape that employees need to go through, it speeds of the decision making process. However, there are some issues.

Jeri Ellsworth, a software developer who was formerly employed by Valve, is familiar with the how it can go bad.

“What I learned from Valve is that I don’t think it works,” said Ellsworth. “I think that if you give complete latitudes with no checks and balances, it’s just human nature [employees] are gonna try to minimize the work they have to do and maximize the control they have.”

These open and bossless designs can also lead to a number of problems when it comes to office organization. Record management and document storage is a crucial component for every business. While a free-for-all environment may help with creativity, it can stifle productivity when it is difficult to find a certain file. This is where offsite storage in a secure record center and a business record and information management program can become a valuable resource.

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