Insecure Managers a Major Impediment to IT Success

by bob on April 30, 2007

Web Worker Daily has a pretty good essay on how telecommute workers are marginalized. What prompted the essay was the story of a spectacular crash and explosion that caused a critical section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to collapse. Since this will prevent hundreds of thousands of people getting to work for several months, authorities urge people to telecommute if possible. The obvious question is, why is telecommuting only in general favor as a response to disasters — as if normal, sane people would never choose to work that way unless they had to? Even in a high-tech hotbed like the San Francisco area? I mean, telecommuting is anything but “roughing it”. You don’t fully realize how draining and time consuming a daily work commute is until you no longer have to do it.

I think WWD’s essay is spot on in citing the top reason for this:

It would help to have companies and executives who are more concerned with results than with empire-building, to accommodate those who work best in the burst economy. This would help prevent web work from becoming a career killer.

I would take it a bit further and say that the real reason a lot of companies mightily resist extensive telecommute relationships with both employees and contractors boils down to the simple fact that managers do not get to strut around their personal domains and enjoy seeing first-hand all the people under their thumbs. Micro-management is much more difficult with telecommuting; long, soul-sucking pointless meetings are more difficult to inflict on people; and besides, in-person ass-kissing is ever so much more gratifying.

I don’t wish to suggest that all management is evil and counterproductive; there are shining exceptions. I also don’t wish to suggest that many kinds of jobs don’t require at least some “face time”. But that the 8-to-5 work day at company facilities, every day, is still the default seems ludicrous to me. Especially in the cities. It is, after all, the 21st century.

The benefits in terms of worker productivity and morale, environmental impact, and yes, relative invulnerability to disruptive events like that rained down upon San Francisco by that hapless truck driver, are compelling. I hope that the lemming mentaility that keeps things The Way They’ve Always Been will, within the next decade, seem as relevant as powdered wigs and knee breeches.

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