This Week at Work: 2017–01–15

Curated links on the future of work and work technologies.

A few links to posts here at Work Futures, first.

I explored the phenomenon of Swift Trust, how temporary groups can put aside typical group politics to accomplish coordinated work in short order, and that the skills involved are critical to the new economy we are in.

I also wrote about Atlassian’s acquisition of Trello:

And now, here’s some links from other sources.

Radical Candor is a new extreme in the radical transparency approach to workplace culture, and this Buzzfeed piece explores the theory in the context of a London-based startup, Thread:

Jonny Ensall,

Topics up for discussion include feelings, productivity, goals, frustrations, friendships, tensions, and home truths. The whole thing is emotionally exhausting — like sitting through back-to-back psychotherapy sessions. Most start with a recap around what’s happening in the employee’s personal life — what Scott would call “moving up on the care personally axis”. That’s followed by feedback on things such as time management and communication, where employees are challenged on the ways they work.

In return, criticisms are passed up the chain. For example, one coder isn’t pleased that he’s having to give up the forthcoming weekend to go on a company retreat to Northumberland. I can empathise — 24 hours of Radical Candor in a isolated house near Bamburgh isn’t my idea of nice, relaxing time off either. Another, relatively new member of the development team has some feedback on the whole culture of feedback. “It’s a surprise how many meetings there are,” he says. “It does eat into coding time.”

Radical candor has been developed by Kim Scott, and can be visualized as the upper right quadrant (the good one) in this reductive 2x2 matrix:

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I haven’t read much about this, but my (kneejerk, I admit) response is that the other three quadrants are positioned as being so bad that you should be in prison or exiled if you advocate or apply them. Meaning that there is no other reasonable approach to culture management? I think I will stick with a horrible blend of manipulative insincerity and ruinous aggression: the old ways are the best ways!

A Deloitte survey (sponsored by Facebook) probes C-suite execs about the future of work, and they pulled out six — not really very surprising — recommendations. On one hand, the executives seem to give lip service to the notion that the future of work will be very different than the past, but their recommendations are extremely conservative. One way to interpret this: C-suite executives — and most everyone else — have a difficult time conceptualizing what may emerge out of the fog of so much disruptive change in work. Therefore, their admonitions about what to do are likely to be unhelpful past the next few quarters, if that.

The authors of the report, , conclude,

At its core, how we work in [the] future will be more networked, more devolved, more mobile, more team-based, more project-based, more collaborative, more real-time, and more fluid. The challenge is to make sure it is not more complicated, confusing, or overwhelming. This will require better and different ways to communicate, collaborate, and network. Large multinodal fluid networks will rely increasingly on new pathways for information to be exchanged and lessons shared, leaning heavily on new, enabling digital technologies. Equally, if not, more importantly, it will require leaders to act increasingly as network architects and role models for the new ways of working. Done well, the future of work offers the opportunity to provide the most engaging and motivating environment we have yet experienced and, after decades of aspiring to the idea, to become truly learning organizations.

[And if you want to brush up on what ‘devolved collaboration’ means read .]

Amazon to add 100,000 jobs, but that’s the result of the accelerating decline in conventional brick-and-mortar work as retail chains collapse:

Nelson Schwartz and Nick Wingfield,

The company’s [Amazon] hiring plans are certainly good news. But to understand the forces roiling the American economy, it’s key to remember that online retailing has destroyed many times that number of positions at malls and shopping centers across America.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing over the long term. Greater productivity is essential for economic growth, and, according to the company, the 100,000 figure includes highly paid engineers and software developers in addition to hourly warehouse workers. But for people caught on the wrong side of that transition in the short term, it’s the equivalent of an economic hurricane.

“There are huge benefits to consumers from Amazon,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard who studies labor and technological change. “But the workers they are hiring aren’t the same ones being laid off.”

Even since New Year’s Day, the traditional retail sector has absorbed more blows. Macy’s said last week that it would eliminate 10,000 positions, and the Limited announced this week that it would close all 250 of its stores, eliminating 4,000 jobs.

The Amazon announcement comes as the company is introducing automation that could one day cost jobs. It uses robots in many of its warehouses, though it says they work in conjunction with people instead of replacing them.

Interesting stats on US work email use, showing how terrible we are at work/life balance, with all the insights buried (alas) in a single giant infographic:

Matt Zachjechowski,

71 percent of Americans check for the first time between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. New York and New Jersey average the latest first check — just before 9 a.m. — and people in Utah check earliest, just after 6:30 a.m., on average.

As for checking for the last time before bed, thirty percent of Americans check before 6 p.m. and 70 percent after 6 p.m. Forty-six percent of Virginians check their email for the last time between 9 p.m. and midnight, while 13 percent more finish up after midnight. Not to be outdone, 71 percent of Tennesseans are fellow night owls, checking their email after 9 p.m., and just 12 percent check last before 6 p.m., well below the national average.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from several cases regarding employers’ efforts to enforce mandatory arbitration in employment agreements, which detractors argue block workers from taking ‘concerted’ action against workplace grievances.

Adam Liptak,

The court accepted three cases on the subject. They follow a series of Supreme Court decisions endorsing similar provisions, generally in contracts with consumers. The question for the justices in the new cases is whether the same principles apply to employment contracts.

In both settings, the challenged contracts typically require two things: that disputes be raised through the informal mechanism of arbitration rather than in court and that claims be brought one by one. That makes it hard to pursue minor claims that affect many people, whether in class actions or in mass arbitrations.

A wide-ranging examination of the lives of New York’s car-hailing drivers, that touches on the biggest policy issue on the work side of things: how should drivers be classified? Contractors, employees, or something in between?

Masha Goncharova,

And New York City officials may soon face the most pressing question to come out of the so-called gig economy: drivers’ employment status. A London employment court has declared that Uber drivers should be entitled to minimum wage, sick pay and holiday pay. And in California and Massachusetts, Uber paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming that drivers were entitled to expenses like gas and maintenance. In New York, drivers’ access to employment rights depends on the State Labor Department, which takes on Uber drivers case by case. So far, only two have been .

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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