The modern workplace is in serious need of change. In his book Dying for a Paycheck, author and business theorist Jeffrey Pfeffer explains how work-related factors, such as stress and overwork, account for around 120,000 preventable deaths every year in the US.
If this isn’t troubling enough, researchers at the Mayo Clinic medical center suggest that your boss has more influence over your health than your primary care physician. And yet according to Forbes, 58 percent of employees would trust complete strangers over their bosses.
All of this points to the fact that we need to change the way our workplaces operate, especially since many companies have not adapted to the times. In fact, they still use the same top-down hierarchical structure that became popular during the Industrial Revolution. This strict authoritarian model, with its emphasis on efficient supervision, may have made sense for managing factory production, but the business landscape has changed dramatically since then.
To see how much has changed, consider the fact that only 10 percent of businesses on the original 1955 Fortune 500 list still exist today. This has been referred to as the “Fortune 500 Disease,” but it’s really a sign of failure to adapt.
Today’s thriving companies don’t operate on strict authority and supervision. Instead, they’re flexible and adaptable, and their vision matches today’s fast-changing world. If today’s businesses hope to stay ahead of the pack, they can’t afford to ignore or silence their employees by scaring them into obedience. Instead, they need to encourage their employees to speak up and reach their full innovative potential.
When looking closely at traditional business models, it becomes apparent that leaders are also suffering. In the outdated model, executives take on all the responsibility and, therefore, all the pressure. They’re expected to know all the answers and fix any problems that may arise. With this burden on their shoulders, they’re bound to be racked with doubts and fears. But they won’t reveal these doubts by asking for help or advice and will shy away from innovative ideas, for fear of being challenged or losing their jobs if things don’t work out.
Today’s businesses need to encourage adaptability and risk-taking from their leaders if they hope to have lasting success. In the next blink, we’ll look at how leaders can evolve.