retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There is an excellent piece in Fast Company by Tim Leberecht about how people who provide active opposition to management within organizations can serve as enormous assets to those organizations.

Leberecht writes that he's been thinking "about employee activities that are counter to the top down policies without crossing the line into the unproductive and illegal. From passive disengagement, noncompliance, and disobedience to passive aggression, covert sabotage, and overt conflict, which tactics are appropriate, legitimate, and effective? How much resistance from its fringes can an organization endure before it is threatened at its core--and stops being an organization altogether? And most important, why would fostering creative opposition even be beneficial to companies?"

He goes on:

"With a strong and self-organized in-house opposition, companies can cover the entire breadth of their corporate character. It allows them to acknowledge that they are complex and multipolar, that they have multiple truths, and that, through this tension, they can become capable of stretching themselves, expanding, and realizing their full potential.

"There are other, more practical benefits to cultivating internal opposition. Today’s Millennial employees value freedom (and opposition might well be the most obvious act of freedom), and in that sense encouraging creative opposition among young employees, rather than squashing it, can serve as an important engagement (and retention) strategy. Moreover, companies that fail to allow internal opposition may be caught off guard and slow to respond when they face external opposition."

Leberecht suggests that creative opposition "means raising the accountability for each and every employee. Employees as innovators strive to find better ways of doing business instead of just following the business-as-usual manual. This may result in the traditional corporate functions giving up authority and shifting from being owners to enablers. It’s certainly not an easy transition, but one that pays off in the long term."

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
I was just having a discussion with a retailer yesterday about how to deal with Millennial Generation employees and customers, and how important and difficult it is to be relevant to them. Which is why this story grabbed my attention, because part of that relevance is being willing to understand and manage the fact that this generation may be discontented with traditional to-down management structures.

I find this subject interesting, in part because when I was young and worked for other people, I probably was viewed as being organizationally resistant. Maybe even organizationally dysfunctional. (And almost certainly as a pain in the...neck.) I'm not sure I'd feel the same way if I were atop an organization, where dysfunction can be harder to stomach.

It's a good Fast Company piece, and worth reading if you manage people.