Non disclosure agreements: For better or for worse?


Recently Google faced an important lawsuit in regard to pay and conditions of their employees. Employees anonymously compared salaries and benefits in a spreadsheet which enabled female employees to discover they were being paid significantly less than their male peers. This lack of transparency cost Google millions in back-payments and bringing contracts up to match a standard of equality. As a result, we can draw the conclusion that the usual culture of keeping salaries and working conditions private doesn’t benefit employees, only the companies that employ them., for example, has developed an extremely successful business model around just this fact: to provide anonymous reviews made by employees for job seekers.


Pay contracts vs Non-Disclosure Agreements

A similar business concept to transparency in pay contracts is the privacy with which Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are conducted. These binding agreements are made to protect company interests from being disclosed to competitor parties by their employees.  But what about the employees who make these NDAs? How can the conditions of an NDA advantage or disadvantage the employees who uphold them?


Employer benefits

The benefits to employers of NDAs are obvious: they protect the company’s share of the market. The profit margin can be effectively retained by keeping competitors out of the loop of development processes utilised in production.  Disclosure agreement also guarantees a return on investment for research and development costs. Without NDA’s, research and development become a costly process which does not offer any competitive advantage, as the process will be readily available to all involved in that same field of the market.


The problem with Non-Disclosure Agreements

However, due to the nature of non-disclosure agreements,  they also cause problems for employees. If there is a problem with a particular software of process involved in production,  the employee, be they an engineer, scientist, or project manager, may not be able to easily find a solution. This could be costly in terms of hours of productivity lost  as a result of information not being publicly available, leading to that employee having to “reinvent the wheel”.


The verdict on NDAs for employees

On balance, however, this unique situation forces that employee to use creativity and experience to come up with a novel work-around to the problem at hand. This is why retention of these talented and experienced staff is so important in the workplace, and employers should take many measures to ensure their continued loyalty. In addition,  this forced creativity causes further innovation, exploration and company development, which should always be encouraged.


A company: an organism made up of its individual employees

There is no doubt that there is a massive incentive for a business to protect their share of the market with a Non-Disclosure agreement . Ultimately, however, a business is made up of its employees and therefore the overarching incentives of the business should matter to each and every employee to ensure their ongoing happiness and job security. It appears the non-disclosure agreements are different to pay contracts in this way.  You should feel secure in the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements to protect your share of the market and not impact the overall happiness and productivity of your employees.

The Cleveland Browns: How to prevent miscommunications at work

The Cleveland Browns are statistically speaking, the worst NFL Team in history. Despite having one of the most dominating decades in all of sport, lead by the NFL immortal Jim Brown, The Browns have failed to capitalise on any talent they have been able to muster since the inception of the NFL in the 1970s, and have famously been through an almost unbelievable amount of Quarterbacks and Coaches (in the double digits) since the turn of the decade.

Above all else, the Browns seem to suffer from one key error, that results in their consistent losses in the NFL extending far beyond what could naturally be expected of an average team.

This key error is miscommunication. Even when the Browns manage to reach an advantageous position, they are unable to capitalise upon it due to the effects of their terrible communication, causing mistakes in the teamwork left, right and centre. So how do you stop this from happening at your workplace?

You need a quarterback, and you need a coach

For most companies, having a manager and a 2IC is very typical in any given team. In project teams, this will often be a Project Manager and a Business Analyst. For Product Teams, this may be a Product Owner and a Product Manager. There are loads of examples to choose from, and you’ll probably find yourself in a team where a Manager will decide what to do, and a Second Manager will focus on the execution.

A quarterback and a coach are no different. The Cleveland Browns have lacked a consistent Quarterback and Coach over the past decade, and thus have lacked two fundamental components of any well managed team; a decision maker and execution manager.

Without either of these people, your team is destined for failure. Without a decision maker, the message cannot be clearly defined for the execution manager, and without an execution manager, the message cannot be clearly delivered to the team members. Communication in itself is the one area in all of business that is absolutely necessary, and the success or failure of the business rests upon it.

Definition and Execution

In order to build an effective team, above all else you need definition and execution. To define what needs to be done, and what is the expected outcome is to make a clear decision on the direction of the team. In doing so, you can build a clear idea as to what is needed to build a truly competent team, instead of a team of highly skilled individuals.

Following definition, the execution matters the most. The hardest part of creating value in a company is deciding how to manage the right tasks to be executed in the right order, in doing so building the right way forward.

This is where the Cleveland Browns are lacking. The Browns themselves don’t have the best method for recruiting coaches and quarterbacks either, which doesn’t do them any favours. With their most recent recruit at quarterback, the Browns may have found their execution manager, and along with their coach, have found a way to win (or at least not lose as much).

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

When Life gives you lemons: A guide to dealing with negativity in the workplace

Negativity in the workplace can often be difficult to deal with. When it comes to building a positive workplace, negativity can be the antithesis of all the hard work you put in to influence a positive culture.

A negative attitude can lead to toxicity, and once toxicity sets in, the amount of work it takes to get a toxic environment back to a positive one is enormous. If the downward spiral takes hold, performance drops, and if performance drops due to negativity, it can hurt the bottom line significantly. The only way to stop negativity from setting in and become “the rot”, is to build a “positive counter mindset”.

What is a positive counter mindset?

A positive counter mindset is what happens when your organisation develops a series of statements to counter a negative situation. The most common example is the statement “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”. This type of positive spin lets people remove or mediate that initial reaction of frustration that occurs when something negative or unpleasant happens.  A positive counter mindset is what happens when an organisation builds into its culture the idea that nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

“As it turns out”

One of the most famous examples occurs at Apple.

Apple, like any company goes through some rough times. Though problems may arise left, right and centre, Apple has found a way to deliver negative information with a positive mindset. The way it controls the “positive counter” is by delivering information with the phrase “as it turns out”. Though issues may arise in the day-to-day running of the business, by delivering the information with a slightly positive spin, Apple is able to reframe problems to find a solution.

The phrase might not seem like much, but with enough repetition it can curb the slippage into a negative mindset, which saves the culture in the long run.

How do you reframe problems? Make lemonade!

A positive countering statement such as “as it turns out” is a great way to be able to build into your internal vocabulary with a positive spin. The positive countering to “life gives you lemons” is the term “make lemonade”.

For your internal communications to be able to reframe problems with a positive spin, start by making a list of things you may say to each other to reframe information that is presented in a negative light. “As it turns out…” is a great example of a statement that can soften the blow of any specific problem.

A good way to find one of those statements is to start by understanding what sorts of problems you may encounter in your day-to-day working environment. For sales focused departments this may be a lack of deals flowing through for the month, or for technology focused companies this may be the presences of technological bugs.

The next step is to find an all encompassing statement that lets you both reinforce your company culture and internal brand, and reframes the problem statement to suggest a positive spin.

The rest is up to you!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Make decisions, not suggestions

Decision making is one of the most sought after traits in modern era of business. For instance, there are new techniques in hiring that are aimed to form bias around decision makers.

One such method is for recruiters to ask their candidates what they want to order over coffee. The recruiter will then make a suggestion, and observe how the candidate reacts in the situation. The speed at which the candidate and decisiveness at which the candidate makes the decision forms the basis for the science known as “decisioneering”.

What is decisioneering?

Decisioneering is the psychological processes that a person goes through to reach a given decision. If you’re in a management role, at a certain point you’ll start to make decisions that involve greater inputs and more uncertainty the higher up you go, which consequently means your process of reaching a decision within yourself will need to be refined.

How an organisation makes its decisions can drastically change the outcomes of the decisions that it makes. By firstly understanding, and then refining the decision making process within your company, you can ensure that your organisation can not only make better decisions, but you can personally make better decisions.

Make decisions, not suggestions

The first way to make a decision is to recognise that you have reached a decision point. A decision point is a moment in time, when all suggestions end. For a decision point to be reached, you may have gone through the following phases:

  1. Idea/Problem recognition 
  2. Research
  3. Suggestions 
  4. Decision

Ideas are easy to come up with. For most companies, people are coming up with new ideas all the time, and it’s easy to recognise if there’s a problem within an organisation just by speaking to a few people.

Research is more difficult, as it takes both time and money to conduct a feasibility study to ensure an idea is in fact possible to implement. For a company to do this well it would need to find a way to effectively understand the breadth and depth of the problem it is trying to solve.

Next comes the suggestions, which is the purgatory of all projects. Suggestions come from either of the following: A company doesn’t understand the true nature of the problem that it is trying to solve, it doesn’t believe it can feasibly go through what is required to create a solution.

Find the real problem

More often than not, the decision relies on a decision maker. The decision maker will usually have external influences that weigh in on the decision, and in turn create a decision paradox, whereby the person must do what is right by consensus but also what is right the data, which will often be different.

To make better decisions, make sure you understand who you are making the decision for.  By understanding your audience, and the depth of the problem you are trying to solve, you may be able to make better decisions, and remove yourself from the glut of suggestions that come your way.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

The Rising Tide that floats all boats: How to recognise employees effectively

The saying “a rising tide floats all boats” is thrown around a lot. When it comes to employee engagement, a company that encourages and recognises its employees will almost certainly find itself able to do good work.

There is of course a fine balance between positive forces such as encouragement and recognition and political statements. It can be easy to get caught up in the politics of actively calling out employees for their good work. For these reasons, we will outline how to actively “float all boats”, instead of giving select recognition to employees for political favour.

A rising tide

Building a company culture that allows for encouragement is very difficult. As a manager, it’s very easy to view your role as merely about resource allocation. With this view of management, most roles can seem like having a blanket that doesn’t quite fit over your body; if you move the blanket over, you end up getting a lack of coverage elsewhere.
Of course, this type of feeling as a manager is frustrating. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you stretch your resources, it always feels like you can’t quite win. The blanket doesn’t fit, and you’re always a little bit dissatisfied.

So what can you as a manager do to help this?
The hardest part in all this is being able to step outside of the management “square” to see what is actually taking place. If you as a manager feel that you aren’t able to stretch your employees to cover everything, then maybe you have a “capacity problem”. A capacity problem occurs when employees aren’t able to work to their full potential, or more broadly speaking, your resources cannot perform their complete workload. Adopting a “rising tide” approach to resource management can help you get the most out of your existing resources.

A rising tide approach simply says that you treat your employees equally, and to focus on the performance of the lowest performing employee. Doing this will enable you to see that you’re not in a position of resource management, but rather in the position of “capacity management”. Reframing this attitude will let you see your people as a collection of persons, and a complete team that can only move if even the lowest performing employee is only fractionally worse than the top performer.

Floating all boats

The way you can create a rising tide culture is to simply “float all boats”. The saying “whatever floats your boat” may be loosely adopted in this regard. Finding a way to cater to the individual persons needs and encourage them in the way that best suits their personality type is far better than using generic terms such as “love your work” and so on.

Being able to cater your management style to all the personality types within your team will allow you to create a rising tide by floating all boats. It can be difficult to do at first, but by actively recognising your employees for their good work, you set yourself up for success in the future.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Busywork: A guide to making work more fun, and avoiding work for work’s sake

Welcome to our series on classical novels, and relating them to the employee engagement. We hope you enjoy understanding a little bit more about how to engage employees, and build a company culture, and can use them to take away

In Oscar Wilde’s famous comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, the main characters are constantly concerned with maintaining their fictitious personas in order to keep up appearances and escape the social obligations upon which they are burdened. In many companies, employees will engage in this exact type of comedic behaviour to escape, which for the sake of this exercise we shall refer to as “busywork”.


“Busywork” is what happens when we take work too seriously

Busywork is defined as making work for work’s sake. The great author Franz Kafka became obsessed with this type of work in his writings. One of the most classical examples in his novel “Metamorphosis” involves a man who has been transformed into a bug, and yet his only concern for his day is how he goes about getting to work on time. Kafka’s novels were littered with references to Busywork, stemming from his belief that many of the processes that we as humans undergo in our day to day lives are only there to provide someone else a job. For instance, he believed that most bureaucracy was fundamentally meaningless, and simply moving a series of forms from one place to another, and then back again.

Franz Kafka himself worked within the insurance industry, and spent many of his days moving pieces of paper around his office. Kafka was able to distill the feeling that he felt working in insurance into his novels, eventually being donned the term “Kafka-esque”. Of course, we know that insurance itself is a very important part of society, but working in insurance, it can be hard to see that your work matters.

Busywork is what happens when everyone within a company takes their work too seriously. If a company culture does not allow for fun, employees will find things to do that may or may not assist existing company processes. Often this comes in the form of pretending to do work, but actually doing nothing. Not only is this type of work detrimental to the bottom line, but it is detrimental to the company culture.

How do you prevent busywork? Make work fun!

The best way to prevent busywork is to ensure that no matter what, under all costs, employees have a way to make their work fun. Facebook famously holds their own internal hackathons (as do Google). Twitter used to hold it’s own parties (until recently), and there are many, many other examples of companies that ensure that they have “fun” activities that are a stone throw away.

To prevent busywork, you first need to try to redefine what productivity is. Being productive doesn’t necessarily mean staying at the office until late, as getting a good night’s sleep can be just as effective. It takes a mature management team to be able to look at it, and if done right you just might find your overall productivity increasing!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.