Got into a totally unexpected discussion about humanistic vs. mechanistic organization-building. There wasn’t much of the debate as both parties in the discussion were in favor of humanistic organization. To clarify the sense in which these words are being used, a humanistic organization sees employees as people who are intrinsically motivated, and whom you try to inspire instead of manage. Mechanistic organization is the one that is run by command and control mechanism. It is the one which tries to build rules, processes and relies on external deadlines to get people to work.
What I realized after the discussion was this. People who intrinsically believe that humanistic organizations work better, need no proof of it. But those who do not have this intrinsic belief find it very difficult to internalize the idea. In a motivational lecture, you might still be able to sell it to them, but when it comes to the day-to-day decision-making, it is almost impossible for them to move away from the mechanistic view of the world. Why would people really work if somebody is not after their life to make them work? Won’t they rather have fun? If there is a free-for-all, won’t everybody start hogging? If we don’t track holidays and absences, won’t people miss office all the time? And the problem is that all too often they will find a reason to doubt the lofty, humanistic view, because somebody or the other would fall out of line. They won’t meet a deadline, or they would not be in the office by a certain time.
So, if you are one such individual, are you at fault in doubting people’s intrinsic honesty, willingness to work or their motivation?
The only parallel I can think of is falling in love. You risk a lot when you fall in love. Risk of rejection, risk of falling for the wrong person, risk of offending others and what not. And yet, many people will agree that you might be losing on one of the most beautiful and enlightening experience of the life, if you decide to stay away from love. An experience that can help you grow and be happy like none other can.
It is something similar when you try to build a humanistic organization. People fall in different categories. There would be those who simply won’t work in a mechanistic organization. There was those would adopt (consciously or subconsciously) to the type of organization they are placed in. Then there is a small percentage of those who just won’t do the right thing in a humanistic organization. And you might end up hiring some of these bad apples, because really, no interviewing or hiring technique is fool-proof enough even if you are very clear in your head about the kind of people you want to hire.
So, yes, a humanistic organization would by no means be a tolerate-everyone organization. Those who can’t work responsibly would have to be shown the door. But what it will have to do is give everyone space and time to adjust. The founders and early employees have to set the bars high. By their actions, and not by setting the quotas, deadlines or rules. You would be taken for a ride once in a while, you would have disappointments, but I would say that all of that is worth it. Because if you do manage to successfully create an organization that depends on and channels people’s intrinsic motivation, you would save a lot in managerial activities, time and cost. Not to forget, you will build a workplace that will be pleasant place to be at! For you, and for everyone else.
To paraphrase a quote often used for love –
Better to have tried building a humanistic organization and risk being taken for a ride than to have stuck to a mechanistic, contractual one.