Monday, December 22, 2008

How to improve the workplace, tips from Dilbert

Anyone who works for a big company can relate to the characters and story lines Scott Adams shares in his Dilbert comic strip. From a “dicey” start in the early years of his business career to the trials of owning two successful California restaurants, Adams has used real-life experiences in middle management to create America’s most lovable corporate drone.

In a recent interview with Fortune, Adams shared his thoughts on creating career stability and how the corporate workplace could use some improvements. For starters, corporations could stop worrying about employees’ every move and treat workers better when tough times roll around.

“One thing that's definitely worse is that employers have a much greater ability to monitor employees' every move. They can count the keystrokes on your computer, keep track of where you go on the Internet, and so on. It's creepy. But the big macro change now is, employers are a lot nicer when the economy is strong, because they know you have choices and can go elsewhere if they don't keep you happy. When times are bad, the gloves come off and employers are less nice. People become disposable.”

Though he doesn’t typically give advice, he wrote a book years ago called The Dilbert Principle, about how he thinks the ideal workplace should be organized. Here’s Adams’ advice for human resource professionals:

“If you don't have a lot of money to give people, then give them two other things. One is flexibility. Allow people to have a life outside of work. Does an employee have a reasonable chance of leaving the office on time, which I define as 5 p.m.? I mean, is that extra hour or two or three that people put in, in the evening, really necessary?

And second, give them at least half an hour every day to learn something they don't already know. Lots of surveys of employee happiness show that keeping people happy in their jobs really isn't so much about money anyway, it's about these other things that many companies don't think to offer. Work is like the rest of life. The best parts are free.”

And just for fun, here’s a Dilbert comic to get your Monday off to a great start

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