Zappos, the online shoe retailer, has decided to go manager-free. This is
gaining a great deal of media attention. Some are applauding Zappos attempt to
move towards a holacracy, while others
are questioning the sanity of it, calling it “an interesting experiment”. Zappos
shift towards holacracy, however, is not nearly as interesting as some
journalists attempt to question the logic of a manager-free organization.
headline, for example: “Zappos goes manager-free – employees leave in droves”
or “Zappos stopped managing its employees. They don’t seem too happy about it”.
This suggests that people are leaving the company in protest against the new manager-free
structure. In reality, Zappos offered a buy-out of “Three months' severance and 3 months of COBRA benefits,
unless they were a Zappos employee for more than four years, in which case they
would get one month of severance for every year with the company.
There can be a
million reasons why taking a buy-out is a good idea for an employee, and few
have to do with holacracy as a system. When journalists point out that 14% of
the employees have decided to opt for the buy-out, they fail to add that
annually, about 13% quit on voluntary basis (and 7% involuntary). This leaves
about 300 people employed yearly. Worth noting is that Zappos have about 30,000
applying each year.
stated that holacracy might not work in societies where people are used to
seeing careers as being interlinked with climbing the hierarchical ladder. In
other words – if I can’t be a manager, then what drives me to perform well at
work? Of course, one may wonder if such employees are worth having. If I employ
people whose primary focus is their own advancement, then that means that their
interest in the company they work for, as well as the work they do, comes in
I’ve seen far
too many examples of employees and managers taking decisions based on their own
gains rather than that of the company they work for. Rather than fostering
collaboration between people, hierarchy triggers competition. It’s everyone for
himself, and you have to fight your way up.
agree that collaboration between employees are vital for success, few have the
courage and the imagination to explore structures that challenge the
traditional top-down organizational structure.
Thumbs up for Zappos who dare challenge the traditional, hierarchical perspectives!
Some articles on the subject: