The Guanteddymo Bay Backlash

Last Updated Jun 12, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

The Revenue's had with the bear market. At least in one office.

As Gregor Gall's Guardian blog reveals, the government's over-zealous uptake of hotdesking has gone a bit too far.

Not content with banning people from keeping photos on their desks, one HMRC office took it to another, more bizarre level:

'In... what the workers there have labelled a "Guanteddymo Bay", all staff's teddy bears were removed, staff said, by "dawn raids" and "special rendition" from their desks and placed in a locked glass case so the workers can still see their teddy bears but not touch them.'

Objections to teddy kidnap and nomadic employees who can't even keep a couple of sweets on their desktops are justified. A featureless office where people have to play musical chairs to find a desk every morning is hardly going to inspire loyalty.

But I have to side with The Lone Voice here: how old are these people, and do you really want them doing your tax returns?

The stabs at Taylorism and 'lean' techniques, too, are hackneyed and perpetuate an 'us and them' attitude to management that's old-fashioned and unhelpful.

You can't pin the civil service's too-literal adoption of an idea on a management theory that's nearly a century old.

But you can, as Slow Leadership points out, take a look at some of the false economies you may be making in your own business.

1. Change initiatives that are poorly explained and badly executed leave employees feeling demotivated. Consult and train and you're more likely to get buy-in.

2. Overwork and the long-hours culture, along with redundancies, puts a big burden on those left behind. And they are usually your best people.

3. A culture of ruthless competition, where people are pitted against each other. Shed your blame culture and people will be more likely to take calculated risks -- the route to new product development.

4. Old-fashioned technology and working practices. Shell out for new kit. It's just that simple.

5. R&D cutbacks -- a 'tax on the future', says Slow Leadership. Give people a way of experimenting at work -- even if it's scaled back a bit, research spend can go a long way if you use open-source options creatively.

6. Scrimping on pensions, healthcare or other benefits. You need healthy, stress-free people, especially if you are trying to up productivity.