How happy is your office? Many corporations invest thousands of dollars in surveys to take a pulse on organization's cultural health. According to consultant Rick Brenner of Chaco Canyon Consulting,you don't have to wait for a survey, just have to walk around your office and look for Dilbert.
Dilbert -- described on comic artist Scott Adams' homepage as a tech-head with "the social skills of a mouse-pad" -- has been around for almost 20 years and is as much a part of corporate culture as "re-engineering," "empowerment" and Myers-Briggs personality profiles.
If you are a manager of employees with a lot of Dilberts in your office -- beware! Those cartoons may be giving you a not-so-subtle message -- at least that's Rick Brenner's theory.
Brenner suggests that managers who want to find out how effective they really are should place less value on traditional surveys and "360" assessments because they likely fall prey to the "Hawthorne Effect" where employees modify their behavior and attitudes because they know they are being measured.
To avoid the Hawthorne Effect, Brenner believes managers can better assess their effectiveness by looking at other factors, such as: number of posted Dilbert comics, percentage of posted Dilbert comics that involve Catbert the evil HR manager, percentage of posted Dilbert comics that involve the pointy-haired manager and percentage of desks with Dilbert calendars.
Brenner doesn't just rely on Dilbert to assess a company's corporate satisfaction level. He also recommends that managers look at things like voluntary turnover, project lateness and percentage of used sick days, But, the message is clear: if your direct reports have offices full of Dilberts, they are definitely sending you a message, and it doesn't come with a smiley face.
Brenner says managers should not think they are off the hook just because the content of the Dilbert cartoon doesn't seem to have a direxct connetion to their office. "The content of Dilbert is not really that helpful [to managers]," says Brenner, "what is helpful is what people do with Dilbert. If there's a lot featuring the pointy-haired manager [the boss] on the walls, then its time for the organization to get some help.
As part of his work, Brenner will often do an office walk through to get a sense of the work environment. Too many lunches in waste paper baskets suggest people are eating by themselves at their desks. That says Brenner suggests people are either overworked or not socializing with each other.
People who haven't brought personal items like pictures or momentos into their office are indicating they are not emotionally connected with their workspace.
So take a walk around the office today. The writing could definitely be on the wall.