Openness in the workplace changes everything

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I love my job. I don't know a lot of people who can say that, but I really do love my job and I've been thinking about why exactly that is a lot lately.

Often when talking to friends and family and colleagues in the library science field I find that the number one complaint boils down to the closed/boxed-in nature of their jobs. The other day I spoke with a friend who shared her frustrations over the fact that her employer wouldn't let her step out of her defined role to assist in other areas of the business. She had other jobs before this one and knew a lot that would help in new efforts the company was pursuing, but she wasn't allowed to consult because it was outside of her job description. Another friend constantly talks to me about how he could offer so much more if people would just include him in the discussions that happen before decisions are made.

Where I work, I don't have these kinds of limitations—no one I work with does. Instead of employees, we're all teammates and our expertise is valued and called upon all the time. We understand that each of us has experiences in life and in our careers that have given us unique insights that could help. So, just because someone is a developer doesn't mean that they can't contribute to marketing efforts. And just because someone is a trainer doesn't means they can't also spearhead the website SEO.

I read Open Leadership a few years back and it really stuck with me. I find that too many of my friends and family are working for companies run by people who follow an older model of management: a top down approach that is very rigid. The kind of model where people think that the entry-level employee couldn't possibly have anything to contribute to the managerial staff. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say to me, "You don't understand, that's just not the way it works" when I suggest that they just go to management and explain that they have something to contribute. This kind of model causes companies to stagnate.

Charlene Li says in Open Leadership:

The first step is recognizing that you are not in control—your customers, employees, and partners are. If you are among the many executives who long for the "good ol' days" when rules and roles were clear, indulge yourself in that kind of thinking for just a few more minutes—then it's time to get to work. This is a fad that will not fade, but will only grow stronger, with or without you.

I love that! I think that the open/collaborative model is not only here to stay in business, but way more efficient than closed efforts.

Nicole C. Baratta (Engard) is a Senior Content Strategist at Red Hat. She received her MLIS from Drexel University and her BA from Juniata College. Nicole volunteers as the Director of ChickTech Austin. Nicole is known for many different publications including her books “Library Mashups", "More Library Mashups", and "Practical Open Source Software for Libraries".


This is one of the reasons that I love working for a small company. You have more collaboration and tend to wear many different hats out of necessity. It's a great environment for learning new skills and there is a greater feeling of importance.

Yes, I do think that's part of it - but I have heard of bigger businesses where things are open and collaborative. In my case it is a small company - and the fact that we all believe in open source of course has something to do with how we work.

Great post Nicole, thanks for sharing.

I find aspects like openness, sharing, collaboration to be important in my job environment also. I one day hope to work at/for a company based on open source. At the moment, I'm actually changing jobs in a few weeks, hoping to gain more of the above aspects.

Awesome! I wish you luck! It's amazing to work in an open workplace.

You also might enjoy the article in Harvard Business Review's May issue, "Creating the Best Workplace on Earth".

"You also might enjoy the article in Harvard Business Review's May issue, "Creating the Best Workplace on Earth". "

I'd like to read an article on "Creating the Best <em>Life</em> on Earth", where work and workplace, and business is considered to be a means of securing the Best Life, rather than a means of securing that Biggest Business.

If one were to think this way, I'd expect a lot of the good aspects of openness in the workplace would be part of the answer. Unfortunately that's not how our world works --- openness in the workplace will be adopted if and only if that's what makes the "biggest Business" .. and if boring narrow soul-destroying jobs are what makes the biggest business, that's what people will have to put up with.

I choose to think a bit more positively, but do understand where you're coming from. I was there in other jobs, but I've seen a lot of my friends find more open workplaces that are also doing great business. So I'll keep my rose-colored glasses on for now :)

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