BLUF (with thanks to jhack!): grab some additional role power and privacy at the potential expense of team solidarity and/or (shudder) manager effectiveness?

I manage a team of 4 (up from 2 as of Tuesday) in a space built for 4 (one mega-cube, essentially).

Here's the layout, so you can picture it. There is our mega cube in the center of the floor space, with one large entrance point on 1 wall. The other 3 walls (5' high) have outfacing small individual desks with desk-depth dividers between them. So they are not really cubes - your back is exposed to all of the foot traffic that wanders around the office. (Yes - really bad layout for working, but not much I can do about it at this point)

Since we are 5 in a space for 4, one of us needs to leave "the pod", and the choice is between me and the member of the team who is my direct but actually does rather different projects than the other 3, requiring more design/creative work and much less customer phone interaction.

The destination is either to one of those smaller and way less private single desks directly over one of our cube walls, OR [i]to an about-to-open-up office[/i].

The single cube is frankly, horrific for me - my back open to tons of foot traffic, noisy, etc, so if the office didn't work out, it would be the designer direct, not me, who would go there. I am more paranoid than many about having my back exposed.

But, I'm making a move for the office space (I have asked once and have been tentatively turned down for the reasons below), and feeling torn about what I'd like to do in this startup in the future - more biz dev projects, more baseline business decisions - against what my actual function is (manager of technical support).

I already do a lot of those external projects and having more quiet time and privacy would help quite a bit, but I do not want to lose touch with my team - one of them is being coached for performance, and obviously 2 others are brand new. So it is not a stable, high-functioning unit - yet.

In writing this post out, I am starting to see that I might have talked myself into holding off on the office, even if it means the next opportunity for one would be far in the future if ever.

While I see myself as an executive in this company in the future, I am still becoming a good/great manager and I'm not there yet.

Thoughts are very much appreciated, either to confirm my own wandering thoughts or to give me a push in a new direction.

akinsgre's picture

As a compromise, have you thought about taking the "cube" desk off the wall, and putting a small table where you can sit facing the center of the work area?

I know that some companies have "rules" against moving cubes, but since you're in a startup, it probably isn't as big a problem.

HMac's picture

[quote="misstenacity"]I do not want to lose touch with my team - one of them is being coached for performance, and obviously 2 others are brand new. So it is not a stable, high-functioning unit - yet. [/quote]

Look, this is a really hard call to make from such a distance - but I'm leaning toward putting your direct in the other location, and staying where you are. Why? Because your team needs a lot of attention that you can't give from your office.

[quote="misstenacity"]even if it means the next opportunity for one would be far in the future if ever.[/quote]

Don't be so sure; you can't really know. As the great Casey Stengel was quoted: [i]"Never make predictions, especially about the future."[/i]


misstenacity's picture

Greg, thanks for the idea but these are solid desks - attached to the cube structure, and the space is really small - about 10'x15' open area.

I will probably have the designer-heavy direct move outside, and speak with him about the lack of privacy in case that is a problem for his work flow. I kind of doubt it, though, since when he's in a groove he typically puts the ipod on....

I am looking a little too far ahead of myself and need to think about doing my CURRENT job at an undeniably great level before looking upward. Unfortunately looking upward early is easy to do in a company this small where the CEO is an old friend.

Thanks, HMac, too.

HMac's picture

One of the most effective arrangements I ever saw was a company president who simply pulled the desks of his direct reports together so they all faced one another. Phones, computers, everything. And this "island" was in a big room of similar set-ups for teams working on particular parts of the business.

It made for one of the tightest, best communicating executive teams I've ever worked with.

Yes, there were enclosed offices they could use for interviews, meetings and other things.

And yes, this was a business based on collaboration and not on solitary activities like research.

But this was the EXECUTIVE TEAM, where the job is all about collaboration and communication.

I was just impressd how they operated: they clearly traded privacy and some status for communication, speed, some chaos, and a lot more [i]esprit[/i].

It was pretty cool to see, and a model I'm keeping in mind for future application.


jhack's picture

Are there no other possibilities? Other spaces you could trade for? Rotating your team through various seats? Moving your entire team into an office?

Consolation: a small, fast growing company will reconfigure again soon, so you'll have a chance to fix any mistakes.

Finally, have you asked your team what they think makes sense?


misstenacity's picture

Great ideas. When I have my team meeting tomorrow I'll talk about the arrangement with them.

For the time being, I am not going to be office-bound. Yes, I've acquiesced to my exec, but I've also realized that until I utilize everything I KNOW to be true and effective for management and realize better performance out of my team, I should be "in the trench" with them.