Are all the cards on the table at your workplace? Find out why they should be in this essay by Diane Lee.

Cards on the table

I have found in my 30 years in the workforce that there are two types of workplaces. The first kind is where information is freely available and moves in predictable, organic currents between people. The flow of information changes as and when it is needed to do the work that is required. In this workplace, people use the system and current of information for good, to enhance relationships and to build trust. In many respects, it’s like playing cards with an open deck. The cards are dealt, and everyone can see what’s on the table. There are no secrets; the cards are played honestly and players help each other to win.

The other type of workplace is where information is a commodity and held to ransom. In this workplace, information is a currency and is precious: who knows what about whom is kept closely guarded and is played as and when it is necessary, and not entirely for altruistic purposes. Information in this workplace is about manoeuvering oneself to either protect one’s ground (or self), gain ground, or sabotage the ground of others. Cards are held close to one’s chest, to be played only for individual gain, not for the greater good of the workplace.

Guess which workplace – in my experience, anyway – is the most common?

Photo credit: 2bmolar via VisualHunt.com / CC BY


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4 thoughts on “Cards on the table

  1. I have never, and will not ever, understand why some people treat information as a commodity to be traded for power and favour, or to be wielded as a weapon and used as leverage. I mean, I understand why in the sense that some people derive all sorts of psychological kickbacks from using (and abusing) knowledge in this way but I don’t understand why in the sense that withholding knowledge is about as smart as not circulating money.
    Any bean counter worth their salt will tell you that money in circulation has several important effects on the economy. Given that I am not a bean counter (so not!) and am just a financially ignorant layperson, I’ll keep things simple (for my sake). So, we understand the fundamental relationship between interest rates and inflation i.e. it’s directly proportionate. For example, when interest rates are high, the average joe blow is encouraged to save money instead of using credit or applying for loans beyond their means, in order to keep inflation low. Conversely, when interest rates are low, that’s when we can party and spend, spend, spend money and can apply (indeed are encouraged to) for loans, which keeps inflation high. Therefore, how much money is in circulation can determine how quickly the economy grows. It also impacts upon the level of employment and the ease (or difficulty) of applying for and receiving a loan (for a holiday, to pay for a wedding or act as deposit for a house etc).
    Applying that logic to information, my perspective is that knowledge in circulation has several important effects on the organisation. If money is the oil of the economy then information is the oil of workplace business and culture. Without a steady flow of both, the economy’s engine and workplace productivity grinds to a halt. Why then would you not spend, spend, spend knowledge?
    Sure, some people will continue to act as modern day courtiers in the corporate Game of Thrones, ruthlessly and selfishly using information as coin for survival, alliances, destruction of perceived threats and to garner glory and secure promotion but I prefer to adopt a smarter approach. This isn’t about judgement or ethics but about common sense. If information is the oil of an organisation (and to me, it is) then it makes no sense to stop its flow. I personally disseminate information and attempt to build a shared knowledge base in the belief that its circulation will keep the organisation running smoothly, which in turn delivers significant benefits directly to me. A practical blend of altruism and self serving interest.
    In the corporate Game of Thrones, winter is always coming. Which House will remain standing and which will fall? If knowledge is to be used as a weapon then use it as a tool to build and strengthen your House, not to put your own to the sword.

    1. What a fabulous response to (and perspective on) a complex topic! The more I observe the modern workplace, the more I think it is no different to how the games at court were played out. Currying favour, power for power’s sake, jockeying for position. Heads roll and are stuck on spikes for all to behold. Sacrificial lambs abound. Love your reference to Game of Thrones and am thinking – bugger Peter Drucker! – THIS should be the management bible!

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