Fast Company

Nonsense At Work

The parking lot as measure of performance

Why do some executives prize an office that over-looks the parking lot? Some simply want to know when it’s time to go home.

I recently sat in on a discussion about a junior executive. One senior executive complained that although his own car was always one of the last three remaining at night, junior’s car was always long gone. Excuse me? That’s a measure of performance?

Answer this and then decide: Do you feel obliged to create the impression that you work hard (for example, by arriving early and leaving late)?

Now answer this one: Do your colleagues reward those who work hard, while suspecting those who work smart of being lazy?

Oh when, oh when will organizations stop rewarding people for their physical presence and reward them instead for their contributions!

Here’s when: when we finally shrug off the management practices that were developed during the industrial revolution... long before the parking lot was created.

Add New Comment

1 Comments

  • Jay Tatum

    So many questions, so little space. I once heard Robert Schuler of the Crystal Cathedral fame remark that while preparing for a Sunday morning service from the tower of his domain that he watched a car weave in and out of the parking lot of his Orange County empire only to leave because there wasn't enough space. Subsequently, he had to purchase additional properties to build yet another parking lot! So it may be that some folks just like surveying their empire looking to expand.
    Then there's the case of the senior management of one organization trying to motivate and encourage management staff to give up their parking spaces close to the building so that their customers could park closer. When I was asked how to spin it, I suggested having a sign erected that read "Management Only" and if you wanted to be identified as management staff, you gave up a parking space closer to the building. Not all the management staff would park there, but the senior leadership realized that if they expected it of their staff, they had to do it themselves. And if you really wanted to be noticed by the senior brass, your car was there before they arrived and after they left.
    I parked one of my cars there for weeks and would come out every day and just move it from one spot to another. I was what they called a "dedicated employee" and made it a point to park at the farthest point from the building. I was one of the few that received a 10% merit increase that year just for giving the impression I was there more than others. So, yes, to your question about this part.
    On the other hand, it could very well be the case that "presence," or its impression, has a profound influence on the way one is perceived. While my efforts to create an impression of presence affected the outcome of my work financially, it didn't take long for the top brass to position their vehicles in a similar way to give the staff the impression they were there all the time. In a 24/7 operation, all one needs to do is walk through the facility with a clipboard or folder in hand, not stopping to talk to too many folks, and be seen when folks typically don't expect to find one there. I made it a practice to stop by my primary location after concerts and movie dates to retrieve something from the office even though I had secure remote access to most of my files. Being seen late in the evening and overnight affected the staff in profound ways. I even made it a point to walk through the cafeteria and say hello to the evening and night shifts, not to intimidate anyone, but just to be seen. "Presence" has its perks and when one can be present without being there, that can have some very beneficial affects.
    So when, oh when will organizations stop rewarding folks for their contributions instead of their presence? When the contribution is presence. Don't get me wrong, I like what I do and I'm very good at it. I just love the paradox of my contribution being present more! How's that for non-sense?