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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

'Get Out of My Face!' We’re More Antisocial in a Shared Office Space

“If we all work side-by-side in an open-plan office or ‘hot desk,’ moving from place to place, it’s sure to increase collaboration!”

It turns out that may be wrong. If you don’t have your own space, perhaps you are better off working remotely with your cat for company.

Our research found that there were increases in “employee social liabilities” in shared working spaces: distractions, uncooperativeness, distrust, and negative relationships. More surprisingly, both coworker friendships and perceptions of supervisor support actually worsened. Although prior researchers have claimed shared work spaces can improve social support, communication, and cooperation, our results indicated that coworker friendships are of the lowest quality in hot-desking and open-plan arrangements when compared to those with their own offices or who share offices with just one or two others. It is possible that these shared offices may increase employees’ use of coping strategies such as withdrawal and create a less friendly environment in a team.

As part of our research, we surveyed 1,000 working Australians. We asked them whether they shared their office space with others, what sort of coworker friendships and supervisor support they had, and any negative relationships they had (such as lack of...

How the Next Administration Can Hit the Ground Running

On Nov. 8, the President-elect will begin the next phase of the transition to power that culminates with Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2017. The next administration will have an opportunity to improve mission performance in ways that can positively impact millions of people across a range of areas, including health care, the environment, and how they receive government benefits. To achieve outcomes quickly and effectively, new leaders will need to understand how to manage complex policies and programs across multiple agencies. Embedding management capacity at the highest levels of government should start during the transition and build through the first days of the administration and beyond. 

To help inform new leaders about the link between management and positive outcomes, the IBM Center for The Business of Government and the Partnership for Public Service collaborated over the past year to develop a Management Roadmap. Released Sept. 13, the Roadmap aims to help the next president implement key policy and program priorities while avoiding obstacles and reducing risk. The Roadmap will help to inform the new administration about critical management issues and actions that can strengthen government’s capacity to address national challenges.

Drawing on lessons learned from previous administrations and...

What Does It Take to Foster a Culture of Responsibility?

In many organizations, it is all too common to see coworkers throw one another under the bus. Some of us may have even engaged in some finger-pointing ourselves when a project went south, or when a big pitch landed with a thud. After all, nobody enjoys being perceived as a failure, even to oneself.

But what if things were different? What would happen in an organization where employees, rather than racing to absolve themselves, jostled to take the blame?

On a recent trip to the U.S. Army’s National Training Center, Ned Smith, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, was surprised to find just such an organization. In after-action reviews and debriefings, soldiers of every stripe, from privates to company commanders, stepped forward.

“It wouldn’t be much of an overstatement to say that they are almost competing to take the blame,” Smith says. “ ‘No, it was me…,’ ‘It was my guys,’ ‘No it was me,’ ” Smith says. “That’s not something you readily see in corporate America.”

How does a hierarchically structured organization like the military foster an environment where people are willing to take the fall when things go wrong? Smith and...

We Talk Tech, But We Really Need to Talk People

September—the month that brings us both Labor Day and the Service to America Medals honoring outstanding public servants—is a good time to talk about the people who are so essential to government. But aside from an announcement from President Obama seeking a too-small (but welcome) pay raise for federal employees, that conversation has been sorely lacking in depth and scope.

Think about it this way. The government is in the early stages of a major and largely inevitable shift to the digital era. Thus far, most of the talk about that transformation has focused on the technology. We measure progress by the percentage of data centers that have been consolidated or the number of websites that have been improved. We talk about IT modernization, bringing more digital skills into government, agile development. These are valuable and important efforts. But they are only the means to much more impactful ends—including fundamental changes in how work is done. 

Nowhere are the opportunities and barriers, possibilities and implications, greater than when it comes to the workforce.

To better grasp the scope of change this shift could well evince, all we need to do is look around us. Consider, for example...

There’s a Productive Way to Approach Wasting Time Online

There is a productivity-destroying epidemic infiltrating workplaces across the world, and chances are you’re guilty of it. It’s called “cyberloafing”—the act of wasting time on the Internet while on the clock—and much like work itself, it’s bleeding into people’s personal lives.

Whether it’s watching cat videos or live tweeting your feelings, time spent cyberloafing can be difficult to quantify. One study found that employees spend 30% of their workday digitally loafing, while others have measured rates as high as 80%. By some estimates, cyberloafing is costing the American economy $85 billion a year.

Cyberloafing extends to the home as well (if you’ve ever found yourself browsing viral videos instead of exercising, or choosing Snapchat over sleep, consider yourself an offender). According to Matthew W. McCarter, an associate professor at the University of Texas, San Antonio who co-authored a study on how to prevent cyberloafing in the workplace, social cyberloafing can also include moments when people are pretending to pay attention. (Think about every dinner party, seminar, or recital you’ve spent sneaking looks at your phone.)

“Cyberloafing is defined in the work domain, but we [also] observe abuse of internet use at...

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