Drawing the Democratic Workplace

Posted by jlubans on February 20, 2013

On my second day of teaching in Riga at the University of Latvia I asked the students to draw the Democratic Workplace. My question to them was “What comes to mind when you hear Democratic Workplace(DW)? What does it look like?”
20130220-JL to class*.jpeg
My purpose was two-fold. One was for students to conceptualize - as best they could this early in the class – what the DW might mean. My other purpose was for each student to share her drawing with the class to heighten learning and to help the students get to know each other.
So, I set out paper and crayons and they went to it. Of the 15 drawings (two students were absent) a third included a rendering of a house, a home. Usually flowers and trees surrounded the house, with smoke curling out of the chimney and the sun shining brightly overhead. Here are two examples:
20130220-tree, house*.jpeg


The students explained that the house metaphor stands for a welcoming environment, a place of abundant happiness, a place to share ideas and, obviously a place where one finds support, like in a family. Family or “Ģimene” - also a word for “household” – is very important to many Latvians, a private sort of people. Most holidays are spent with extended family and often in the country. People go to the country not just to get away with family, but also to reconnect with nature. Latvian mythology includes deities like Māra - Mother Nature - and Jānis, of the multi-day celebration of Jāņi, the summer solstice, with its feasting, bonfire-leaping, dancing and singing of folksongs.


And, as my Riga cousin told me, “Latvians are slightly crazy about flowers” with a flower shop just about on every block:
20130220-flowers, window2.jpeg
Well, with this emphasis on the home, is the DW then a paternalistic arrangement? Maybe elsewhere but not in Latvia. Females are, shall we say, more equal partners with males than in other cultures. My evidence is a 2006 study that found that “about 41% of managers in
Latvia were female: ‘the highest proportion of women managers anywhere in the European Union.’ Latvia’s numbers exceeded those for Sweden, Ireland and Germany by 9, 11, and 14 percent, respectively.”
So, in Latvia, one might conclude, the home is likely more of an equal place, with shared leadership between the mother and the father, than it might be elsewhere.
Understandably, several students pointed out that equality is an essential quality of the DW. There may be a leader, but workers’ opinions and ideas are relevant and respected.

A more abstract drawing shows different levels in the organization and extensive communication among the workers in each level, and strong communication among the levels.
Information is shared, and, while hierarchical there does not appear to be a dominant leader.
And, a detailed rendering of what the DW office looks like includes home-like details: a kitchen for sharing and communication and a room for getting away from it all. This last was inspired in part, I believe, by an assigned reading for that day, Jerry Campbell’s, “At Least Once Ride a Wild Horse into the Sun.”*



I’d be delighted to get your interpretation of these drawings. And, I’d enjoy hearing what your DW drawing would feature! Please e-mail me or use the comment function.

* Campbell, Jerry D., “Management Style: At Least Once Ride a Wild Horse into the Sun,” North Carolina Libraries, pp. 234-238, Winter, 1989.

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Posted by generic cialis on February 20, 2013  •  05:53:19

there should have been white board in stead of papers on wall

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