January 14, 2015

Office moves can be great for office morale—everyone likes new spaces and a chance to start fresh.  But they can also be a little dangerous.  Someone always seems to take the opportunity to criticize everyone else’s messy desks and less-than-hygienic habits.

 

Earlier today, I happened to see a memo from one those people: WIRED’s editor in chief, Scott Dadich.  Let me preface this by saying I like reading WIRED. I’m not a tech nerd by any means, but I appreciate how the magazine simplifies complex ideas and has some fun doing it.  And I’d like to think the company’s employee culture embodies that spirit.  But for me, Dadich’s memo shatters the illusion of WIRED as a fun and funky place to work—and illustrates how important employee communications are in maintaining your brand image.

 

In many ways, WIRED embodies the anti-corporate, Silicon Valley mindset.  The magazine has worked hard over the years to establish itself as a cool, quirky place to work.  So the tone of this memo really surprised me.  It’s scolding, accusatory, and frankly a little mean.  WIRED’s current office may or may not look like “a pirate ship,” but isn’t that part of the fun of working for a magazine so connected to the culture of Silicon Valley?  And it’s a little depressing to see the editor tell employees of a magazine that celebrates the “Maker” movement to “use the brand-new desk lamp we just purchased for you.”

 

If I were a WIRED employee, I’d be a little worried right now.  Instead of encouraging creativity and experimentation, the memo admonishes employees to “clean [their] dishes.”  And by subtly suggesting that too many family photos demonstrates “a lack of respect” for workspace, Dadich is telling his employees that he doesn’t trust them to design their own spaces.  Or that there’s some kind of inconsistency between personal happiness and work investment.

 

WIRED’s new space might be awesome.  The pictures certainly make it look great.  But Dadich’s memo tells me a different story about the move.  Namely, that management is more interested in preserving how the space looks than in encouraging employees to create something great.  I hope the magazine’s employees find a cool, quirky way to fight back.

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