One of the first things I learnt at LSE was the school’s motto – “Rerum Cognoscere Causas” which means “to know the cause of things”. Its a very basic yet very powerful thought.
It has made me wonder about the reasoning behind some of the work-place practices and policies that I have seen in the past and continue to see around me. For instance why is linkedin banned in so many workplaces when it can actually act as a marketing and recruitment tool. Why do we have to have a bell curve – and is life so easy that everyone can fit into a defined curve? Why cannot we come late to the workplace when we often have to stay up much longer than our working hours? Are our workplace adopting practices that are draconian with no rebel to question these policies?
Liz Ryan recently wrote a very interesting article in BusinessWeek talking about 10 management practices that should be axed. One of her points is really interesting. 360 degree feedback and employee satisfaction surveys are become more prevalent in larger organizations. While taking feedback itself is a wonderful initiative, the process of 360 degree feedback is debatable. Is anonymous feedback better than direct feedback? Why does feedback have to be so impersonal? Also feedback taken once a year may not be as effective as direct feedback sessions with the concerned manager. By implementing 360 degree feedback what is the message we are sending across to our managers and employees? And the biggest question of all – why did anyone come up with anonymous feedback in the first place. Was it because our managers and leaders were not given enough guidance and training to be developed into a leader? And are employees afraid to give feedback against managers that anonymous feedback is required? Does it mean that our work place teams are so dysfunctional that they cannot go up to their manager in case of any issue?
One excuse for existence of such practices would be the size of organisations – as they become larger its difficult to give individual and personalized attention (but is that really true)? Can we use the motto of Rerum Cognoscere Causas to get a better understanding of why we do what we do?
6 replies on “Rerum Cognoscere Causas”
As idealistic and cliché as this may sound, I believe, that the real question is not so much "Why does this a particular rule exist?" but more of "Why do rules exist?"
Each company / educational institute has its own rules regarding the use of various online services. The company I work at, for example, not only allows the use of any and all social networks but also allows the use of personal email online radio and so on. There are several 'reasons' justifying such a move – why cant an employee check her personal mail at work when she is expected to check her work mail from home? Or, like you mentioned, social networking can be used as a marketing and recruitment tool, forums can be used to get help and so on.
Similarly your question regarding reporting late for work is a valid one.
Let us however consider a hypothetical scenario in which a group of employees decided to work from 3 PM to 1 AM. This is not as unrealistic as it sounds – a lot of people (myself included) find working at night to be more productive than during the day [ Less distractions, phone calls, people, noise and so on ]. Another group may decide to work the 'normal' office hours and yet another group might decide to work from 5 AM to 3 PM. No one can be a judge of what is 'reasonable' and as long as there is flexibility in timings any timings will have to be fine. The fallout of such a situation is obvious – If the evening group needs anything from the morning group then they have to wait a whole day as opposed to walking over to another room, meetings between people doing different times becomes a nightmare and of course the whole point of an office environment is lost.
And therein, I believe, is the core of the problem – overdoing things. If Facebook is fine why not dating sites? If personal email is fine what about being a consultant (out site of your company) while at work? If using the work phone to call your wife to say you will be late for dinner is fine, what about a 3 hour conversation with your friend in another country.
अतिदानाद्बलिर्बद्धो ह्यतिमानात् सुयोधन:।
विनष्टो रावणो लौल्यादति सर्वत्र वर्जयेत्।
(The demon king) Bali was vanquished due to his excessive charitable nature.
King Duryodhana was humbled for his excessive pride.
(Demon Emperor) Ravana was destroyed due to excessive womanizing.
Hence one should shun excessiveness in all things.
Like all rules – I believe its the missus of freedom that leads to the need for authority and tighter control.
Gr8 post!! will follow ur blog from now on 🙂
@harish – well said. Indeed who is to decide where is the boundary and is the boundary same for everyone all the time? And rules do exist for this reason but they do not necessarily tackle the problem of misuse. That was the question I was trying to get at.
9/11 happened and lots of rules came into place – right from airport security to tighter immigration rules etc – but do they tackle the problem?
I think, with reference to the school's motto, what i think of is why we do things when we know it's wrong.
when it comes to ourselves, generation by generation, we have become more and more individualistic and we- the todays "younger generation" have become more greedy in terms of what we want, job in a big city, love inter-caste marriages, etc. but somehow when it comes to larger problems like global warming, dirty cities, we forgot our part in it and tend to go about blindly with the thought that "someone will take care of it", for me to know the cause of things would mean more towards individual responsibilities. it would mean knowing why your doing something and what it's implications in long run are. It might be something as small as using a plastic packet in a supermarket when u could've used ur own bag from home, buying only free run eggs in the process discouraging hens to be fed with growth harmons or by just not changing phones/cars every other day to keep with the "trend" and to please im not sure whom.
very true mumu.. but you say "why we do things when we know it's wrong" – but does everyone know its wrong? Does everyone in India know the harm they do by carrying a plastic bag? maybe not.. I guess this calls for another post itself (u shud write it) 😀
in response to, "but does everyone know its wrong?" — the problem is we don't stop to think unless it very directly affects us and only "ME".