Could You Work in a Bossless Office?

Flat office structures are an adjustment, but could be an environment in which to succeed.

Flat office structures are an adjustment, but could be an environment in which to succeed.
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You don't measure achievements in dollars, cents and clout. There's transparency with everything in a tier-less workplace, even in some cases, with compensation. Could you imagine your co-workers – all your co-workers – knowing your yearly salary and having a say in your raises and position? Menlo reportedly posts each employee's pay grade on the wall. At Valve Corp., a Bellevue, Wash.,-based video game development company that also uses a "bossless" structure, employees vote by committee on staffers who create the most value; they use those results to determine pay.

[See: 10 Things Only Bad Bosses Say.]

You're overextended at your current job. "It's easy in my industry to burn people out," Sheridan explains. "[In my industry,] burnt-out employees still come to work the next day, but they don't bring their brains with them. That's when programming errors start to happen, and when dollars are wasted." At Menlo, employees strictly work 40 hours each week. When they go home in the evenings, they don't answer email. They don't work on weekends, and they don't take working vacations.

"Companies sell employees with promises that you can work from home or that you can have VPN [virtual private network] access and a cellphone," Sheridan adds. "What that means is that you're now available to them around the clock, whether you're with your kids or at the beach. It means you're now available and allowed to work 24-7. In my caustic view of things, this isn't really workplace flexibility."

According to Towler, setting proper boundaries between home and worklife are important regardless of office structure. "It makes total sense that you have to allow people to properly recharge their batteries to do a good job. I worked in England for 12 years, and in Europe, people do work only when they go to their office."

Signs This Environment Isn't For You...

[Read: 4 Tips for Welcoming the Office Rookie.]

You resist change. If you've had a job, you've had a boss, who probably also had a boss, or several. For some employees, leaving the bureaucracy of a siloed office causes too much culture shock. Are rules a security blanket for you, or do you thrive in free, fluid environments?

You're territorial. Disciples of the flat-office format say it allows their staffs to feel more ownership over projects and results. The trade-off is letting go of attachments to worklife and office trappings, like assigned seating. At Menlo, the office layout changes according to necessity or caprice, and as mentioned, even Sheridan plays musical chairs. At Valve, desks are on wheels, so employees can more easily scoot into the formation required for teamwork on projects.

You're introverted. If you're on the phone with Sheridan during office hours, you'll hear a chorus of Menlo staff in the background. "There are conversations going on everywhere," he admits. "It's a noisy, high-energy environment, but it's the noise of people hard at work. You can imagine how this might be unnerving to people who really want their quiet time to zone out in a cubicle with earbuds in their ears." If you're a true introvert who may become overwhelmed and even less productive with so much conversation and interconnectivity, and/or if you're a stickler for privacy, then you could hit some stumbling blocks in one of these flat-latticed environments.