Imagine strolling into your work office around 10am, wearing jeans and a T-shirt – and it’s not even a Friday. You sit down at a communal table instead of a designated desk and start your work. In the corner, you see your colleagues on their laptops sitting in bean bags, and other coworkers taking advantage of the cereal breakfast bar. One of your bosses comes up to you, also wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and reminds you of the office ping-pong tournament happening this Friday. He tells you he just stocked up the Friday beer fridge in preparation for the event.
That scenario might sound vastly different to your own experience of going to work (in a pre-pandemic time), but those work environments do exist for some. The relaxed, startup-like environment often goes hand-in-hand with a particular kind of business management style: adhocracy.
Adhocracy management emphasizes individual initiative, which means there is limited formalization of employee behavioral expectation.1 That is why employees might be allowed to wear what they feel comfortable in, work hours that are suited for their work ethic, and why a boss might feel more like a colleague than a superior.
In an era where we all try to model incredibly successful Silicon Valley companies, more and more businesses are embodying adhocracy. It is the opposite of bureaucracy, which relies on clearly defined rules and hierarchies. It is thought to be the most suitable forms of management for our fast-paced, ever changing modern world.