Having come from a large corporate empire to a smaller, mid-sized company, I’ve seen a lot of polar opposites when it comes to getting work done. Read on for a side-by-side comparison of these two work environments.
Big businesses tend to have many levels between its entry-level, middle management or the executive positions. After I had the opportunity to fully understand the corporate structure at AOL, I realized I had a good 15 or so managers between me and say, an EVP. This precludes the numerous warm bodies of “stakeholders” involved in every business decision. Before we jump to the notion it’s bad, it did at least provide some cushion and transparency when carrying out tasks. (E.g, Because higher-ups said so…) when questioning something. Big business works, it get’s things done and employees are expendable resources that are placed on an Excel document with figures tied to a six-digit employee ID number and is much easier to restructure because there is no emotional damage (from the top perspective) in changing your company.
These enterprises are usually very strong in communication and information sharing — usually because there are resources dedicated to doing it. (Does “Corporate Communications” ring a bell?)
However, as the economy presents all of us an arms race for entrepreneurs; one has to consider the work environment of small to medium-sized business.
Small(er) businesses seem to operate with substantially fewer resources while accomplishing the same goals of larger corporations. Smaller businesses tend to adopt the “need” to micromanage and coach employees (not at my place, but just generalizing). This results in more forward and two-way communication between executives, entry-level and everyone between. The work environment becomes a school of micro communities in the sea of their business. People tend to be more chatty, essentially building the potential energy which is driven into kinetic energy when it’s called upon them.
Grass on the side of small business doesn’t come without its fair share of fertilizer. Often by not having redundant organizational structures, tasks, goals, objectives frequently change (or even get dropped) without notice. Communication in small businesses are often faced with a challenge with either over-communicating or under-communicating — expecting people to spread the word without mediums like e-mails, memos or even meetings. Small businesses benefit by leveraging face-to-face communication, but lack the power of enterprise communication.
I’ve known employees who arrived to work completely intoxicated; but they had little impact on the business and that’s the crux of the matter. I only speak from my experience. While big and smaller businesses tend to usually have pretty opposite environments, success depends on the management of the work environment and the overall engagement from all employees. Ensure employees are tended to, rewarded and feel they have input on varying business decisions.