Common Workplace Fixes: How to Remedy a Squeaky Office Chair

Nobody wants to be that coworker.

You know, the one whose chair creates an ear-shattering squeal every time you lean back to down those last few Doritos crumbs. Yes, that coworker … the one with the squeaky office chair.

Fortunately, the squeaks and creaks you hear every day aren’t symptoms of a chronic condition. While no one treatment for your office chair is guaranteed to fix all its ailments, there are some basic principles we’ve found that can cure most of your problems.


Fixing Your Squeaky Office Chair: The Basics

Every office chair is made up of a collection of individual pieces that are screwed together. Most of those pieces, especially those underneath the chair, go through a ton of movement and weight-bearing over the course of the chair’s lifetime.

As you lean forward, back and swivel from side to side, parts wear down, screws and bolts loosen and your chair gives off some pretty annoying sounds.

In most cases, those annoying sounds are the result of moving parts rubbing against each other because the screws that hold them are loose, or because factory lubrication in certain joints has worn off.

Loose Screws and Bolts

There’s a good chance you didn’t put your office chair together, which may be a good thing if you’re not mechanically inclined. However, the fact that you didn’t put your chair together means you weren’t around to make sure everything was screwed together nice and tight.

When you examine your chair for loose screws and bolts, it’s best to do it with the chair flipped upside down. The easiest way to do this is stack catalogs or books up to the height of your seat when it’s turned upside down. Turn over your chair and place the seat on the stack. Make sure it’s secure; you don’t want it wobbling or tipping over.


From there, use your fingers to wiggle each screw or bolt. Hand-tightening is acceptable, but isn’t a good solution if you want a long-term fix.

Once you identify the loose parts, use a crescent wrench or a screwdriver (flathead or Phillips, depending on the screw) to tighten up each screw or bolt.

After tightening everything, flip your chair over and go through your normal motions. Still squeaking? Flip the chair back over and double-check that you tightened every screw or bolt – sometimes you’ll find them in weird places you didn’t see the first time you looked over the chair.

If you’ve still got a squeak, the problem is most likely found inside of a joint or moving part.

Squeaky Joints or Moving Parts

Once you’ve given the screws and bolts a good tightening, there’s still a chance you’re going to get a squeak or two.

At this point, you need to identify where the squeak is coming from. So, have a colleague sit in your chair and move around while you look underneath and listen for specific sound points.

If you can identify where the sound is coming from, use a can of WD-40 to give the area a good spray. Keep a few paper towels around and place them on the floor to catch any excess lubricant that falls to the ground.

One of the main culprits of a squeaky chair is the springs which cushion your chair as you lean back. These springs are known as seat-tension springs.

Fixing these springs is fairly easy. There’s usually a knob you turn to ease up or tighten the tension.  Here’s a quick rundown from Wikihow on how to lubricate this spring:

“To fix this, apply oil to the seat tension spring located inside the turn-knob housing. Simply loosen the seat tension turn-knob and remove the turn-knob to spray oil inside the housing.”

A Quick Wheel Check

You’re going to come across a variety of wheels, but standard wheels are inserted into the body of the chair via a metal post fixed to the top of the wheel. Over time, those metal posts can wear down and become loose and the wheel axles can suffer from squeak-inducing friction.

So, flip your chair over and try to remove the wheels. If you can, lay them down on paper towels and squirt them with some silicone spray. Give the metal posts a good squirt, too, making sure to spray inside the post housing.

Chairs, Keyboards and More…

The tips we’ve given here are designed to be simple and time-friendly. You’ll need a screwdriver, a few wrenches and a can of WD-40. If you’re looking for a more in-depth tutorial on how to fix your office chair, we recommend a YouTube tutorial we found by handyman Todd Harrison.  It’s a great video if you’re too impatient to wait for a company handyman to fix your chair.

In the meantime, look at our post on how to fix a sticky keyboard. We give you some quick, easy tips for what to use to remove your keys, what you need to clean them and more.

Common Workplace Fixes: A Series on How to Correct Those Annoying Sticky Keys, Squeaks and More

Office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.


We come in, set our things down at our desk, head to the coffee pot, swirl around chunks of powdered creamer and then head back to start our day.

You sit down at your chair and it gives its customary ear-splitting creak. You start typing out your first email of the day and your shift key keeps sticking. A few minutes later, the fluorescent light above your desk begins its hourly flickering session.



You open your desk to find your stapler, only to be mired in a sea of staples, sticky notes and spare change.



Little Things Become Big Problems Under the Right Circumstances

Here’s the funny thing – you don’t really notice any of those quirks. Like we said, office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.

Over time though, it only takes a few bad days or a developing sense of frustration to turn those once unnoticed annoyances into full-blown  daily harassments.

We’re going to use the next couple of posts on our blog to talk about some of these workplace quirks, identify what could be wrong and then give you some simple ways to fix the problem.

Our First Tip: Unsticking the Sticky Keyboard

You’ve most likely suffered from this annoyance. One day you spill a few drops of Starbucks on your keyboard and, a week later, your “a” key seems to be quite precocious. Halfway through a memo you realize that valuable vowels seem to have disappeared.


In this scenario, a mix of espresso, milk and sugar have most likely built up under that key and cause it to stick when you press down on the key.

However, if you haven’t spilled any coffee on your keyboard in a while, there plenty of other explanations. In most cases, the culprit will be a mix of crumbs, hair and random fuzz that collects under your key and dulls the impact of your key pressing down on the sensor beneath.


Whatever the cause, you’re going to need the right tools and about 15 minutes. Here’s what recommends for your go-to keyboard tool kit:fix-it

  • A cup
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • A flathead screwdriver

Before you start pulling off colons and arrows, make sure you take a photo of your keyboard so you can remember the layout.

To remove your keys, lift one corner of the key slowly. As Instructables writes, “Your keys were basically snapped onto your keyboard at the factory … therefore they can be unsnapped.”

This is probably the most important part of the process because this is where you can break things if you rush it. Though your keys can be snapped off without breaking anything, they are made of plastic and breaking off the anchors on your keys is a real (and frustrating) possibility.

If a key is giving you trouble, slide a flathead screwdriver under it and gently wiggle it back and forth.

Once you have the key off, the real work begins. Take your Q-Tip and dip it in the rubbing alcohol. Then, wipe around the base of the key carrier until your Q-Tip comes out clean.

Meanwhile, fill your cup up with water and swirl around some of your dish soap. Drop the key into the solution and let it soak for a few seconds. Pull it out and give it a thorough wipe-down with your paper towels.

Once everything is cleaned and dried, snap your key back on and everything should work as well as it did the first day you used your keyboard.

Looking Ahead: The Squeaky Office Chair

We’d say that the sticky keyboard – or at least the dirty keyboard – is the most common office-equipment quirk we’ve seen.

A good way to avoid this is to buy a can of pressurized air and spray out your keys every Friday before you go home. Also, this Lifehacker thread suggests wiping down your keys every week with baby wipes.

But keyboards aren’t the only things that can break down over time. Office chairs can become agonizingly loud given enough hours of use. Most people ask for a new chair or just write off the squeak as impossible to fix – you don’t have to make excuses and we’ll show you why in our next post.

QWERTY, Dvorak and KALQ: The History of Keyboards and the Legends Surrounding the Original

This past week BlackBerry CEO John Chen finally announced the news that he’d been hinting at for some time. Chen said the company will no longer develop QWERTY keyboard hardware for its phone.

So long, small plastic keys. A moment of silence, please.

By joining the rest of the touch-screen keyboard world, BlackBerry’s announcement brought into focus the QWERTY keyboard. And that got us thinking: How did QWERTY come about? Who invented it? Are there competitors?

To us, it seems so peculiar that one keyboard design would dominate typewriter, computer and mobile keyboards for as long as keyboards have been around.

The Origins of the QWERTY Keyboard Go Back More Than 100 Years

Christopher Latham Sholes. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t you, aren’t alone. The inventor’s name isn’t nearly as famous as his invention – the first typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Sholes was an editor at several newspapers in Wisconsin before Abraham Lincoln hired him for a federal position at the Port of Milwaukee.

The government job allowed Sholes tons of free time, which he devoted to various inventions. His focus settled on his best project: a writing machine.

Sholes, along with two colleagues, won a patent for the typewriter in 1868. Like many startups, he was struggling for cash flow. So, four years later he sold his patent rights to the Remington Arms Company, who helped the typewriter flourish.

In fact, Mark Twain used a Remington typewriter to produce the first-ever typewritten book manuscript in America.

Sholes Chose the QWERTY Layout to Prevent Typewriter Jamming…Or Did He?

The history books are certain that Sholes was the creator of the typewriter. However, the trail goes a bit cold when experts try and pin down exactly why Sholes designed the QWERTY keyboard.

According to Smithsonian magazine, Sholes found that when common letters were placed next to each other, typewriters were jammed because keys were hit in succession too quickly. The “type bars” connecting keys to letters would get tangled up.

So, he separated popular letters to prevent any problems.

“The type bars connecting the key and the letter plate hung in a cycle beneath the paper. If a user quickly typed a succession of letters whose type bars were near each other, the delicate machinery would get jammed.” the Smithsonian wrote in a Fact or Fiction post on their site. “So, it is said, Sholes redesigned the arrangement to separate the most common sequences of letters like ‘th’ or ‘he’.”

Below is a photo of Sholes’ drawings of the first QWERTY keyboard, courtesy of Google Patents. These drawings were submitted for the QWERTY patent and were approved.


As tidy as this story sounds, it didn’t add up for a pair of researchers from Kyoto University.

Japanese Researchers Say QWERTY Legend Is Just That…A Legend

In 2011, Japanese researchers Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka presented a paper that challenged the prevailing QWERTY origin story.

They argue that Sholes didn’t invent the QWERTY keyboard to prevent jamming. They say the machine’s early adopters, Morse code technicians, needed a keyboard layout that allowed them the fastest possible typing speeds so they could keep up with the Morse messenger on the other end of the line. So, Sholes designed QWERTY to meet that need.

Here’s what the Japanese researchers wrote: “If Sholes really arranged the keyboard to slow down the operator, the operator became unable to catch up (to) the Morse sender. We don’t believe that Sholes had such a nonsense intention during his development of (the) Type-Writer.”

We doubt historians and QWERTY enthusiasts will ever dig up the true story behind the origins of the QWERTY design. However, that narrative could become obsolete if another keyboard layout takes over.

QWERTY Competitors: Dvorak and Mobile Layouts

For several decades the QWERTY design faced no legitimate challengers to the typewriting throne. However, a doctor named August Dvorak created a new layout in the 1930’s.

This new layout featured all vowels in the middle line of the keyboard, replacing the current position of the A, S, D, F and G keys.

The popular consonants R, S, T, L and N are located on the right side of the keyboard where the P, O, colon/semi-colon, L and K keys are.

The Smithsonian says early proponents of the Dvorak claimed that the keyboard was faster, but the evidence on the claim is thin and the Dvorak design never gained much traction.

More recently, the KALQ keyboard has been rumored to be the future keyboard for thumb-oriented mobile users. The keyboard takes about 8 hours to learn, and users can surpass their QWERTY typing speed in as little as 12-13 hours, a Tech Crunch article reported in 2014.

Want to give it a try? You can download the KALQ

Could We Be Looking at the Future of Work Right Now?

workTake a moment to think about the word “work”.

Part of its meaning is rooted in the activity it represents: farming, programming, carpentry, factory work and analyzing data.

Another aspect of work’s significance is the social groups it represents. Today’s work world is comprised of 55 million Millennials, 53 million Gen Xers and 44 million Baby Boomers.

Also intertwined in actions and groups is the status of employees: freelancer, contractor, part-time, full-time and per-diem.

Think of each of these different words as galactic bodies weaving, orbiting and rocketing their way along as time passes quicker than you can imagine.

At some point, all these forces could collide.

As we thought about the concept of work, a Forbes series on the future of work sent our thinking into warp speed. It was a fascinating exploration of the workplace and the forces which constantly twist, shape and torque it.

Freelancers: The New Workforce

If you want one statistic that defines how much freelancers mean to America’s companies, it’s this: The use of freelancers has jumped by 70% in the past 20 years from 9.3% to 15.8%, Entrepreneur reported.

Websites like Gigster and Upwork have made it as easy as ever for companies to find and hire freelance help, with the majority of jobs given to developers, designers and copywriters.

Gigster is a great example of how popular freelancing sites have become. Founder Roger Dickey started the site in 2013. By 2014, it had $1 million in revenue and just one year later the company brought in $10 million. IBM and MasterCard have used the site to find top-notch developers.

Exactly why freelancing is booming is something Fast Company discussed in 2015. Reporter Brendon Schrader said part of the explanation is the rise of sites like Gigster.

“There are now more ways to work remotely than ever before, from devices, apps, and other personal technology that lets us communicate with one another from virtually everywhere,” Schrader wrote. “But there’s another kind of technology that plays an arguably bigger role—platforms designed to match companies with talent.”

Schrader rightly points out that freelancing can be a lonely profession – most workers are at home and don’t interact with their coworkers beyond an occasional phone call, Slack or Skype. And that leads us to the next sign of a new work world: co-working.

Co-work Spaces: Home to the Future of Freelancers

Nobody likes being the outcast; humans, for the most part, like interaction with real people.

While the freelancing industry is absolutely booming, there are thousands of independent developers, designers and writers who are craving more than independence; they want community.

As a result, an entire network (and economy) of co-working spaces, office space where freelancers who have no affiliation with each can work side-by-side.

Forbes is predicting that coworking spaces will soon experience huge growth. In their March 2016 article titled, “Coworking Spaces Poised to Enter New Growth Phase”, contributor Falguni Desai wrote, “Operators have emerged alongside the startup boom. While everyone has been reading and talking about fintech, virtual reality and drones, this fast growing, new sub-sector of the real estate market has become one of the largest startup segments, hiding in plain sight.”

These community properties tend to emphasize open spaces, bright colors and community kitchens. They are, no doubt, following the design tendencies of startups who are shunning traditional office designs and opting for floor plans as innovative and creative as the products and services they’re selling.

The Employee-Focused Office: Design Caters to Workers

Along with the emergence of freelancers and their community workspaces is the explosion of office designs which focus on the holistic needs of employees. Instead of cavernous corner offices and dark lighting that says, “We are powerful and successful,” companies are opting for spaces which say, “We are concerned with our people.”

Forbes listed several companies whose office spaces are leaders in this new era. Wired was one of those examples.

The company’s library “caters to the introverted or those looking for alone time,” Forbes wrote.

Randy Howder, principal at design firm Gensler, said the spaces they design often reflect and reinforce the product which their client creates.

For example, his company features quiet alcoves where employees can meet for conversations or conduct phone calls. These types of spaces allow for on-the-fly dialogue, something that Howder said “fits better with the agile methodology most companies use to develop software.”

But Gensler doesn’t just design spaces for software developers, and although their clients change, their methodology doesn’t: Design and furniture express the company, not the other way around.

At Etsy, Forbes points out, nearly all the furniture purchased for their office was sourced from artisans, a direct reflection of Etsy’s handmade online marketplace.

The Future of Work Looks Pretty Amazingfuture

The work world is truly transforming before our eyes. The freelance and coworking markets are just beginning to emerge as powerful forces. Office designs are borne of the unique personalities of employees and the companies for which they work.

Will freelancers one day outnumber office workers? Will companies diversify their main offices into multiple coworking spaces designated by department or seniority? Is the freelance market just a trend?

We’re interested to see how this all develops over the next decade. Aren’t you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

On the Big Screen: Three of the Best Movies About Office Life and the Workplace

movie“Nothing that happens in my office is interesting,” said no employee ever.

Whether you’re pounding away at a tiny cubicle in a massive insurance office or you’re rubbing shoulders with the founder at an open workspace, you’ve got stories. Some of them are hilarious, some of them are frustrating.

And with such a rich amount of source material at hand for storytellers, it’s no wonder that dozens of sitcoms and movies have been made about the workplace.

While there are plenty of options for office-related shows on Netflix, HBO and regular cable channels, the selection thins out a bit when you move to the realm of cinema.

That doesn’t mean there’s a shortage, though. Quite the opposite; work-related movies are like that battle axe of a coffee pot steaming with another cycle of acrid brew…there’s plenty to go around.

“Up in the Air” (2011, George Clooney and Anna Kendrick)

This pick is a bit of a surprise because the movie focuses on a guy who rarely spends any time in an office. However, Clooney’s winsome performance reminds us that, at the end of the day, every person who suits up to go into the workplace is a human being. As hard as we try to put on a certain persona, there are cracks in our carefully hammered armor.

Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham also gives us insight into the shadowy world of “letting people go.” His job is simple: travel around the country and fire people. He provides them with a few platitudes and a debrief folder that explains the next phase in their life.

For employees, we all know how terrible it feels (or would feel) to get that fateful summon to the firing room. For employers, Bingham’s role reminds us how gut-wrenching it can be to tell people they’re fired.

The movie also includes Anna Kendrick’s character Natalie Keener, the typical young employee with bright eyes and big dreams. Some of us will observe her character and think about how we were like that at one time, or her youthful exuberance may annoy us.

And while the themes of this movie are more on the emotional and interpersonal side of work, there’s also the fun side. Bingham is trying to collect 10 million miles on his credit card, an honor rarer than walking on the moon, he says:


  1. Office Space (1999; Ron Livingston, Jennifer Anniston)

Considered the absolute king of workplace movies, Office Space was the precursor to the emergence of office sitcoms from the mid-2000s on.

One of the main reasons the movie led to a movement is that it covers all the day-to-day aspects of work life through the eyes of a dissatisfied employee (Peter). You’ve got the odd but enduring relationships between quirky coworkers (Milton), the annoying boss (Bill Lumbergh) and that persisting daydream that one day you’ll leave your cubicle for greener employment pastures.

Here’s how a Washington Post review of the movie described Lumbergh, the prototypical boss we’ve all grown to despise:

“Running the program is Peter’s smarmy boss, Bill Lumbergh, dressed in the slicko duds of the office park manager: the expensive shirt, the suspenders matched perfectly with his tie, the eternal coffee cup in hand and the unctuous patter that starts with a “yeeeeeaaaaah” at the beginning of every sentence. You gotta love this world.”

  1. Pursuit of Happyness (2006, Will Smith)

There are many worthy movies out there that could’ve easily made this list. The 80’s classic Working Girl is hailed as a work of workplace art, as is The Hudsucker Proxy and the winsome In Good Company.

However, Pursuit of Happyness is, like Up in the Air, an exploration of the “what-goes-on-outside-the-office” life that tends to cause a tear or two to fall from just about anyone’s eyes.

The movie is loosely based on the life of Chris Gardner, a salesman who gets trapped in a bad investment. One day he runs into a finance pro who drives a nice car and Gardner vows to get a job that affords him the same level of luxury.

However, the only open position he can find is an unpaid internship at brokerage firm Dean Witter. There are two huge problems with this (besides the lack of a paycheck): He has a son and they have no place to live.

Happyness isn’t a satire of office life, but a narrative on what it’s like to believe in yourself enough to overcome poverty and earn the kind of money you deserve.

Gardner, of course, overcomes the odds and wins a position at the firm, beating out much younger opponents in the internship with him. Here’s the scene where he learns he’s been chosen from his internship group for a full-time position as a broker:

While the movie certainly has its points of sappiness, it is an excellent narrative on determination and self-belief, no doubt bolstering more than a few souls during the Great Recession that came just a couple of years after its release.

Heavy Hitters: Quick Facts and History of America’s Five Biggest Companies

fiveHave you ever thought about the five biggest companies in the United States?

The Forbes addict in your office might be able to reel them off like she was reciting her five favorite foods, but for most of us the task is much harder. Sure, most of us can guess Apple and Google, but even those might be a surprise to some.

We wanted to know what those five companies were, so we went out and did a little investigation. “Biggest” can be a slippery word – Biggest workforce? Most revenue? – so we decided to narrow it down to market cap.

In doing so, we discovered a very helpful list written by CNN Money in 2015. We’re going to take that list and expand on it, noting some interesting moments and personalities and other trivia about each company.

#1 Apple

Tech companies have taken over the mega-corporation landscape and Apple has led the way. The tech company’s top standing isn’t much of a surprise, although some may be a little stunned by the fact the storied titan finished ahead of Google.

In 2009, Apple’s market cap was 33rd on the list. Six years makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? And yet that rise isn’t so surprising, given the spike in iPhone and iPad sales during that time.

What we think is interesting about Apple is that the story of its origins is one of the most familiar tales in tech history, thanks to eccentric-yet-brilliant founder Steve Jobs. The genius is the subject of several movies that have graced the big screen over the past few years.

Quick and quirky facts about Apple:

  • The name iPhone was chosen from a weird lot of names that included Telepod, Tripod and Mobi.
  • The company has been known to create fake projects to see if the staff working on them will leak details to the press.

#2 Google

If there’s one thing Google has over Apple, it’s that “Apple” hasn’t become a verb.

These days, you can barely go an hour without Googling something. Also, whereas Apple’s products still face tough competition from other mobile phone and computer companies, Google absolutely dominates the search engine world. Bing and Yahoo are almost an afterthought.

And don’t forget that Google is the king of mapping, their driverless cars have ridden 2 million miles and they created their own mobile operating system, Android.

The company first launched its search engine in 1998, but the domain name was registered on September 15, 1997.

Quick and quirky facts about Google:

  • Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University. Larry was visiting the school and Sergey was assigned to show him around campus.
  • Google’s first doodle incorporated the Burning Man. The team went to the desert festival that year and posted the doodle on August 30, 1998.



#3 Microsoft

With all the tech companies popping up all over the world (and popping up on Forbes lists), we sometimes forget that there’s one tech company that’s been a top-10 contender for decades: Microsoft.

We think part of this forgetfulness has to do with the rather mundane perception Microsoft gives in light of Apple’s iOS genius and design-focused products. Also, there’s that whole thing about the clunky, buggy Windows operating systems.

We think it’s a matter of founders, too. Bill Gates comes off as generous but boring and nerdy, while Steve Jobs is seen as an inspirational superhero.

The pop perceptions of the two men couldn’t be more exaggerated, as both Gates and Jobs are superheroes based on their intelligence, creativity and drive.

Quick and quirky facts about Microsoft:

  • Microsoft registered as a company in 1976 in New Mexico, where founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen were working with their first big client.
  • Employees are known as “Softies” and they celebrate their anniversaries by bringing in a pound of M&M’s for every year they’ve worked for the company.

#4 Berkshire Hathaway

It’s time for a tech break, isn’t it?

The Oracle of Omaha’s holdings company has 60 subsidiary companies and has substantial investments in big-time American companies like Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs.

Warren Buffet’s reputation among businesspeople and investors is absolutely legendary, and his theory that you should buy when everyone is selling and sell when everyone is buying has been a bedrock philosophy for many an investor.

Quick and quirky facts about Berkshire Hathaway:

  • BH was originally a textile company that went into a steady decline and was eventually bought by Buffet after buying enough shares to gain enough power to fire the owner.
  • The company may not be the biggest in the country, but it’s stock is the most expensive. Class A shares of BH were selling for $225,000 in 2015.

#5: ExxonMobil

If you’re a Baby Boomer or Generation Xer, then Exxon is synonymous with the Valdez, an oil tanker that ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and spilled 10-11 million gallons of oil into the sound’s pristine waters.

These days, the company shares its name with Mobil and is, to today’s generation, nothing more than a gas station. However, ExxonMobil is the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world.

Quick and quirky facts about ExxonMobil:

  • Exxon came into being after the Supreme Court broke up John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil into 34 different companies.
  • The 1999 ExxonMobil merger was worth nearly $80 billion.

The History of Management: From Individual to Machine to Empathy

Unless you’ve been travelling through Southeast Asia for the past five years without a smartphone, then you’ve probably noticed that management styles have undergone some significant changes.

For years, the top-down model ruled just about every kind of organization in the country. There was a boss, some mid-level management and a bunch of employees. The boss gave the directive, the managers passed it on to the employees and everything was great.


As Millennials flooded the workforce, those age-old notions of proper management started to crumble. The model’s viability was questioned and new ideas of community-style learning and leading emerged. The Strategic Leadership Institute (SLI) calls this the “Servant Leader” model.

Along with that shift in workplace mentality came a shift in workplace organization… offices were transformed into open areas where collaboration was the key.

This significant change got us thinking about the history of management and how it’s changed not just over the past decade, but over the past few centuries.

The First Big Shift Came at the End of the 19th Century

Entrepreneurs are basically the rock stars of today’s business world. However, this trend is nothing new.  Back in the 19th century, business owners were bootstrapping their way to success just like they are today.

Entrepreneurial Capitalism

This movement was called “entrepreneurial capitalism,” SLI pointed out in a 2009 article on the history of management. Individuals used their own money to start their businesses.

The Harvard Business Review has a nice explanation of this managerial movement:

“Prior to the industrial revolution, of course, there wasn’t much ‘management’ at all – meaning, anyone other than the owner of an enterprise handling tasks such as coordination, planning, controlling, rewarding, and resource allocation.”

Managerial Capitalism

However, when the 20th century rolled around, those self-funded companies started to grow. The Industrial Revolution brought with it massive companies who couldn’t operate under the principles of entrepreneurial capitalism. So, they adopted a new style of management called “managerial capitalism” to corral and transform their large workforces.

As American shifted to this new style of management, various experts began to study the manufacturing process. Through their work, managers were able to understand how long it took to manufacture a certain product and what type of efficiency they could expect out of a single employee.

Expertise Becomes the Calling Card of 20th Century Management

The 20th century brought not only the boom of managerial capitalism, but also a scientific approach to management that mirrored the prevailing modernist mindset of the first half of the 1900’s.

An article by Rita McGrath in the Harvard Business Review calls this the era of “expertise,” in which “writers such as Elton Mayo, Mary Parker Follett, Chester Barnard, Max Weber, and Chris Argyris imported theories from other fields (sociology and psychology) to apply to management. Statistical and mathematical insights were imported (often from military uses) forming the basis of the field that would subsequently be known as operations management.”


Organizations basically became well-oiled machines operating on scientific theories of efficiency and structure. A worker’s value was based on how well he or should could perform his or her role within the overall machine.

But that concept of leadership and management started to change when author Peter Drucker started to question a mechanical approach to leadership. Workers were more than just robots playing a small part in a huge machine – they were a wealth of knowledge that helped the company survive.

A Shift from Robotic to Relational: Employees as Knowledge-Holders

“When all the value in an organization walks out the door each evening, a different managerial contract than the command-and-control mindset prevalent in execution type work is required,” Harvard Business Review pointed out. “Thus, new theories of management arose that put far more emphasis on motivation and engagement of workers.”


So, instead of bosses ordering a legion of mindless robots to do menial tasks, managers started to realize that employees were assets for their knowledge just as much as their ability to perform a task.

Elton Mayo, one of the authors mentioned earlier, was one of the influencers of a new movement of management. This new movement put an emphasis on social interactions in the workplace and an appeal to the emotions of employees as the primary determining factor in efficiency, SLI noted in its article

You could say that Mayo, along with other proponents of a more human managerial system, created the platform by which today’s employee-focused managerial style found its growth. McGrath calls this the “era of empathy,” while SLI dubbed it the era of “servant leadership.”

We think McGrath’s words are pretty fitting to conclude this brief history of management:

“We are also grappling with widespread dissatisfaction with the institutions that have been built to date, many of which were designed for the business-as-machine era. They are seen as promoting inequality, pursuing profit at the expense of employees and customers, and being run for the benefit of owners of capital, rather than for a broader set of stakeholders. At this level, too, the challenge to management is to act with greater empathy.”

How to Navigate a Career Change: Tips from Professionals Who’ve Been There Before

“Career change” can mean a lot of things.

The phrase encompasses both the good and bad side of employment – you’ve found a new mission for your life, you got sick of your old job, you were fired or were laid off. Regardless of the reason behind a career change, you’re going to face transition. And most likely, the Bureau of Labor Statistic says, that transition will happen about every 4.5 years.

stormy road

Dealing with that transition can be a pretty difficult process depending on how much time you had to prepare for it. A without-notice firing can send you into a tailspin while a planned transition usually comes with a gentler season of change.

There are plenty of opinions out there about how you should conduct your job search and handle your transition. We’ve collected some of the best insights.

If You’re Thinking About Leaving, Be Certain and Methodical in Your Decision

The feeling of being trapped in a job you don’t like can be pretty suffocating. If the pay is good, you might be afraid to leave because you’re not sure if you can command the same salary at your next job. If the pay is poor and you’re just scraping by, you may worry that the absence of a paycheck could ruin your financial life.

Because so much is often at stake, it’s important to make a logical decision as opposed to an emotional one, says career expert Karen Elizaga.

A few years ago she talked with Fast Company about the nuances of career change. Her advice to those thinking about changing careers? Jumping ship isn’t always the answer and don’t react too quickly.

Take a moment to analyze why you feel the way you do about your current job. Is there a possibility that you could change your emotions by changing your mindset?

“Sometimes simply changing your mindset or how you approach your work, how you work with others or how you take care of yourself outside the office can help [turn your career around] to better suit your strengths,” she said.

man and tie

If a change in mindset doesn’t work, then it may be time to leave. But that doesn’t mean you should take the first opportunity that comes along. We’ve all known someone who’s jumped ship at a job they hate only to land a job they end up hating just as much or more.

While a change in environment is nice, the honeymoon phase wears off pretty quickly. So, Elizaga said, be wise in your choice.

“If you’re really secure about where you excel and where you fall down, you can look outside and say, ‘Now that I know the kind of person I am and the kind of job I would enjoy, I can look out at the universe of jobs that are out there and make the move,'” she said during her Fast Company interview.

Know Your Long-Term Goals

If you’re clinging to the railing of a sinking ship, you don’t want to jump into a lifeboat engulfed in flames. Your goal is, after all, to leave the ship and stay alive.

When you’re preparing to leave your job for a new position or new career track, you need to have a long-term plan mapped out, says BroadbandTV CEO and Founder Shahrzad Rafati.

“What do you really want to get out of your career? What are your long-term goals? I always believe it’s important to think five to 10 years ahead,” Rafati said in a Fortune article. “The change that you make should be a logical step in an overarching direction.

Rafati also elaborated on the questions you should ask yourself before you leave because, she said, they should guide you to the job that will meet your needs:

  • If you’re leaving a place because of a poisonous work environment, you should focus your search efforts on a company that values positive workplace culture.
  • If you can’t stand the fact that your boss expects you to work late, search for a position within a company that values work-life balance.

Wrapping It Up: Be Smart About Your Career Change

When you’re in a place you hate, it’s really hard not to want to take the first job that comes your way. Truth be told, it’s equally as hard to acknowledge that a change in mentality could result in a change of your thoughts about your job.

Rather than take the easy way out – changing jobs without doing some soul-searching – you should make a concerted effort to understand why you feel the way you do about your job. Know why you don’t like where you’re at, what you need from your next job and, ultimately, where you want to be 10 years from now. Tough questions will lead to wise decisions.

Or, as S’well CEO Sarah Kauss said in her 2015 Fortune article, “Facing the unknown will always be daunting. But thinking of the short-term move in relation to your long-term career objectives can help make a career transition more appealing.”

Four Ways to Impress Your Boss Without Being Over-the-Top

bossThere isn’t a single one of us who wouldn’t want the chance to impress our boss, especially during that time of the year when we’re up for a performance review.

Now, you might be dreading the thought of dazzling your boss simply because it has connotations of sucking up. There’s definitely something to be said about that method of winning over your managers; when it’s done in bad form you tend to lose more friends than you make.

Fortunately, there are plenty of proven ways to win points with your superiors without being the perennial purveyor of flattery.

Make an Appearance Outside of Work

This doesn’t have to be a regular habit, but occasionally showing up to after-work events or parties is a great way to not only interact with your coworkers outside of the work environment, but to also show your boss you’re invested (even if just a little bit) in your job.

Again, this doesn’t mean that you have to say yes to every invite you get, but don’t say no to every invite you get, either.

As Business Insider Contributor Angelica Marden wrote, it’s totally normal to begrudge an after-work get-together.

“Prove you care by making an appearance for one drink, a short conversation, or the toast, and then sneak back to your mountain of work or personal engagements,” she wrote. “Your boss will remember whether or not you showed but will be too busy to notice when you ducked out.”

Not a bad strategy, in our opinion, but you may run into trouble if your boss keeps a close eye on everything happening and sees you scoot out after just a few minutes.

Make Your Voice Heard

Before you run off to your computer to send a scathing email about company policy, take a moment to think this point through.

Effective teams work because each player is clear on what’s happening on the field of play. What happens when one person doesn’t know their job? Disaster.

Don’t be that person who misses a crucial piece of information and then doesn’t ask a question later. Speak up when you have to, even if it means admitting you missed out on an important point. Chances are, you’re not the only one.

“Everyone appreciates clear communication and brainstorming, and the healthiest way to get support is to ask for it,” Marden wrote.

Take Ownership

You used to hear the phrase “buy in” tossed around when evaluating new employees. Do they believe in what we’re doing? Do they use our products or services? Can we count on them to love the brand as much as we do?

Buy-in is often used as a determining factor for hiring someone, but it also comes in play when managers consider an employee’s prospects for long-term employment with the company. And there’s nothing that’s a more powerful testimony of your worth than taking ownership.

Of course, “taking ownership” isn’t a single-dimension phrase. You can take ownership of a project, which means you embrace it and are proactive. You ask questions and get solutions.

You can take ownership of a mistake, meaning you don’t pass the blame on someone else but you accept your mistake and admit it was yours.

There’s also the aspect of taking ownership of a new role or position, where you attack it with confidence and enthusiasm like you did the first day you were hired.

All of these qualities of ownership reflect well on you and win points with your boss.

Carly Sec, a contributor for Hubspot, put it this way: “Don’t be afraid to bring big ideas to the table. This is the type of behavior that bosses love to see, as it exemplifies your ability to think about the business on a high level.”

Use Books to Increase Your Value

We all know that learning more about our companies and all the intricacies therein makes us more valuable as employees.

However, the tough thing with boning up on your corporate knowledge is that it’s really hard to calibrate when and how much you should say in certain situations. Dropping a knowledge dump on your colleagues and boss can come off as a little overbearing.

So, take a different route to increasing your value through learning: bring a business book to work with you. It doesn’t have to be an iconic work of old; it can be a contemporary book like Ashlee Vance’s biography of Elon Musk.

Reading it during lunch breaks not only sharpens your acumen, but it also acts as a conversation starter with your colleagues. And, in the end, your boss is bound to notice you reading up on the latest business and entrepreneurial trends.

A recent Men’s Health article noted, “You are developing your mind and your outlook … and turning yourself into a more valuable employee.”

Business Owners Implement Modern Furniture to Address Lack of Space

office cubiclesNew companies start and expand each day. When this happens, owners have to both find and furnish office spaces to accommodate employees. In fact, American companies annually purchase staggering amounts of office furnishings — 16.5 million chairs, 11 million filing cabinets, and 3 million desks, research shows. In 2014 alone, commercial office furniture accounted for $12.6 billion in revenue in the United States. While purchasing office cubicles and other modern office desks may not be hard, finding space in Nashville, Tennessee is.

According to Biz Journals, Nashville has “the lowest percentage of available office space among nearly 90 markets.” This recently shared data comes from real estate brokerage firm Cushman and Wakefield. As of June 30, just 5.5% of all office space in Middle Tennessee was available for rent. Just behind Nashville was New York City with 6.8% while Charleston and San Francisco tied with 7.3% of available office space.

When put into a perspective that more people can understand, this means that business owners and managers will have an easier time finding office space in New York or San Francisco rather than Nashville. Although the prices may be significantly higher in these cities, Nashville has had a recent spike in rent prices over the years. In the city’s downtown area, new top-end office space is a record high of $40 per square foot. With the cost of renting these buildings skyrocketing, owners of lower-rated buildings are also raising their prices as well.

What does it all mean?
For one thing, the surge in new and expanding businesses throughout the area means that the Nashville economy is growing rapidly and successfully. On the other hand, businesses that need to expand are finding it difficult to do so with the lack of real estate options. Many companies are forced to look outside the metropolitan area for office space, which means for a longer commute.

Solving the problem
As a solution, some businesses have implemented the use of modern office desks and office cubicles to maximize the space they have. Keeping in mind that employee productivity can increase up to 17% from simply providing the right seating, employers are using innovative work chairs to their advantage. Not only does implementing modern office cubicles and workstations allow for more space to be used, it saves money in the long run. Seeing as how space is already limited, these business owners are making the most of what they have.