Why Teal Organizations might be the future of management

Teals are increasingly making their way into our working environments, bringing a special focus on personal responsibility, autonomy and purpose. We analyzed this young phenomenon and collected our experience with teals as well as their effects on organisations and office landscapes. You will find them summarized in this article.

In contrast to millennials, the term teals is not referring to a specific generation, but to a group of people characterized by certain shared values and preferences (see also the Spiral Dynamics theory further developed by Don Beck and Chris Cowan). Teals want to be perceived holistically at their workplace (they don’t want to “have to wear a mask”). They prefer companies in which they can meaningfully contribute to the future. Teals look for jobs in which they can open up and develop themselves – with all their strengths and weaknesses.

This also leads to a special demand on workplaces: Designing the work environment for teal employees, one has to include aspects like authenticity and individuality. Design revolves around the question: “How to create personal working environments in a way that people feel comfortable to show up the way they are ?“ In return, teals are willing to reveal a lot about themselves at their working place, since they use personal items to decorate desks and office spaces. This may include e.g. green plants, figurines or a collection of cacti. Enforcing a clean desk policy won’t get you much approval from this target group.

The design of meeting rooms should depart from resembling fancy meeting rooms, and focus more on challenging users. Teals don’t care about staging, but about characteristic spaces that reflect the purpose of the company or specific activity, like for example “silent spaces” to retreat and regenerate. Those spaces are often seemingly unremarkable, but in fact thoughtful designed rooms, which are authentic and create “positive frictions” (in contrast to just well-being spaces).

The teals’ self-awareness also has an impact on organisations. “Teal characteristics” will become more important, revolving around personal responsibility and room for manoeuvre: teals long for autonomy within a (co-)determined larger organisational framework (which can and should change over time). Organizations can achieve this through a wide variety of structures, systems and processes, without having to implement a “holocracy model” or similar rather prescriptive operating models. As we see it, there is also a danger of interpreting “teal organisations” as a collection of methods and new practices and applying them without adaptation or consideration of the specific context of an organisation. See also the interesting article on Corporate Rebels.

Teals and their self-conception collide with a strict division of roles that however are still dominant in many organisations (just have a look at clear function designations on business cards). Teals no longer want to commit themselves to only one position: depending on their needs and tasks, they want to be project initiators, team leaders or employees in self-organising groups. This has the potential to change entire organisational structures and forms. For example, a team recruits a new employee together and no longer needs an HR department for this task. However, teals do not make these kinds of decisions based on consensus within the group, but on clearly defined quality criteria – which is another characteristic that distinguishes them.

To summarize: Teals have the potential to change not only organisational structures, role understandings, job positions and the way of collaboration (autonomy, making decisions, etc.), but also the spatial working environment. It is exciting to see how the “workplace of the future” will develop in this context. One last note: the clean desk policy will not “win” ;-).

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Image: Jens Johnsson at Unsplash