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Zappos's Grand Management Experiment, Holacracy, Shows Cracks

Photo: Zappos/Facebook

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Zappos's unique "Holacracy" managment style—the one where no one has any job titles and people who don't like it are paid to quit—has attracted its share of criticism. In a new New York Times article on the company, the weird mechanisms of the movement become even more apparent, from figuring out the salaries of people who have no titles to shutting down a bridge to encourage more employee interaction.

The NYT recounts one meeting where employees were asked to "check in" at the beginning and share how they were feeling. People chimed in, saying they were tired and the weather was hot. "My hands smell like oranges, so I'm a little distracted by that," one employee said. "Also, I'm in this room for five straight hours of meetings."

In another moment of Holacracy weirdness, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shut down the bridge connecting Zappos's offices to the company parking garage in order to facilitate more communication between employees, under the assumption that more people would talk to each other if they were all forced to use the same entrance into the building. But employees began to fear for their safety, since they now had to walk on the streets late at night to return to their cars after work.

The bridge was eventually reopened, after the request went through a number of Holacracy-specific hoops: "An employee (unknown) brought it to the road block role with safety being the tension. The road block role then took it to the grease and disrupt circle where it went through the process and was eventually passed with no objections," a Zappos spokesperson said.