Smell of the Workplace – Wonderful Metaphor to Understand the Context of Performance

Professor Sumantra Ghoshal, who passed away on March 3, 2004 was the Founding Dean of Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

In a World Economic Forum talk, Prof. Ghosal talked about the “Smell of the Workplace” as a metaphor to describe the need for creating a new context that enables employees to change their mindset from that of Constraint, Compliance, Control and Contract to that of Stretch, Discipline, Trust and Support.

Organisational leaders who create grand strategies and plans are often unaware of how the front-line people who interact with customers perceive such strategies and plans. In the absence of a deliberate effort to create a context of Stretch, Discipline, Trust and Support, employees tend to view strategies and plans with a mindset of Constraint, Compliance, Control and Contract.

Elaborating on the metaphor, “Smell of the Workplace”, Prof. Ghosal narrated how the summers in Calcutta with its heat and humidity would leave him exhausted as opposed to an exhilarating walk in the Fontainebleau forests of France.

Most organizations are like Calcutta in summer – the “Smell of the Workplace” is dispiriting. And no matter what other measures leaders take, to revitalize and engage their employees, their mindset remains one of Constraint, Compliance, Control and Contract.

Unless organizational leadership is committed to foster a climate of Stretch, Discipline, Trust and Support, they will struggle to fully engage, employee energies.

Thank you, Prof Sumantra Ghoshal, the world is richer because of your wisdom.



To watch Professor Ghoshal discuss the topic in length click the link below.


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