As you may know, DreamHost was selected for the WorldBlu Most Democractic Workplaces 2008 list. We’ve talked about it a little in previous blog posts, but have never really said much about the specifics of democracy at DreamHost. I’ll start things off with a bit of an overview of the concepts of democracy that apply to how we run things.
When I first heard about WorldBlu and their list of the most democratic workplaces, the concept was new to me. At first I was even a bit unsure how what I knew about democracy as a concept even fit in with what I knew about workplaces. I knew DreamHost had been doing things in a unique way all along, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it might be part of a larger trend. To figure out how it all fit together I did a bit of my own research, and here’s what I found. Democracy as a concept has a few key ideas that I think are the most interesting to us here.
Access to Information
Crucial to democracy is easy access to information. For a workplace that means information about things like what the business does and how they do it, and how it was done in the past. It also includes information about policies and past decisions, and anything else that might provide insight about the business. This goes beyond the scope of what a person needs to get their day to day job accomplished.
Free Exchange of Ideas and an Open Dialog
A free flow of ideas and information is what democracy is really all about. The theory is that flow of ideas will lead to decisions that will be in the best interests of the majority of the people while also not infringing on the rights of the minority. In a business the best interests of the majority are sometimes difficult to define, but with an open dialog the interests of the business itself will be more in line with the individual interests of the workers.
Opportunities for Meaningful Participation
That open dialog and exchange of ideas can’t be just a dialog with no real weight, though. It has to have the potential to have an impact on the decision making process, and the functioning of the company itself. It has to be meaningful or it won’t be successful.
Democracy is Not Just Voting
This is a key idea. I think a lot of people here in the US might say “Democracy is Voting”, but voting is really just an implementation detail of the representational democracy we have here. In the workplace democracy model voting may be useful as a participation tool, but it’s definitely not necessary. In the case of DreamHost voting is not widely done, though we do have a polling system built into our own internal employee tools and it does get used to gather votes on specific issues.