Small Business

Valve Corp., The Boss-Less Company Where Employees Run The Ship

For some people, an office environment without a boss is like a football team without a quarterback. But for certain companies, like game developer Valve Corp. in Bellevue, Wash., it's a democratic system that they believe breeds teamwork and efficiency. The company's employee manual preaches an environment rife with driven, team-oriented workers who take equal accountability for the success or failure of projects.

At Valve Corp., a boss-less office serves as a perk where few of the workers have titles and even fewer operate independently on a consistent basis. Desks at Valve Corp. are even outfitted with wheels so workers can take their workspace anywhere, often for the sake of collaborating and discussing projects with co-workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The unique setup allows for some interesting twists on the common workplace hierarchy. For one, pay is based on employees ranking each other -- but not themselves -- as far as who creates the most value for the company. The entire team also participates in decisions of who to hire or fire. The company says it has been boss free since 1996, with its system of codependency and equality proving rather profitable: Its employee manual says profitability is "higher than that of Google or Amazon or Microsoft."

But with this flexibility and collective responsibility comes some downsides. The system can make it harder for the company to spot poor performers, and workers getting along is paramount to their productivity. As Business Insider points out, though unproductive workers may occasionally appear, the organic nature of the team allows natural leaders to appear versus traditional offices, where they may have their input or skills bogged down by a less qualified superior for a particular project.

Office perks differ in their execution and value, from a music studio at the Dropbox office to massive dining and transport options at Google. While some are undoubtedly fun ways to reward employees, some people see the smattering of perks at new tech offices to be the equivalent of working in a figurative luxury cruise liner, one that can discourage the worth of more interaction with the outside world, perhaps even spoiling some workers.

Tech office perks have also turned into hiring weapons in a field that's becoming increasingly cluttered and competitive. But in the midst of choosing who has the most hearty breakfast buffet spread, an incoming employee may lose sight of a company that's truly a good fit, rather than one that simply appeals to their interpretation of "cool." Serving as a sweetener for salary and compensation, perks offer bigger companies another way to court talented workers away from smaller startups that lack resources to combat the offers.

Still, perks can offer relaxation and subsequently instill employees with feelings of ease away from the drudgery of a long workday. Gallup found a correlation between worker productivity and happiness, estimating that companies that don’t have happy or engaged workers can lose out on billions of dollars in potential revenue.