Managing That Workplace “Vibe”

The New York Post reports that some companies and hotels are looking to hire people for a new kind of job with an evocative title:  “Vibe Manager.”

That would look pretty good on an office door sign, wouldn’t it?

img_6247-2“Vibe Managers” apparently are generally responsible for making employees feel good about the “vibe” at their workplace.  They’re supposed to plan parties and activities like scavenger hunts and other events for the workers, make playlists for office soundtracks, assist in recruiting “talent,” make sure everybody’s birthday is properly recognized, and consider whether the company should offer benefits like lunch-hour yoga and chair massages.  The position also might involve more mundane activities, like making sure that the office kitchen and coffee stations are stocked with healthy snacks.

Why, after decades of muddling through without them, do companies suddenly need a “Vibe Manager”?  Because surveys apparently show that 70 percent of American workers are not focused on their work and aren’t feeling “engaged.”  It’s interesting, too, that the solution to the lack of “focus” and “engagement” is to create a new job designed to make sure that the employer offers non-work activities that some naysayers might consider to be nothing more than frivolous window dressing.  Seriously, is a scavenger hunt really going to materially change a disgruntled employee’s perspective on his or her workplace?  If so, what does that say about the worker in the first place?

A workplace “vibe” seems to be a lot different from a workplace “culture.”  Many of the most successful companies in the history of capitalism have thrived because they established a culture that incorporated core concepts like excellence, teamwork, loyalty, pride, innovation, and quality — all concepts that, unlike a “vibe,” were directly related to, and directly supported, the company’s business activities.  Employees embraced and bought into the strong cultures of these successful companies and, so long as they were fairly compensated and evaluated, were satisfied and happy in their work because they felt that they were part of something larger that was doing something worthwhile.  It wasn’t office birthday parties that made the difference.

Any company that is worried about something superficial, like its “vibe,” probably isn’t sufficiently attentive to more fundamental issues like culture.  And that’s probably going to undercut the efforts to have a cool “vibe” down the road.  Anybody who’s ever experienced the “vibe” of a company that is going down the tubes knows what I mean.

Obscure Bands And Great Songs: Hocus Pocus And Focus

It was the early 1970s.  It was a time when you could hear just about anything on the radio.  Playlists hadn’t yet hardened into the genre-specific, focus group-driven, audience-targeted sameness of today, where you know exactly what you are going to get.  For perhaps the last time, American popular radio could be full of surprises.  And one day, when I was about 16, one of the surprises was the extraordinary song Hocus Pocus by a Dutch group called Focus.

Hocus Pocus is unquestionably one of the greatest air guitar songs of all time.  The intro, with its great guitar riffs and drumming, sucks you in — and then you begin to realize that the song is seriously weirdHocus Pocus is a technically an instrumental, even though the human voice is heard throughout and is, in fact, one of the most important instruments being played.  Rather than lyrics, however, the singer is alternately yodeling, straining to perform some kind of musical scales, sounding like a cartoon character that has been at the helium tank, and finally insanely cackling.  And the unique vocal gymnastics lead perfectly into the stunning guitar solos and manic drumming.  What a great song!

Hocus Pocus reached number 9 on the U.S. charts, but the single version really didn’t do the song justice.  I went out and bought the album, Moving Waves, because the extended version of Hocus Pocus — which comes in at close to 7 minutes and is the version in the Youtube clip below — is as close to perfection as music gets.  I played that album in my bedroom until the grooves begged for mercy.