Interdependence vs independence; the argument for cooperative working

In today’s workplace I hear a lot of verbalisation on giving employees ‘independence’ in their jobs to promote greater productivity. Is independence the right route to follow?  I believe not. I would argue that interdependence is the way forward.

Independence isolates, interdependence brings together

Independence is the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people. This sounds good on the face of it however, if taken in the work sense, it suggests working on tasks without support or assistance which does not promote a team environment nor a sense of ‘us’ which is where productivity stems from.


Although employee independence is bandied around by employers as being a reality in their organisations I was reading with interest a recent FT article which seems to contradict this;

“It was found that the proportion of people who have a lot of discretion over how they do their jobs has declined, from 62 per cent in 1992 to 44 per cent in 2012 and to 38 per cent in 2017. There is a strong correlation between people having control over their work and enjoying their jobs.”

(the findings come from the 2017 Skills and Employment Survey, a government-funded study of about 3,300 people conducted every five years).

So it would appear that independence is not actively promoted as much as is claimed and the old command and control mechanism is alive, well and being invoked.  This is a tactic of the scared.  Things are changing so fast that it appears upper management are defaulting back to archetype because they don’t know what else to do and, as history has shown, command and control structures will ultimately fail.

What they should be looking at is an Interdependence structure.

Interdependence is where two or more things are dependent on each other.  A subtle differential however it makes a massive difference and surely makes sense?

If employers and employees recognise that they are dependent on each other (without both the other fails) then combined business strategies automatically follow.  Allowing for both sides of the equation means everyone is invested in the same goals and, just like an equation, aiming for exactly the same result beyond the = sign.

interdependence and AI

AI has its role to play but in what way makes a huge difference too. In the command and control structure its main focus is to watch and monitor employees illustrating the heightened lack of trust that change seems to have created in management.  In an interdependent culture AI’s focus switches to becoming one of the team, something employee and employer can both use for productive outcomes without the ‘big brother’ attitude.

Interdependence allows for autonomy but when structured correctly provides support, advice, and feedback when and where required.  It brings both parties closer into alignment with each other which, in the very few companies I have witnessed it, provides a far more enjoyable and harmonious workplace.