Are you practicing The Mushroom Management Philosophy?

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There’s a great scene in the film, The Departed, between Sergeant Dignam & Captain Ellerby, played by Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin, respectively.


The state police is teaming up with the Feds on a bust. Dignam/Wahlberg outlines his philosophy on teamwork with the Feds: “My theory on Feds is that they’re like mushrooms… feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark.”



This is humorous and clever.

And for many companies, it’s disappointingly accurate.

It’s how many firms choose to lead and manage their employees.



OK – that may be a bit harsh.

At least the feeding part…



But the darkness?

Spot on.

Lights out.


Information must be controlled… protected,” we’re told.

Pricing information can’t be shared with everyone; it will leak,” they say.

Only Execs can see the entire picture – it’s safer this way,” we reason.



If this is the case, don’t ask employees to spend the company’s money as if it were their own.

It’s unlikely employees will act in the best interest of the company if they only understand a sliver of the financial picture. After all, employees know how much of their own money they have.


They understand the concept of Discretionary Spending.


In The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, he lobbies for 100% transparency with all employees.





Open kimono.

Share it all.

The good, the bad, the ugly.


The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the financial outcome, good or bad.” – Jack Stack


That doesn’t seem crazy.

Could it work for your company?


Instead of s*** dinners and darkness, opt for perpetual open-mic night and the disinfecting properties of sunlight.


Effective leadership is ultimately determined by the behavior of the employees.

The people doing the work.


Do they care?

Are they engaged?

Are they improving?

Or do they collectively shift into mental auto-pilot everyday from 7:00 – 3:30?


However you choose to lead and manage, the battle is for an increased share of your employees’ Discretionary Thinking.


How much time your workers actively think about how to improve their job… your job… the jobsite.


Imagine if every worker on your jobsite actively considered how to improve the site for an additional 10 minutes on the ride home from work today?


How many additional ideas would that effort return?

It can’t happen if you don’t communicate – if you don’t ask for their thoughts.



Start with Goals and Objectives.

Involve everyone.

Yes, that means translating Goals and Objectives into Spanish.

Do it.



In the battle for Discretionary Thinking, there are no language barriers.

Get your workers thinking by asking questions.


How can we improve?

¿Cómo podemos mejorar?

(KOH-moh  poh-DAY-mohs  may-hoh-RAHR)



If this happened every day for a year… what could be achieved?

Who knows?


If you are practicing anything remotely close to The Mushroom Management Philosophy, you’ll never know.





Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.

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Categories: Construction Spanish, Jobsite Leadership

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