Unlimited Holiday Time Plus High Transparency? This is how the Capoeirista’s do it

“So, you basically have an unlimited holiday policy, ” I say to my capoeira professor while attempting to throw my right leg over his outstretched hand.

We are training in Pelourinho, the historical city centre of Salvador, a city in the North-East of Brasil. I started these training sessions about two weeks ago. I wanted to get some exercise and since this area is where capoeira was born, I decided this was the thing to do.

I found a skilled (and more importantly, patient!) teacher with the capoeira nickname “Negro Drama” and we have been training a few times a week ever since. Next to teaching me, Drama also works in a capoeira group that does demonstrations on the streets for tourists. We were talking about him leaving his team for a couple of hours for my training sessions and he told me he’s able to choose when to do something else if he wants to.

“Working on the streets is different than inside,” he answers in his charming Brazilian accent. “There are no rules.”

No rules? Now, that is something I like.

I am a strong believer in having fewer rules in the workplace. I believe that, in order to create a workplace with high levels of engagement and happier employees, certain conditions must be met. They, amongst others, involve fewer rules, but more responsibility.

I noticed how a few of these conditions were present in the way this capoeirista group organizes themselves, so I thought today I would share them with you in this blog.

1 Unlimited holiday policy

Of course, the capoeirista’s are not employed and they work on the streets. Since there is no employment contract, there are no holiday policies either. They work, or they don’t. But they do have a responsibility towards the group and they let their team know when they are not coming to work, to make sure there are always enough people working.

If you want to create a workplace where people have high levels of freedom and responsibility, an unlimited holiday policy is almost mandatory. Especially when people work from different countries, or when they are traveling, controlling the number of holidays is not something I would recommend. It makes much more sense to hold people accountable for their personal results and contributions and make sure they feel responsible for the teams’ results.

2 Transparency on results

By the end of the day, one of the capoeirista’s counts the money that was collected during the day in the presence of the rest of the group. Since their daily income depends on it, they all want to know how much money was made.

Being transparent about your teams’ and companies’ results is also an important aspect in order to create a happy workplace. Don’t forget to include the non-financial results you have defined for your company. Transparency creates invaluable trust between employees and management. Ricardo Semler, (also Brazillian, by the way), describes in his book the Seven Day Weekend how sharing results helps to engage people to the companies’ higher goal.

3 Transparent salary policy

The money made during the day was divided amongst the people who worked (and therefore contributed) that day. They make sure they divide the money “fairly” so they take hours worked and participation into consideration. For instance, Drama gets a smaller part on the days that he teaches me since he would have been away for a few hours.

By having a transparent salary policy where people feel that everybody is making money in relation to what they add, you create a strong and more engaged team. This could be applied to different types of businesses and adopted in different ways. For instance, there are companies that let employees determine their own salary.

Or let’s have a look at Buffers’ salary policy. They implemented a salary formula to fairly determine how individual salaries can differ. Their salary formula is based on a lot of factors like location, experience, loyalty, and choice of stock options or salary increase. So now you can determine what type of salary to expect if you were to work for them! It’s nice to know, isn’t it?

Ps: Are you visiting Salvador soon?

As I experienced myself, playing capoeira, especially in the sun, is quite tiring. And many tourists watch the show but are often reluctant with their donations. Meanwhile, the group stays always friendly and they keep smiling to everybody.

The money that is divided really isn’t much. And many of those boys are supporting their extended families with what they earn; they do need it. So, if you are visiting Salvador, please make sure have a look at the demonstrations and be generous!


Photo credits: Pedro Dias