Work De-Motivators – Things That Sap Morale in the Workplace

Dwight5

I have learned over the years more about de-motivation than actual motivation.  Usually I obtain this knowledge while fulfilling the role of “whipping boy” for less-than-able managers (not at my current employer of course!)  What I have discovered is that when you look at what kills motivation you often can gain the important knowledge – what DOES help spur motivation.  Bear in mind I’m work in Information Technology, so my perspective can be slightly skewed – sometimes more than others.

So, in an effort to expand our knowledge, here are my big de-motivators list – in no particular order:

Seemingly random decisions by leadership.  The word “seemingly” is important here.  It’s actually pretty rare when a leader makes a totally random decision.  There’s almost always some reasoning behind it – some context for the decision.  Often times though, I’ve found, that the decision is communicated and not the reasoning or context of why the decision was made.  Without understanding “why” something is being done, the only conclusion I’m sometimes left with is that the decision was made by pulling it out of their collective asses.

Cutting back training. I worked in the auto industry – so I understand what tough economic times are.  Yes, you do have to cut expenses from time to time – and training is the proverbial victim of this.  Training is one area I am sensitive too.  Training is a pact between the organization and the individual. Training individuals says, “We see you being around here for a while and want to optimize you.”  When training is constricted to the point where it isn’t happening – the effects on many people is that they don’t believe that the organization cares about them as individuals.

Leap before you look leadership.  “Any jackass can burn down a barn,” or so the old saying goes.  Making a decision without all of the pertinent information can sap a team’s motivation.  I have seen current management buzzwords about “fail forward,” where people are willing to make mistakes to learn from them.  This kind of thinking creates the illusion of innovation, when in reality it is frustrating to the staff.

Analysis paralysis.  The opposite of leap before you look – this de-motivator is a lack of decisions making.  Sometimes the decisions are easy to make – but analysis paralysis is a major drain on the energy of an organization.  The quest for absolute perfect knowledge and buy-in is often the same as not taking a stand at all. Managers who constantly look for more data are often fearful of making the right decision.

Promotions that seem…well, crazy.  We’ve all been there when the promotion list comes out and we say, “What the hell?”  When promotions are given out to, well, morons of individuals whose only competency is killing senior leadership’s butt…it can be highly demotivating.

No apparent roadmap of where we are going.  I am most effective when I know what I am working towards.  I don’t need all of the details, but I like knowing a little bit of the end-state vision.  When I understand how my work gets us all further towards a goal – I get a sense of satisfaction.  Pretty simple really.  When I have no idea what the goal is I have no idea whether I am part of the problem or part of the solution.  Managers who say it is not about the destination, but the journey, are just deflecting that they don’t know where they are going.  Have you ever taken a family driving vacation, with the kids, in the summer, with no destination in mind?  In fact, a lack of vision can lead people to not take any steps at all out of fear they might be doing the wrong thing.

The Teflon Factor with leaders.  When presented with an issue or problem, a good leader will take an active role in resolving it.  A de-motivating leader will look to his or her team and say, “You people all have a problem.”  Accountability is a critical element of motivation of teams.   People look to managers/leaders to be in the same boat they are.  Managers that deflect issues down to their team erodes motivation of those teams.

Rewards and recognition applied unequally.  A messed up rewards and recognition system has the exact opposite of its intended purpose.

Conflict avoidance.  Some managers harbor the illusion that all conflict is bad.  That’s not true at all.  Conflict can often be protective.  Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but sometimes it forces people to deal with organizational or people issues that have to be resolved for the team(s) to grow.  Dodging conflict, ignoring conflict – these things drain organizational energy.

An attitude of, “You should be thankful you have a job…”  That’s odd, I thought I had a career?  When under pressure, some managers resort to the attitude of, “you’re lucky we keep you around.”  First off, let me tell you if I feel lucky.  Secondly, nine-times-out-of-ten when someone has told me I’m lucky I have a job – I feel quite the opposite.

Micromanagement.  There are times we all need a little direction…well, all of you…frankly I’m good.  Seriously though, some “leaders” think that leading means telling everyone how to do their job.  Most employees don’t need that.  They need a manager to run interference for them, remove obstacles, not tell them what color to make a Times Roman font in PowerPoint so that it stands out.

My purpose was not the come across negative…snarky, yes, negative, no.  If you look at this list you can see some gems on what provide motivation – the exact opposite of these:

  • Provide teams with concrete decisions and why they were made.
  • Invest in your people (train them).
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Make timely decisions to respond to the business.
  • Lay out a convincing and compelling vision of where the organization is going
  • Leaders need to hold themselves accountable to their teams.
  • Apply rewards and recognition fairly and proportionally to the value of the work being rewarded.
  • Employ constructive conflict techniques to resolve issues.
  • Let employees tell you (and the rest of the organization) that they are glad to be part of the team.
  • Tell your people the results you want and let them amaze you as to how they do it.

Thoughts?  Rebuttals?  Recriminations? Did you like this?  Go read my book, Business Rules, The Cynic’s Guidebook to the Corporate Overlords.  (Catchy title eh?)

Hiring for Culture – The Case for Adaptability

FEARED OR LOVED

Last year a newly hired mid-level leader told me how he was frustrated with our organization along with, “I’m going to make some pretty big changes here, you wait and see.”  I’ve heard that before and warned him that his ideas might be good, but the key is how you implement them in our current culture.  He scoffed at me.  He was destined, in his mind, to (as my father would say) do wonders and shit blunders.  A year later his frustration is a little higher and the organization hasn’t changed in the least as a result of his efforts.  He thrust his bold and innovative ideas at our organization and found that his way of working didn’t mesh with how we work.  The root issue isn’t that we have problems as an organization…it’s that we hired someone that can’t adapt enough to our culture in order to influence change.

Corporate culture trumps individual leaders who desire to change.  It is the nature of the Corporate Overlords (All hail our Overlords!) to squash anything that might rock the proverbial boat.  Company culture is a big thing, lumbering, highly resistant to attacks and cries for transformation.  A deeply entrenched culture can easily smother and overpower the most ardent crusader seeking to change it.  People that come in with objectives of changing the company into something else often are found years later in a corner cubicle, drooling, rocking back and forth, sticky notes all over them and the floor, muttering to themselves.

When people hire they tend to look at experience and technical skills.  The unconsciously weigh the personality of the candidate as well.  In reality they need to explore a candidate’s adaptability.  Will this person be able to work in the culture of the organization – or will they try and make the culture change?

Adaptability is important with anyone coming in, yet most interviewers barely touch upon it.  They tend to see individuals that talk about driving cultural change as “go-getters.”  In reality, most people of this ilk end up bitter and disappointed or they simply pack up and move on, claiming, “My previous employer’s company was unwilling to adjust to my ideas.”

So what do you ask during an interview to root out a candidate’s willingness to adapt?  Here’s some samples:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a good idea but there was resistance – how did you overcome that resistance?
  • What kind of support do you expect from leadership or sponsors in making changes?
  • Having good ideas is important – tell me about how you successfully implemented changes at your previous employer.
  • How would you go about mapping stakeholders in our company in order to drive change?
  • Sometimes there are organizational barriers that prevent change.  Talk to me about how you overcame some barrier in the culture of your previous employer.
  • In your mind, what is the best way to deal with a culture that might not be ready for your ideas?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to bring together a lot of diverse stakeholders and get them on the same page?  How (exactly) did you do it?  What were some of the challenges you faced?
  • What role do you think this position has when it comes to our company’s culture?
  • Tell me what you think our organization’s culture is? (This one is very revealing, it tells you their preconceived notions should you hire them.)
  • How would you go about adapting what you did at your current employer to our unique environment here?

Champions that think they can inflict change to any organization’s culture can be powerful, but only if they can implement their changes.  What questions would you recommend adding to this interview list?

The Humorous Real-Life Phases of a Reorganization

Diabolical_plan
Lesson:  Never leave your reorg plan laying around unless it has a funky code name.  

I have spent more of my career being reorganized than I have being organized.  In my day job I work in organizational change management, which is ironic because reorganization is part of the job.  Oddly enough I got my job via a reorganization.  I’d share that story but I think the emotional and physical scars are more than enough of a reminder of what it was like.  Suffice it to say that I have a knack for reorgs, which is a skill that is almost worthless in the real world.

As always, my proviso is that this has NOTHING to do with the organization that I am currently employed by.  This is simply a humorous look organizations in general.  Any resemblance to any person or legal corporate entity, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Disclaimer mode now disabled…

Reorganizations are often dubbed as transformative and they are.  They are change in its most pure corporate form.  There are two overarching models for reorganization that outline the phases of a reorg.  One is the traditional change management model, or a variation of it, John Kotter-isms, a melting iceberg and penguins, blah blah blah.

The second and less known are the real-life phases that the employees actually go through during this process.  This has not been documented until now because the truth hurts and most organizations don’t want to admit this is what they inflict on their people regularly.

Depending on the reorg, you may go through these phases in the course of hours, days, weeks, or months; dependent on your level of mental stability.  They are perfectly natural reactions.  Your results may vary.

So, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I present to you, the real-life phases of a reorg:

Good…I’m glad this happening.  This place was pretty screwed up phase.  The announcement of the structured chaos to come is made.  Hey, let’s be honest; we all know that our organizations could be improved upon, some more than others.  Much of the problems the staff have been coping with were the result of the last reorg.  Maybe this change will fix some of the problems?  It could happen…right?  Right?  This phase usually is pretty short-lived because it takes very little time for management to crush employee optimism into a fine powder to sprinkle on their mocha lattes.

Raw, unadulterated panic phase. When the leadership and staff realize that things are about to change and it could (will) happen to them.  This panic often stems from the mental acknowledgement that the people driving the reorganization don’t really understand how your organization functions in the first place (usually because they are in charge.)  In fairness, you don’t totally understand it either – but that does not quell the panic.  The sheer terror comes from the thought that someone with the mentality of a fourth grader might be setting the course on your career and future.  Buy new sheets, you’ll have a lot of night sweats and screaming.

Beat these bastards to the punch phase. There’s always some closet-Einstein-wannabe that thinks believes they know what the problems are and will reorganize or dramatically change processes before the formal reorganization in an attempt to stave it off.  “If you knew it was broken, why didn’t you fix it a long time ago?”  This knee-jerk reaction generally sows even more seeds of chaos and forces people to undergo two or more reorganizations; or as I call it, “Fun on a bun!” No one is smart enough to guess what the fourth grader is planning, so just please, don’t try.

Trying to read the tea-leaves phase.  This is the search for information and attempts to interpret what little is leaking out.  People troll for information from job posting boards to Linkedin.  Management does not give the staff the credit we so richly deserve in this area in terms of trying to piece together what is coming. Self-proclaimed savants or Long Island Mediums, make predictions based on the soup of the day in the cafeteria.  Even a mere dullard becomes creative in attempting to ferret out information.  Any information gleaned is subject to random and wild interpretation, guesses, or leaps of logic.  In other words, it’s mostly worthless.

Attempting to stake out territory phase.  Like dogs marking their yard, mid-level and senior managers begin posturing during this phase of the reorg.  This could be the “puff your chest-out” phase as well.  Leaders (and I use that word loosely) suddenly proclaim from on-high that they are in charge of a team, a body of work, a process, or anything to make them seem more important.  While entertaining, this rarely instills confidence in your leadership. Right now you are picturing your manager taking a pee in the yard – admit it.

Jockeying for position phase.  Reorganizations generate meetings.  Often these covert off-site affairs, held with pentagrams on the floor, hooded cloaks for the participants and black candles for effect. These covens (yes, I used that word) are where management tries to position themselves in the new org structure.  They come before whoever is leading the reorganization and plead their case as to why they are awesome and deserve to continue on with minimal impact.  They will barter with their teams, often crushing other people’s careers to preserve a proverbial seat at the big-kids-table.  This is a clash of egos vs. what is right for the organization and that clash often wracks up a body count. Those not invited to the meetings will hang out in the hallway outside, hoping that being seen will trigger some sort of positive reaction with those bartering their staff’s souls/careers.

Leadership feeds on itself phase.  Cue the Star Trek fight music please.  Da-da-da-da-dah-dah-da-dum!  The more opportunistic leaders begin to undermine their colleagues.  I guess the thinking is that they make themselves look better by making their peers like worse.  The level of backstabbing could make for an entire season of Game of Thrones, sans the nudity.  Snide, off-handed comments (or outright lies – dealer’s choice)  aimed at eroding fellow leader’s characters mark this stage of the reorganization.

Reorg kirk
Last one of us standing gets the IT Department to report to them!  

The “I no longer give a flying fu*k at the rolling-doughnut,” phase.  Reorganizations have a tendency to drag out, for a variety of reasons (chiefly being that you can’t reorganize something that was never organized in the first place.)  When this phase happens the staff reach a point of “just give us the new org charts so we can get on with our lives.”  When you place people in limbo long enough, they cease to care about the end-game.  You could hand them a turd on a piece of paper and they would be happy simply because this time-wasting, angst-fueling process would be over.  All hail the new turd!

The apathy phase.  Every reorganization that has ever been announced misses its own artificial deadlines.  There is a point where the staff just throw their hands up in the air and work grinds to a halt.  Leadership usually has no clue this is going on – they are attending reorg meetings after all.

Final bloodletting phase.  This is the actual announcement of the new organization structure (or target operation model – TOM) itself.  The final winners and losers are known.  Remember Gladiator – “Are you not entertained?!”  There’s no time for mourning.  Leadership wants return on investment for the time it took to put the new structure together. The formal announcement often leaves folks agreeing with some parts of the change, and puzzled by others. Fortunately the apathy overwhelms the last vestiges of staff resistance.

The run up the flag and declare victory phase.  “Suck it up bro.”  There should be a lot of change management activities to help the staff adopt the new operating model/structure.  These are generally tossed out of the window.  It’s time to get back to “BAU – business as usual…or is that unusual?”  Despite all of the planning, there are huge gaps that are created in almost every reorganization that leave the staff confused as to how to proceed.

The new resistance is born phase.  Leaders who were losers but not terminated begin to undermine the new organization.  People entrench in their ways of working.  The more delusional pretend the new organization doesn’t exist (crazy, right?)  Revenge is a dish best served in a filthy kitchenette I guess.  People begin to build organizational friction between teams, processes that inflict harm on others, all to spur on another reorganization and a chance for those hurt in this reorg to rise to the top again.  Go forward in time a year and start at the top of the list!

If you liked this, check our my snarky book:  Business Rules. 

Real-Life Causes of Workplace Stress

dwight
Don’t be a Dwight

I had a boss once brag that, “I don’t have stress – I’m a carrier.”  When he boasted that, it took a monumental amount of restraint to not say, “Actually, you’re a douchebag.”  Stress is a reality of work.  As such, it was finally time for me to tackle the subject…in my usually snarky fashion.  Strap in and prepare for the ride…

I was going to lead off with the traditional causes of stress at work… you know the usual culprits:

  • Things I want to do but can’t.
  • People’s values and actions clash with my own.
  • Things don’t meet my expectations.

Yawn.  I almost put myself to sleep.  While quasi-accurate, these reasons are too high level and lack the kick necessary to detail true sources of workplace stress.  As such, here is my attempt at a comprehensive list – in an unranked order.   These have come from a lot of different sources, friends in other organizations, etc.  Don’t try and attribute these to my current employer…

Project managers with no sense of reality. “Seriously, do you own a calendar?”

Deadlines that are just pulled out of someone’s ass.  “Why November 13th?”  “Why not?”  “It’s a Sunday.”  “I don’t care, that’s the date I chose.”  “I understand, you’re a dick.”

Colleagues that cook food that reeks in the office kitchenette.   “What is that smell, garlic roasted lizard scrotum?”

Mandatory social events after hours.  In fact, mandatory-anything contributes to my stress level.

When IT staff uses technical lingo for the sake of using technical lingo.  “Stop creating acronyms to sound intelligent!”

People that use shared workspaces and leave it in a mess.  “What did you do here – surgery?”

Individuals that swap out a defective office chair for mine.

Anyone involved with stocking office supplies.  “Are you a time traveler from the past?  A dozen three-hole punches?  Three-ring binders?  Ledger sheets?  I need a binder maybe once every ten years.  How about stocking some pens, paper, and maybe a thumb-drive?”

Technology people that blame problems on end-user ignorance.  “It works fine, you’re just too stupid to use it or realize how great it really is.”

Any conversation about internally branding anything.  “I could seriously go the rest of my life without hearing the word ‘branding.’

Project teams deliberately set up in five different global time zones.  “Our team call is at 5am because we don’t own a globe or access the internet.”

Co-workers who schedule meetings without consideration for anything I have in my calendar.  “You do see that I am not available in that time slot, don’t you—moron?”

Managers who make arbitrary decisions about people’s careers without discussing it with them. “I’m moving you to Dawn’s team – surprise!”

Leaders who reorganize more than twice a year.  “You know, after fifteen of these, it might dawn on you that the problem isn’t how the team is structured – it’s the fact you keep shuffling them around that is the problem.”

Individuals that say, “You own your own career.”

People that only try and put a positive spin on things.  “Some honesty would go a long way here.”

Any steering group.  “That’s all I need, another group giving me conflicting directions…”

Budgeting.  “I resent you asking me what I need, then cutting it by 34.8%.  It’s not ironic, it’s irritating.”

Anyone asking for my feedback and ignoring it.

Smoking areas that are the entrance to buildings where we non-smoker’s must wade through.

People who think Sharepoint is a solution to any problem.   “Sharepoint is the origin of many problems.”

People who ignore me when I say, “I wouldn’t do that shit if I were you…”

(This one is totally mine.)  People who critique my business writing.  I’m not perfect, but I’ve had a little bit more writing experience than you.

IFAC—Idiots from another company.  Consultants or brand new employees who brag about knowing a great deal on a subject, but have no idea how your organization works. This makes their expertise less-than-useful.

Anyone exposing leadership to a buzzword/acronym program.  Management is drawn to a buzzword program like vultures to dead possums. I still have scars from TQM in the 1990’s.

Anyone with unpredictable explosive temper.  “Seriously, that was the thing that set you off?”

Any implemented improvement that makes it ten times worse.

Coworkers that take up smoking to avoid spending time at work.

Performance review discussions where we are going to talk about my career.

A mandatory meeting that doesn’t have to be mandatory at all.

Required learning with a test at the end that no human could pass.   “Please pick the second least desirable or inaccurate response…”

People who are off sick, but posting images of themselves out having fun on Facebook.  “Gee, you don’t look feverish at the amusement park.”

Processes put in place just to make a team seem more important than they are.

Team leaders who attempt to apply Agile or Six Sigma principles on teams that have no idea what they are talking about. “No one cares about your black belt.  In fact, we may strangle you with it.  We have a plan…”

Individuals that trash the office bathroom.  “Seriously do you just throw paper on the floor at home?  And what you did to the toilet could only be described with the phrase, ‘war crime.’”

Any theme day in the cafeteria.  “I just want a hamburger for God’s sake.  I don’t care that it is Festival of Bolivian Afternoon Snacks Day.”

Rules that only seem to apply to me.

Requests for feedback from people I barely know.  “I don’t even remember you being on that project.  In fact, who are you?”

People that invite the entire world to every conference call.

Managers that think learning, all by itself, is a solution to a managerial issue (or lack of leadership).  “You presume that I am ignorant.  I am not.  I’m just ignoring you.  Big difference.”

Skype for Business.

When someone asks for my opinion then spends an hour trying to tell me that I am wrong to have that opinion.  “You lost me at the word ‘wrong’…”

Assigning me a task when I wasn’t even invited to the meeting.  “Really?  What if I say, ‘no’?”

Status reports for people who won’t or can’t read.

Contributing to any dashboard.

Namedroppers that think I care.  “You’ve mentioned Bob’s name three times.  I know who he is.  I’m not just impressed with your argument.”

When someone randomly insists on using video conferencing and I’m wearing my Captain America tee-shirt at home.  Honestly, I don’t even try and explain it anymore. One person asked me once, “what’s that you’re wearing?”  My response:  “My uniform.  I fight crime starting at 5pm.”

Any PowerPoint slide that uses more than five conflicting graphic elements or is so confusing that it disrupts space-time one foot from the computer where it is being shown.  “Go to the next slide – holy crap – you’re warping the space here in the conference room!”

Any solution involving, “throwing more bodies at it.”  “You can’t put nine pregnant women in the room and have a baby in a month.”

Not starting meetings on time.  “So, you don’t respect my time.”

Not ending meetings on time. “So, you don’t respect other people’s time too.  What a douche!”

Scheduling a meeting for something that could have been handled in a short email.

Forced volunteer work aimed at making your organization seen more hip.  “So, you want me to go and plant trees?  So mental and emotional punishment isn’t enough, you want the physical kind too?”

Any business trip through Newark International Airport.  “EWR’s Motto:  We top 3% on-time arrivals and departures most months of the year!”

When my manager refers to me as “evil.”  True story.  “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Team building activities after hours. “If it is so important we all get along, why not do it during work hours?”

Anyone asking for a deliverable that requires time travel.  “My time machine is for personal use, not because you can’t manage your project.”

Coworkers that, by default, assume everyone is more stupid than they are.  “That sir, is my job!”

Fear and speculation of layoffs, RIF’s, right-sizing, people being made redundant, etc.

Any project that has a misleading code-name.  Example:  Streak, Lightning Bolt, Fast & Furious, Slam Dunk.

Anytime the company seeks to “improve” the employee benefits.

People that show up late to the meetings and stop the gathering so that they can be brought up to speed.

When a new technology tool is implemented that really doesn’t solve a problem.

When everything at work is a high priority or “Priority One.”  “You do realize that when you do that, you’re not really setting priorities – right?”

Co-workers that text during meetings.  “Put the fuc*ing phone away.”

When management says one thing and does another.

Email message addressed to everyone that should be addressed to a handful people.

People whose entire job is to enforce pointless rules.

People who take meeting calls from Starbucks or Panera.  “Dude, I can hear the Barista in the background.”

Leaders who add requirements to a project three weeks before the unrealistic deadline.  “You are not being ironic, you’re being an ass.”

Any crisis that isn’t.  I learned how to identify real crisis’s early in my career.  Apparently I am on my own in that regard.

When routine technology fails.

When someone assumes a level of ignorance on my part that isn’t there.

Security overkill. “Why do I have to change my password every two weeks?”  “Why not?  Are you hiding something?”

When a leader tries to force a new technology on you because they think it’s trendy.

The annual performance review process.

When management sends out a message to save money by cutting travel costs – while they are at an out-of-the-country meeting.  “Clearly I am the problem…”

When I volunteer to do something and am told no.  “Why did you ask for volunteers in the first place?”

Managers who get survey results and spend hours tearing them apart attempting to invalidate them or convince me that a low number is actually a good thing.

The battery on any device.  “Crap – my Bluetooth just died.”

Weekend or late-night meetings.

Any meeting that kicks off with the person who called the meeting saying, “So why did I schedule this meeting?”

When that thing you have worked on for the last year of your life is cancelled three weeks before it was to be completed.

Anyone who says, “We don’t need to get the senior leaders on-board with this concept.”

When my routine business expense that I have submitted the same way a dozen times is rejected.  “This is Einstein’s definition of insanity.”

People who misuse the word “risk.”  “You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When real life clashes with work life.  Technically it is when work attempts to override my real life.  “Oddly enough I do not live to work – I work to live.”  In my case, couple this with, “My life outside of this place is infinitely more interesting and entertaining than this cubicle-padded mental hospital.”

Leaders that make up facts.  “Our people are buried in surveys.”  “Um, we do two a year.  How exactly does that constitute buried?”

When the annual promotion list is put out.  Three letters and a question mark sum up my reaction to at least 20% of promotions…WTF?

When individuals misuse the word “strategy.”  “If you change it every six months, it isn’t strategic – it’s tactical.”

When someone ignores my expertise, experience, and skills because they perceive themselves as smarter.  “You don’t want to go there and force me to explain why you are less-intelligent or experienced as I am.”

The cancellation of meetings with no notice – even worse when they are at 7am or earlier.  “There is a special hell for you robbing me of 20 minutes of sleep.  It is dark, deep and filled with evil…”

The annual goal setting ritual.  “Light the candles and put on the robes…it’s time to make some stuff up.”

Watching someone else kiss butt with upper management.  “Why don’t you two get a room?”

People with no sense of humor.  If you made it this far, I think you qualify with having a sense of humor.

I’m sure you have some of your own – so add them to the comments list.  And don’t forget to purchase my book – Business Rules.  

The War on Employee Loyalty

Eyes
Beware the Corporate Overlords are watching!

Labor Day seems appropriate for my latest observation about corporate culture.  The Corporate Overlords, the mysterious demigod (in their mind) leaders have been fighting a titanic global war in the last few years – one that has hit thousands of organizations.  This is a comprehensive all-out war on employee loyalty.  This undeclared war, while somewhat unintended, is still being waged and will have long-term implications on the workforce, productivity, and the very survival of some organizations.

At a time when businesses increasingly demand more from their people, they actively take steps to drive them away.  Organizations expect long working hours, demand their staff stay connected 24×7 (even on their private mobile devices), and set output expectations that often require extended working hours and weekends just to tread water.  The war on employee loyalty would be comical if it wasn’t so funny.

Loyalty is a fickle thing.  In this context it is the commitment of the employee to the organization.  That can reflect itself in several ways; an employee’s willingness to work more hours, their ability to handle more workload, a desire by the employee to provide exceptional service or quality, the drive to do better, etc.  At its most basic level, it can be defined as employees simply remaining at the organization.  Above and beyond that, it is the employees taking extra measure, working harder or longer, or exercising exceptional effort to improve quality, productivity, and workplace culture.  These are all things that any leader or organization should value.  It’s all about commitment.

You would think organizations would place a value on loyalty…that there would be Directors of Loyalty or Loyalty Czars (or my suggestion “Lord of Loyalty.”)  You would also be delusional.  While organizations want (or outright demand) loyalty, they believe it should be unconditional.  In other words you have it and the company doesn’t want to invest in getting it. It’s as if your paycheck alone should garner your unswerving and undying support…as mere thanks for the opportunity to perform above-and-beyond.

Just typing this last sentence I threw up a little in the back of my mouth – no joke folks.

One reason that many organizations don’t place any importance on employee loyalty is they cannot tangibly measure it or its benefits.  It’s a lame excuse at best.  Oh sure, you can look at staff turnover rates, but most managers scoff at such numbers with the whine, “well, that’s not uncommon for our industry.”  This leads to employee satisfaction surveys.  These surveys don’t directly reflect the bottom-line profits, so leaders feel free to disregard the findings of such surveys.  The mentality is “if I can’t measure it, it must not be important.”  Even more entertaining is when results of such surveys are presented, leadership can twist the results to fit their own agenda.  “Oh, they rated us low there because they were confused by the question?” or “That only was rated low because the week before the survey we did X.”  Rather than own the results, leadership blames the results on the suspected ignorance of their staff.  Winning!

Jim
Survey results obviously are the staff’s fault…

There is also the misguided belief that an employee’s level of satisfaction/loyalty is their problem. “I can’t make my people more loyal or happy,” is the war-cry of the insipid and incompetent leader.  That is true. At the same time what leaders can do is create an environment where employees have the opportunity to be satisfied – thus generating loyalty.  To take the stand of, “there’s nothing I can do,” is a cop-out.

Another factor that comes into play is an assumption that staff are content and thus loyal.  Complacency and organizational “quiet” is considered by leadership as the byproduct of a happy and loyal workforce.  In reality, some organizations have little employee noise and friction because the free will and souls of the employees have already been crushed.  Those that speak out are often publicly punished.  Teams that stagnate or show signs of resistance are reorganized, merged, or disbanded.  Leadership takes on a Michael Vick role with the employees being their dogs.

Also chiseling away at loyalty is easy when you take away personal space in an office, going to free-roaming office space or open office spaces.  People used to have a place at work, even if it was a mauve burlap padded cubicle.  Companies have opted to strip that away with hotelling of office space to save real-estate costs.

Employees struggle to build meaningful relationships with each other as well. With more workers being virtual, their physical ties to their organization or their colleagues are stretched thin.  You can work with someone for years and never meet them face-to-face.  Same with your leaders.  Virtual teams need to connect physically from time-to-time to help establish stronger interpersonal relationships.  Many companies have deliberately assumed that because people are working virtually that they don’t need to get together live occasionally.

Another factor chipping away at employee loyalty is the abundant use of antiquated performance review systems/approaches.  The majority of organizations still rely on performance review systems dating back to the 1980’s.  These backwards looking systems based on numeric ratings, bell curves, and often spotty feedback are more of an administrative burden than performance growth process.  Many organizations have tried to divorce salary increases from performance discussions, despite the fact they are intertwined.  For experienced employees, performance reviews have become more of an ordeal than a true chance to talk about careers.

The sourcing of labor; or rather that out-sourcing of labor, also contributes to a dip in employee loyalty.  With organizations seeking low-cost labor solutions, employees can often feel their jobs are constantly at risk.  Some companies generate a culture where segments of their staff are forced to deal with the threat of outsourcing as a daily occurrence.  While this career-equivalent of the Sword of Damocles hangs over their head, ready to sever it from their bodies, they are expected to work longer hours and be more committed to the organization that is threatening them.

Technology also plays a role.  Companies, attempting to curb costs, have flirted with BYOD – bring your own device.  So now the company expects you to bring your own computer or pad rather than provide you one.  They invade employees phones with apps that the employee doesn’t want, but is required for work.  The icing on the cake is that they set rules and policies about the use of your own personal mobile device because they require you to use it to connect to work.  Imagine your organization telling you what features you had to have on your private car simply because you use it to go to work.  That is exactly what is happening in many organizations when it comes to the mobile device you bought and paid for.

One might argue that this is not a war against employee loyalty…that these are merely cases of unintended consequences.  Oops – did we jump up and down on your loyalty – our bad! I understand that and I’m not implying that leaders are huddle off somewhere plotting to take down morale by coordinating these various initiatives and directions.  Let’s be honest, most leaders aren’t capable of this level of coordination or even devious thinking (wink).

Milton
You’re talking about my office – aren’t you?  How did you know? 

My counter to that is that all of these are based on leadership decisions; right, wrong or moronic.  The fact that leadership did not factor in the impacts on employee loyalty, or that they simply don’t care, essentially places the blame at the top levels of organizations. All of these strategies and impacts were chosen directions on the part of upper management.  They simply did not care about the impact on employee loyalty – or worse, presumed that the staff were so enamored with their leadership that it didn’t matter.

Uh oh, I threw up a little bit in the back of my mouth again.

Some organizations deal with poor loyalty as if it were a cancer to be cut out.  Their solution is to drive out the long-term employees and replace them with new staff from the outside.  Rather than cure the problem, they opt for amputation and limb replacement.  In such organizations staff is a commodity that one purchases like office supplies.  Ironically, the result is more reduced loyalty (duh!).

Where can workers turn to mount a defense in the war on loyalty?  If they are US workers – nowhere.  Many HR departments over the year have been effectively neutered; reduced to the role of mitigating lawsuits rather than defending the staff from the mindless onslaughts of senior leadership.  The war against loyalty is a lonely one, fought in stark mauve-colored cubicles under bland florescent lights and in dreary battered conference rooms in glass-windowed hells all across the globe.

I fully understand that companies have to manage costs and address shareholders profit worries, blah, blah, blah.  At the same time leadership has to look at the impacts on its workforce of strategic decisions and plays some weight and value on their people.  Loyalty is a precious commodity.  Without it you have less commitment – a feeling that individual contributions are unappreciated or disrespected.  Whittling away at employee loyalty destabilizes the staff and kills productivity – and even causes them to begin to question the legitimacy of their leaders Sacrilege!  You kick morale hard enough and you get staff that won’t spring in the air the next time you yell, “jump.”  They will simply glare at you with a glazed expression of remorse, emptiness, and only having fond memories of why they used to care about their jobs in the first place.

The war is being waged out there…and many of us were drafted without even our knowledge. To you, out there in the trenches, all I can say is you are not alone!  I’m not with you – my company is great – but I hear your cries from the trenches.  Soldier on!

For more on my twisted views of the workplace, check out my books – Business Rules and Cubicle Warfare.

Real World Lines for Your Resume’ (office humor)

EyesI recently updated my resume’ for what seems like the hundredth time and as I was doing it my snarkiness took over.  I started wondering, “What if people updated their resume’s with the actual skills, experiences, and work they do?” So I started jotting them down and after a few weeks, I came up with a list that made me laugh – and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.  Of course, none of these apply to my current employer…because that would be both wrong and ignorant.

So here’s the list of lines for your resume’ reflecting the real world…feel free to use them as you see fit:

  • Active target of management amusement/abuse yet oddly productive.
  • Demonstrated creative solution creation on teams that collectively couldn’t master tic-tac-toe.
  • Able to dodge multiple attempts to compromise integrity.
  • Strategic influencer of weaker minds and souls.
  • Gifted with ability to detect and point out bullshit.
  • Successfully debated managerial incompetence with senior leaders (with charts and examples) without them knowing it.
  • Objective perspective regarding hopelessly fouled up projects.
  • Possessor of the burial locations of the bodies of the victims of the Corporate Overlords.
  • Developed a system for liquidating and stockpiling strategic office supplies from a locked supply cabinet.
  • Served as “the voice of reason” in the technological equivalent of a lunatic asylum.
  • Artfully dodged responsibilities that would have further imperiled my career opportunities.
  • Successfully led department snarkiness and sarcasm team to the semi-finals three years running.
  • Altered my perception of the phrase “world class” to reflect more of a real-world understanding.
  • Found new ways to entrench my antiquated ideals of employee motivations.
  • Deflected mental abuse levelled for being right while those about me were not.
  • Successfully led a massive reorganization effort on a team that was never organized in the first place (which, when you think of it, is remarkable).
  • Maintained a strong social media presence despite oppressive first amendment defying censorship policies. (makes me sound like a patriot, don’t ya think?)
  • Actively suppressed the use of sound effects to augment my discussions with senior leadership.
  • Did not attempt to assassinate a former abusive manager for over 1427 consecutive days!
  • Reorganized the voices in my head so they are more in sync and consistent.
  • Demonstrated the ability to not lose my focus despite the fact that my career is in flames and spiraling to the Earth at breakneck speeds.
  • Identified by leadership as the “go-to” person when they duplicate the mistakes of past leadership teams.
  • Realigned my values to a lower level to be in line with the incompetents that dare to call themselves my peers.
  • Converted my work-related rage into a series of memes involving coworkers, farm animals, and the kama sutra.
  • Consistently showed up at work despite the urge to seek professional mental help.
  • Despite the odds, was able to find humor in the misery and suffering of inferior colleagues.
  • Led significant IT organization effort to file or delete the 243 messages in my inbox.
  • Avoided abusing the video conferencing capability despite strong urges to do otherwise.
  • Reworded successive leadership communications so that the manager in question did not come across as a third world dictator, (and not a word of thanks in return).
  • Developed algorithm for calculating the number of minutes until my retirement/parole.
  • Spent two days annually taking learning that was mandatory but had no bearing on my work or lifestyle choices.
  • Developed creative alternatives to the dress code. (I purchased a straightjacket for use on video conference calls, referring to it as “my afternoon sport coat.”)
  • Successfully deployed an attitude of complete ambivalence to my career which went almost entirely undetected.
  • Mimicked attentiveness when leadership forced attendance to Town Hall meetings.
  • Devised complex project plan for dismantling, shipping, and reassembly of an Aeron chair from our office undetected.
  • Created alternatives to the use of the phrases/words, “Flip-flop,” “managerial incompetence,” or “waffling” in regards to leadership announcements/decisions.
  • Willing to sell out everything but my values in order to survive.
  • I am freewill flexible!  You tell me my opinion and that is what I also believe, until you leave the room.
  • Skilled at changing direction, sometimes hourly, in support of leadership whims.
  • I am a dedicated worker – I had soul crushed and served as croutons in the cafeteria years ago.
  • Assumed full responsibility for the bad career choices I’ve made in the last two years despite complete innocence on my part.
  • Significantly increased my personal productivity by forgetting my Facebook password.
  • Began executive documentation effort regarding decisions, directions, and priority setting…code name “War Crimes”
  • Solid foundation for HR policies as they relate to workplace abuse (mostly experienced-based).
  • Devised sophisticated system to update my availability status in Skype with phrases that confuse the weak, timid, or leadership.
  • Adjusted the virtual target on my back so as to make me more difficult to hit.
  • Established new levels of evaluation and critique in regards to apparent random changes in direction by management.
  • Conduit for bad decisions and horrific communications.
  • Convinced myself that I was better off doing what I was doing rather than doing something that would attract too much attention.
  • Regularly demonstrate knowledge sharing principles when repurposing the work of others into my PowerPoint presentations.
  • I team well with those I deem worthy.
  • Established an informal communications network to augment the lack of formal communications by those in charge.
  • Possesses the ability to distinguish the level, depth, and potency of bullshit when presented in a PowerPoint format.
  • Maintains ethics and values throughout mental incarceration.
  • Misdirected inappropriate levels of abuse to other parts of the organization so as to spread the workload of abuse reconciliation.
  • Preserved the illusion of managerial leadership by suppressing the urge to point out how our leaders have been economical with the truth.
  • I possess an innate sense of where “the line” is and straddle it often to the discomfort of others.
  • Executed a prioritization schema in lieu of leadership making up their minds and doing it themselves.
  • Instituted health program aimed at increasing the blood pressure of my immediate manager.
  • Expert at sheltering management’s egos from the impact of their less-than-perfect decisions.
  • I have been successfully pointing out the painfully obvious for the length of my career.
  • Demonstrated ability to locate and attract flawed characters that might otherwise cause havoc in other parts of the organization.  (I believe a thank you is in order.)
  • Ability to form semi-functional teams from quasi-dysfunctional individuals with competing egos, agendas, and directions from management.
  • Able to see the morale uplifting humor in the shortcomings of others.
  • Able to incorporate often conflicting priorities into an otherwise dead-end career path.
  • I possess a healthy and natural distrust of PowerPoint as a communications channel.  I even have a deck that proves this.
  • Possessing a disproportionate amount of business sense in comparison to those that use the word “peer” in describing our working relationships.
  • Communications skills – able to interpret messages from leadership into things that are both directional and entertaining.
  • I have banked up karma enough to offset almost anything short of waging war.
  • Raised the bar on creative witticism and insightful (often entertaining/humorous) observations into the operational workflow of the organization.
  • I demonstrate marked self-control given the daily if not hourly challenges to my career, sanity, and well-being.
  • Actively assisted in shifting the misplaced blame for several outages towards the designated scapegoats, thus increasing morale of the guilty parties.
  • Equipped with ability to suppress the urge to introduce reality into discussions and embrace the nuance of random blame assignment.
  • Retention and application of the history of the organization into current events, where applicable.  Example:  “This is exactly like the last time you threw me under the bus.”
  • Demonstrated extreme tolerance with individuals who are distracted easily by shiny objects.
  • I have been consistently proven correct on a number of flaws (and flawed individuals), despite the personal displeasure it brought me.
  • I have a detailed comprehension of the stakeholders that control every aspect of my career, yet have a stunning and surprising lack of influence on their activities.
  • Teaming skills – providing the staff with insightful often ironic comedic insights into topical issues and management communications.
  • Willing to risk my career to propagate morale boosting messages…like this list!

If you enjoyed this, pick up my book, Business Rules. #corporateoverlords

Performance Review Humor

Beware the Corporate Overlords are watching!
Beware, the Corporate Overlords are watching!

Regular readers of my blog and books know I hold the review processes in many organizations in contempt.  Most reviews don’t drive outstanding performance but serve to document reasons why a person isn’t advancing or their failures.

Here are some funny phrases that have been circulating the web for the last few years.  These are phrases used in reviews and their humorous interpretations.  I’ve taken the liberty of expanding the list where appropriate.

A CHANGE LEADER:  Loudly Indecisive.

A HISTORY OF STRONG PERFORMANCE:  Consistently under-challenged.

A KEEN ANALYST:     Thoroughly confused.

A VOICE OF REASON:  Won’t shut the fuck up

ACTIVE SOCIALLY:  Drinks heavily, may have a problem.

ALERT TO COMPANY DEVELOPMENTS:     An office gossip.

APPROACHES DIFFICULT PROBLEMS WITH LOGIC:     Delegates stuff he/she is responsible for.

AVERAGE:  Not too bright.

CALM UNDER FIRE:  Too dazed and confused to act.

CANDIDATE FOR FAST-TRACKING:  I will do anything to get this person assigned to another team.

CAREER CENTRIC:  Is bitching he/she wants a promotion.

CHARACTER ABOVE REPROACH:     Still one step ahead of the law.

COMMUNITY FOCUSED:  First out the door for happy hour.

COMPANY-FOCUSED:  We will never get rid of this bastard.

COMPETENT: Is still able to get work done if supervisor helps.

CONSCIENTIOUS AND CAREFUL:  Scared.

CONSULTS WITH SUPERVISOR OFTEN:  Nagging pain in the ass.

CREATIVE THINKER:  Wanders off on his/her own.

DEADLINE FOCUSED: Doesn’t get along with other human beings.

DEEP THINKER:  Paces the office when a crisis emerges.

DEMONSTRATES QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP:   Has a loud voice.

DESERVES PROMOTION:    (or anything else – just get him or her away from me!).

EMBRACES CHANGE:  We have broken his/her will.

ENGAGES CO-WORKERS:  Sends out weekly joke email.

ENJOYS JOB:  Needs more work to do.

EXCEPTIONALLY WELL QUALIFIED:  Has committed no major blunders (to date).

EXPRESSES SELF WELL:  Spends days on Facebook

FLIGHT RISK:  Spends hours a week on Linkedin and job search sites.

GETS ALONG EXTREMELY WELL WITH SUPERIORS AND SUBORDINATES ALIKE:  A coward.

GOAL ORIENTED:  Toots his/her own horn – even when not appropriate.

GOES ABOVE AND BEYOND:  Tramples on others careers to advance his/her own.

GO-GETTER:  Mindlessly wanders around the office every hour or so trying to look busy.

GOOD ORGANIZATIONAL KNOWLEDGE:  Knows where the bodies are buried, may have buried them himself.

GREAT PERSONALITY:  Has photos of leader having sex with a goat…candidate for promotion.

HAPPY:  Is paid too much.

HARD WORKER:   Usually does it the hard way (and complains about it)

HIGHLY FOCUSED:  Unwilling to change.

HIGHLY PROFESSIONAL:  Owns a suit and wears it occasionally.

INDIFFERENT TO INSTRUCTION:     Knows more than superiors and lets them know it.

INSIGHTFUL:  Points out my flaws.

INSPIRES OTHERS:  Incites revolution with the other peasants.

IS UNUSUALLY LOYAL:     No other team will touch him/her.

JUDGMENT IS USUALLY SOUND:     Lucky.

KEEN SENSE OF HUMOR:     Knows lots of dirty jokes and shares them.

LEADERSHIP MATERIAL:  Spine and soul have been removed.

LEVEL HEADED:  Refuses to panic while his peers do.

LEVERAGES KNOWLEDGE:  Steals ideas from others.

MAINTAINS PROFESSIONAL ATTITUDE:     A snob.

MANAGES UPWARDS:  Criticizes superiors.

MENTORS OTHERS:  Gossips

METICULOUS IN ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Anal retentive to a fault.

NEEDS MOTIVATION:  Has stopped responding to verbal abuse – physical abuse may be called for.

NIMBLE:  Has dodged multiple efforts to lay him/her off.

NOT A DESK PERSON:     Did not attend or complete a university education.

OF GREAT VALUE TO THE ORGANIZATION: Turns in work on time.

OFFERS FRESH PERSPECTIVES:  Can’t shut up about the last place he worked.

ORGANIZED:  Uses agendas on conference calls.

PROMOTION CANDIDATE: Tells me what I want to hear – especially about myself.

QUICK ON HIS/HER FEET:  Never in his or her office when I need them.

QUICK THINKING:     Offers plausible excuses for errors.

REACTS DYNAMICALLY TO CHANGING SITUATIONS:  Panics easily.

RECOGNIZED LEADER:  Instigator of others.

REQUIRES WORK-VALUE ATTITUDINAL READJUSTMENT: Lazy and hard-headed.

RESPECTED BY HIS/HER PEERS:  Has dirt on co-workers.

RESULTS FOCUSED:  Wracks up a body count to get the job done.

RESULTS ORIENTED:  Steps on the toes of others to get the job done.

RIGID:  Doesn’t listen to anything other than the voices in his head.

SELF MOTIVATED:  Gets things done despite a lack of direction.

SHOULD GO FAR:   Please!  When?

SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE:  Stupid.

SPENDS EXTRA HOURS ON THE JOB: Miserable home life.

STEADY:  Uninformed.

STERN DISCIPLINARIAN:  A real jerk when under pressure.

STRATEGIC THINKER:  Manages upward well.

STRONG ADHERENCE TO PRINCIPLES:     Stubborn.

STRONG MOTIVATOR:  Is not above beating his team members

STRONG UNDERSTANDING OF OUR CULTURE:  Knows where the bodies are buried.

TACTFUL IN DEALING WITH SUPERIORS: Knows when to keep mouth shut.

TACTFUL:  Knows when to shut up.

TAKES ADVANTAGE OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PROGRESS:     Buys drinks for superiors.

TAKES PRIDE IN WORK: Conceited.

TEAM PLAYER:  Refuses to sell out the other guilty parties.

THINKS OUT OF THE BOX:  Doesn’t steal the credit of others.

TIMELY:  Panics at exactly the right time on a project.

UNLIMITED POTENTIAL:  Will stick with us until retirement, God help us all.

USES RESOURCES WELL:  Delegates his/her work.

USES TIME EFFECTIVELY:  Clock watcher.

VERY CREATIVE:     Finds five reasons to do anything except original work.

VOCAL:  Yells at others.

WELL ORGANIZED:  Needs more work to do.

WILL GO FAR:  Related to someone in senior management.

WORKS WELL VIRTUALLY:  Logs onto his/her computer at least once a day.

ZEALOUS ATTITUDE: Highly opinionated.

Please feel free to check out my book, Business Rules, if you found this funny.