Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘management’ Category

11 Scrooge Approved Employee Motivation Ideas You Should Never Use

Monday, December 24th, 2012

What is the #1 way to increase motivation in the workplace? Well, we have our pet motivational theories and ideas, but we wanted to explore some of the horrible, terrible, Scrooge-approved ideas that are still floating around in the year 2012.

But back to the bad ideas. We gathered some stories from around the internet and our own personal experiences, and compiled a list of 11 Scrooge-Approved Employee Motivation Ideas You Should Never Use.

11. Be thankful you have a job

Love this one, because it’s super motivating and also a veiled threat! One employee who works at a bank relayed this story:

My employer had a manager’s meeting this afternoon. One of the things they went over was trying to get us to be more motivated. They handed out a sheet of paper and one of the bullets/topics they went over was that “We should be thankful that we have jobs and that we work here (bank) due to the economy.”

Alright! Now, anyone who is not extra motivated and working really hard to show how much you deserve this rare and elusive job, please show yourself out the door.

10. Giving orders to the minions

The days of top-down, military style management where the managers bark out orders to the workers is long gone. Or is it? There are still plenty of industries that operate this way, using micromanagement and threats to get employees in line. To these leaders, an intrinsically motivated and highly productive workforce seems idealistic and naive. Here’s a real-life quote from a retail worker:

As someone who works in a giant retail store full of dozens of managers, the managers who cooperate with me see the greatest amount of productivity from me. I’ll work way harder than what is expected of me because I enjoy feeling productive. The managers who want to build up a wall where they don’t have to cooperate with me and simply give orders…I’ll literally trick them into thinking I’ve done a lot of work by manipulating their system and then I take triple cig breaks and just sit around all day…

9. Criticize and abuse

Your employees don’t need encouragement. No one likes to be praised or told they’re good at what they do. Just keep pointing out the mistakes, making people feel bad about their work, and offering no support or constructive feedback. That’ll do the trick!

One employee writes (hilariously):

A truly Machiavellian master can abuse and personally insult people into having something to prove, driving them to work harder. While an increase in workforce intelligence is not guaranteed, your victims will move faster and try to be perfect out of sheer fear. It helps if you maintain the image of omniscience and practice walking up behind people when they’re not looking.

I’ve had bosses like that. I did not know it wasn’t normal until I got a job where the management wasn’t a reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler.

8. Blaming your lazy employees for not being motivated

Maybe you think your employees are useless. You try so hard to motivate them and nothing works – they’re just lazy, lazy employees! Here’s one manager’s response to how he tried to motivate employees:

In the end, [none of my motivation techniques] worked for an extended period of time and I got tired of trying to motivate people. I have always had a great work ethic and an ability to increase my own efficiency pretty drastically, which is how I ended up managing, but I finally gave up, did the work myself, and waited for the rare times on the big jobs where my guys realized what lazy pieces of crap they were for watching me do ten times the work they were doing and stepped up for a day to help out. I have no interest in managing people ever again. If I couldn’t do it with my efficiency-oriented mind and pretty much unlimited freedom to reward in any way I wanted then I know it’s just something I can’t do. I suspect I would have gotten better results with the rod than the carrot. Motivation through fear may not be ideal but I doubt those type of managers are doing the work themselves.

Wow. I think he pretty much nailed it when he said, “I know it’s just something I can’t do.” Blaming your employees for not being motivated or productive, and just doing the work yourself or giving up is not the solution.

7. Financial incentives

Financial motivation can be both a good and a bad employee motivation technique. It all depends on the approach. Since we’re focusing on the bad in this post, let’s see how the wrong approach to compensation incentives can backfire. The pros at Vision Link Advisory Group say this:

Most companies are disappointed in the results they get from their incentive plans because they use them in one or more of the following ways:

“Carrot and Stick” approach to motivation
Means of changing behavior
Getting people to do things they don’t want to do
Motivating people to “do the right thing”
6. The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is commonly phrased, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” Does your company suffer from this phenomenon? Writer Oliver Thereaux says on his blog post “Why Most Managers Suck”:

Of course…any company with a hierarchy [is prone to the Peter Principle]. The main reason is that “promotion” in our industrial society, generally means “You’re really good and experienced at your job? Now stop doing it and start managing a bunch of people”.

He then shares a quote from an architect at a small tech company who, when asked about the structure of his organization, said “Everybody codes here, except for the accountant and the CEO. The latter used to code, but he was so bad at it, we made him in charge of everything else.”

Promoting employees up the ladder is a well-known employee motivation theory. But, as the poor guy in #4 will testify, not everyone is cut out to be a manager! Managing is hard…but doesn’t have to be if you’re focused on the right things.

5. Overtime

No matter how much overtime you pay your employees, eventually your tired workforce will get burned out and become completely unmotivated. Expecting your employees to work insane hours, not take vacations, and deal with constant stress is a recipe for poor production and high turnover. One young man asks for advice about helping his dad:

My father is working at a company that is requiring him to work overtime almost every day. He gets home and then they call him back. They keep threatening him that if he doesn’t do it then they will find someone who can (meaning firing him). He doesn’t have a problem with getting paid or anything like that and he’s definitely willing to work some overtime but they are just expecting him to work way too many hours.

4. Bad goals and annual reviews

Employees are not motivated by the notion that their hard work will make company owners and executives rich, organizational change consultant Paul Levesque writes on Entrepreneur. Are your employees aligned around an ultimate outcome or goal that makes them feel proud to work at your company? When individual goals, management goals, and company goals are not in alignment, you’ll see groups and individuals working against each other. Couple bad goals with rewarding effort vs. outcomes for a truly demotivating good time.

3. Convoluted mission statements

Example: It is the mission of ABC Car Gadgets to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfill their wants and needs at the right price. Our friendly, professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem solve for our customers.

That’s a great statement and, if true, the customer will be happy and the company will make money. However it’s quite a mouthful and not something you can easily repeat or rally around. No one gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “Today I’m going to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfills their wants and needs at the right price . . . Hooray!”

2. Flexibility and other gimmicks

Or as we like to say, “Flexibility is the new F word.” No matter which way you slice it, flexible work programs fail. Why is that? Because managers hate “managing flexibility” (oxymoron!) and employees are wary of when, how, and if they should even use flexibility options.

Here’s a recent example of the failure of flexibility programs at Bank of America. We predicted the fall of this program when it began seven years ago. Now, we know there are many factors that play into B of A’s decision to cut flexbility and remote work programs. But our take is quite simple: programs focused on flexibility will always, always fail because they aren’t focused on results.

1. Ignoring intrinsic motivation

All of the above to say this…if you find yourself banging your head against the wall with employee motivation programs, gimmicks, rewards, incentives, perks, benefits, raises, promotions, all without success, then maybe you’re ignoring the basics. Those of you who have read Drive by Daniel Pink are aware of his endorsement of Results-Only Work Environment. In this TED Talk, Pink talks in detail about what actually motivates us and how most businesses don’t act in accordance with what the science tells us about intrinsic motivation.

This post was originally posted on ROWE on December 23, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Jody Thompson is a co-founder of CultureRx and creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Her first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week. Cali and Jody (the co-founders of ROWE) have been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine, as well as in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, USA Today, and on Good Morning America, CNBC and CNN.

Cali & Jody are nationally recognized keynote speakers and have presented to numerous Fortune 500 companies and prominent trade associations. Cali & Jody created ROWE based on the belief that the traditional solution of flexible schedules is not the answer to managing life’s many twists and turns. Bottom line? Work sucks. So they’re on a mission to fix it. Today, Cali & Jody are leading a global movement to forever change the way we work and live.

Fired in real time: Never meet with your boss at 4 pm on Friday

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Image: Bob Rosner

My boss, and his henchman, arrived promptly for the meeting to discuss my sales update. It was 4 pm on Friday afternoon, approximately 48 hours ago. 

I knew something was up because my boss started speaking totally in sentence fragments. “I’ve made up my mind, things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, it’s time for a new direction, you can’t be having fun.” 

 Later I remembered that many termination specialists, like George Clooney in the movie “Up in the Air,” advise bosses when they fire someone to never pull a Donald Trump and say the “F” word. So it becomes a very weird game of firing euphemisms that fall on you drop-by-drop, like a painful kind of water torture.

 I said something, I honestly can’t remember what it was. This triggered my boss’s loop to start all over again, albeit in a slightly different order.  “Things aren’t working out, I need people to get along, you can’t be having fun, it’s time for a new direction, I’ve made up my mind.”

 I don’t know if he just screwed up the speech the second time, or if the termination gurus suggest that the firing sentence nuggets be shuffled like a deck of cards before being delivered each time. 

 Either way it was totally disorienting. Because he didn’t tell me directly that I was being fired, I  had to say the word inside my own head. So what happened is that I ended up firing myself. How sadistic is that?

 I do remember my next question, I asked why I was never given a chance to change my behavior before I was fired. The reply was quick, and clearly rehearsed, “Come on Bob, we’ve got lots of documentation.”

Documentation? Did anyone think to share it with me before I was fired? After? It would be nice to be consoled that there is a filing cabinet somewhere that answers the riddle of my firing, but clearly being fired by my company is a process that makes the selection of the Pope appear totally transparent. 

 Was the relationship between me and my boss flawed? You betcha. But it could have been humane to at least have one counseling session before the execution. Heck, even a kangaroo court would at least provide the illusion of concern and participation. 

 But alas it was not in the stars for me. My trial, sentencing and execution were neatly wrapped in one ten minute meeting.

 Believe it or not, I’m a best-selling business author. And yes, this greatly increases my embarrassment of being fired, but it also puts me in an interesting place to observe the process. I’m going to try to deal with the salt-in-the-wounds quality of writing about my own firing, partially as personal therapy, but mostly to increase the rate of healing for everyone else who’ll follow in my footsteps. And more of us, than we’d all like to admit, will undoubtedly go this route at some point.

Finally, I’m not going to mention the name of my former company anywhere in this blog. Because ultimately it’s not about them. It’s about my journey to regain my sanity and gainful employment. 

My a-ha: In the absence of embezzlement or a dead body, people should always get a chance to change their behavior before being fired.
 
 
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

There Is No Crying In Business, Yet

Monday, March 7th, 2011
Image: Bob Rosner

Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner cries on “60 Minutes.” He cries during a swearing in ceremony. He cries in another interview. Will it be long before he cries over a lost parking spot?

In fact, enter the phrase “John Boehner cries” into Google and you’ll get 351,000 links.

Holy Tip O’Neill, what is going on here?

Then the Miami Heat, a.k.a. the Heatles, lose their fourth game in a row. Coach Erik Spoelstra observes in a post-game interview that a couple of players were crying in the locker room.

Sure, the coach said that to show that his players care. But crying? In the locker room?

Try as I may, I just can’t see former Boston Celtic Bill Russell cry. I can see him make other players cry as he blocked shot after shot, but not Bill himself.

Now I’m going to show my age. I remember in 1972 when Edmund Muskie choked up in a speech in New Hampshire, and it promptly ended his presidential campaign.

I can remember when Tom Hanks said, “There is no crying in baseball” in the movie “A League of Their Own.”

How did the very thing that used to end a career, or serve as a punch line, suddenly become the thing to do?

The crying game, clearly the game has changed. Crying appears to be the new high five. A way to bond with your audience, to show your emotional presence and to put a capital “E” for empathy on your forehead.

So business people, let’s tear up, the time has come for you to emote.

With employees, customers and vendors. Let them see that you care.

You don’t have to put it on your sleeve, it can run down directly onto your shirt. No worries.

Of course you can always go against the grain and keep your eyes dry. But why fight the sudden tsunami of tears?

Ironically, Boehner’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, did cry a time or two. Mostly she was savaged by opponents for not being genuine.

That’s the remarkable irony here, crying used to be owned by women, appears to now be a guy thing.

Ladies and gentlemen in the world of business, start your tear ducts. Crying is now officially in fashion.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Five Years of Silence

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
Image: Bob RosnerA while back Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas achieved a quiet milestone. He has gone five entire terms as a Supreme without asking a question.
Just to put this in perspective, no previous Supreme level judge had gone one entire session without asking a question.
Five years.
Hello darkness my old friend, I’m come to talk with you again, indeed.
(For those a lot younger than me, meaning almost everyone, that is a line from the Simon & Garfunkel song, “Sounds of Silence.”)
To me, this harkens back to a much simpler time. When many of us could take the Fifth Amendment at work and not only keep our jobs, we could leverage our silence into regular promotions. When Casper the Friendly Ghost wasn’t just a cartoon, but a workplace lifestyle.
People got ahead not by taking chances, but just showing up. Leave it up to the Japanese to perfectly sum it up in a catch phrase, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Or “Deru kugi wa utareru” if you enjoy quoting things in their original language.
After our second recession in a decade, silence is the antithesis of how to get ahead today. No, these days speaking out and up is the way to go.
Don’t get me wrong, the corporate immune system is still trained to go after anything that threatens the status quo. That will never change. But there are more people in management positions who realize that playing it safe and trying to sit on a lead in today’s turbulent marketplace is often the riskiest thing you can do.
I suggest that we all tip our hat to the old-school Supreme. Even though most of us can’t go silent anymore, we can appreciate his trip down memory lane. Way to keep the stiff upper lip, and lower one too Clarence.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Poor Leaders Can Decrease Worker Productivity By Up to 40 Percent

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Mark Harkebe

As Newswise reports, based on employee engagement research by Florida State University business school professor Wayne Hochwarter,

recession-based uncertainty has encouraged many business leaders to pursue self-serving behaviors at the expense of those that are considered mutually beneficial or supportive of organizational goals.

This plays out in behaviors that Hochwarter’s team classified using the biblical Seven Deadly Sins as a framework.  While the percentages attached to each of those “behavioral sins,” based on feedback from more than 700 mid-level workers, is interesting, what appears further down in Newswise’s article caught my attention more from a productive workplace standpoint: FSU found that employees with leaders who committed any of these “sins” said they cut back on their contributions by 40%.  Notably, they were also:

  • 66% less likely to make creative suggestions, and
  • 75% more likely to pursue other job opportunities.

Hochwarter’s findings tell me that workplace qualities that some leaders might consider as soft (or at least far down on the totem pole of what they need to worry about day to day), such as trust, respect, and fairness, are not just “nice to do’s” – they have a real impact on product/service delivery and quality, and company spending on recruiting and retraining.

This is one of the reasons that Winning Workplaces revised our Top Small Company Workplaces award application for 2011 to take a more in-depth look at how things like rewards/recognition and employee leadership development strategies impact business results.  Year after year of our small workplace award program, we see that happier, more highly engaged employees lead to better outcomes, while the opposite lead to a path of lower profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace.

This post is cross-posted on the Winning Workplaces Blog.

About The Author: Mark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplace. He helps write and edit Winning Workplaces’ e-newsletter, IDEAS, and provides graphic design and marketing support. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University.

Can You Succeed in Business Without Being a Jerk?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerWhen Kobe Bryant was recently asked what his fifth championship meant to him he replied, “One more than Shaq.”

Which got me thinking, why does it appear that so many successful people are jerks?  Or worse. Do good guys really finish last?

When it comes to success and the jerk factor, you quickly discover that there is an embarrassment of riches to plume. And I do mean embarrassment.

John Thune, the former CEO of Merrill Lynch who managed the remarkable trifecta of bludgeoning his company’s market value, laying off thousands of people and doing a one million dollar plus remodel of his own personal office.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein who sold his customers financial products and then bet that these products would fail. He then had the temerity to call his performance, “Doing God’s work.”

Tony Hayward, BP CEO. The jerk of not only the year, but of the decade. Tony, the only person who wants you to have your life back more than you do, is the rest of us. Really.

Enron, Lehman Brothers…okay, this is too easy.

It’s unfortunate that many jerks in the workplace are successful. And often their success can be tracked to their jerkiness. However, that begs the most interesting question here. Can you be successful without being a jerk?

Yes, I believe that you can. For the simple reason that I believe that jerks often instill fear in the people around them. And fear works, for a while. But eventually people realize that there are sane bosses out there, that they don’t have to tolerate boorish behavior at work. That good guys mostly finish first and that’s a much better team to be on.

Jerks succeed in spite of who they are, not because of it. Thankfully, the jerkiness eventually has a way of biting them in the butt.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Chaos 1, Order 0

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerBefore Northwest Airlines became a memory following its merger with Delta Airlines, it offered a moment of brilliance. The company decided it would no longer board their planes by rows. You know, seating people in ten row clumps starting from the back of the plane.

Why would they end what is clearly the most orderly and effective way to board an airplane? Precisely because it wasn’t.

Instead, they decided to let first class customers, the disabled, the kids and frequent flyers board first. After that, first come, first served. Now here is the wild part. According to Northwest Airlines, letting people get on the plane randomly, instead of by row, would cut five to ten minutes from the boarding process. By boarding randomly, the airline expected to get 200 people on a plane in 20 to 25 minutes. If my math is correct (and since I’m a graduate of the New Jersey Public Schools, you should have your doubts), that could result in up to a 30% reduction in boarding time.

Think about it. Forcing people to go onto a plane section by section creates logjams in different parts of the plane. On the other hand, letting people on randomly spreads the logjams all over the plane.

Why is this important for those not in the airline industry? Because it’s my experience, reinforced by my emails for the last ten years, that the vast majority of corporations think like Northwest Airlines used to think. They like to command and they like to control. Even when involved with a creative project, organizations want to see plans, projections, reports and lots and lots of meetings.

This announcement reminds us that sometimes a little chaos can get us all where we need to go faster. Significantly faster.

So why do corporations value order so highly? Oddly enough it all comes from our experience in elementary school. A number of years ago I worked for former Army General turned Superintendent of Schools for Seattle, John Stanford. He observed that our school system was largely set up in the early part of this century to create factory workers. And it hasn’t changed from its earliest days. That’s why if you’re like me, you probably remember so much of an emphasis on discipline from your early years.

Factory workers. Obviously these days most of us are not on the line, but rather in jobs that require creativity and initiative. Yet, our brains were trained during the majority of our formative years to value order over all else.

I know what you’re thinking, that I’m taking one little example and getting totally carried away. Ironically, I’m going to accuse you—the corporate people reading this blog—of doing the very same thing. Stop embracing command and control at the expense of allowing pockets of chaos to thrive throughout your organization.

3M, widely seen as the corporation that consistently generates the most revenue from new products, allows each employee time to work on their pet projects during working hours. Sure they’ve got to finish their regular assignments, but they are given a little bit of leash to do something outside the scope of their jobs.

Which reminds me of the arch enemy of Maxwell Smart in the old TV show “Get Smart.” It was “Chaos.” All of our lives we’ve been told that chaos is the enemy. Make it your friend, like Northwest Airlines did, and you just might be surprised at how much more your organization will accomplish.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

The Consultants Have No Clothes

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerThis week’s blog should get me in a lot of trouble. But I think it’s time that someone points out that many of the biggest business consultants, authors and speakers run really crappy businesses of their own.

Okay, I’ve heard all the jokes about consultants. All go basically down the same path—a consultant is someone who borrows your watch and then tells you what time it is. But this is someone much worse. I’ve discovered that many of the biggest advisors to business run shops that are much more poorly managed than many of the corporations that pay them such lofty fees.

Ironic isn’t it?

Take consultant number one—I’ve confided the real names to my editor, but dear reader you’ll have to give me some slack here, because these guys are my colleagues, and in some cases my friends.

Consultant number one has had a series of best selling books, he commands top dollar on the speakers circuit and chances are that you’ve heard or seen him at one time during your career. He is so volatile that he is barely able to hold on to staff for more than a year. He says he’s a great listener, but his staff says to me that he yells far too much to ever hear a word they say. His office might as well have a revolving door on it.

Consultant number two is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But his company is remarkably dysfunctional. Its top leadership seems to change with the seasons. More than any other, this company almost seems to be dedicated to violating every principal that it espouses in its publications and presentations with its own people. It is a rudderless, often contradictory and cruel place that talks about sharing the credit but seldom does.

Consultant number three has built a company with some of the lowest morale anywhere. It’s hard to sort out where the battle lines are worse, in the executive suites or in the trenches. At one point I actually got to see some of the company’s internal survey results and couldn’t imagine that any of this company’s customers own results were that pathetic. Employees felt that management was more likely to knife them in the back then pat them on it. Although there was a lot of talk about values, the organization seems to only hold one value dear, and that is making the sale.

Woody Allen once said that those who can, do. And those who can’t, teach. Clearly those who really can’t do something become top-priced consultants.

So what can we do about this? I’m not suggesting that anyone throw out the baby with the bathwater. Each of these three people I referred to above has an important message and strategies to share. I just believe that corporations need to do a better job of due diligence with the messengers it picks before it starts ramming the fad of the week down its own people’s throats.

Look at each possible vendor as a little laboratory for their own principals. Ask for proof that they eat their own dog food and practice the very principals that they are foisting on you, and the rest of the business world.

Many of you are probably saying to yourself that this doesn’t really matter. It all goes back to the “Hawthorne Effect”, remember, that’s where a company turned up its lights and found that productive increased. Then when productivity stabilized they tried turning the lights down and found—like magic—that productivity magically increased again. The lesson, is that over the short haul almost anything you do can potentially increase productivity.

So Corporate America do your homework. Just because someone is a brand name, don’t assume that their principles work in the real world. That’s the bad news. The good news, is that the due diligence isn’t that hard to do. You just have to take the pulse of the employees who work for the company you are thinking about hiring. Ask to see recently survey results and staff turnover rates. I can guarantee that often you’ll be surprised by what you find.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Leadership Quiz

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerReady for that corner office and a reserved parking spot? Tired of waiting for your boss to die? As a service to you, my readers, I’m going to give you a much easier path to a fancier office, bigger paycheck and higher quality headaches.

Take the following quiz and you’ll immediately know if you’ve got what it takes to be a leader. The only thing that will then hold you back from making that magical leap from being the delegatee to being the delagator is to convince the management that this test is much cheaper than extensive evaluations and actual accomplishments in determining the “keepers” for your company. But then again, Ms. or Mr. UpWardlyMobile, this is a small price to pay for potentially huge jump up the corporate ladder.

The answers, and what your score means to your career, appear at the bottom of the column.

1. Define “Management by Objective,” “Reengineering” and “Theory Y Management.” 10 points
2. What is the number one employee complaint? 10 points
3. What is your company’s vision statement? 25 points
4. What is the most precious resource for your company? 15 points
5. Which best describes your approach to leadership? 15 points
–a. I deserve my obscene paycheck and options because I make the tough decisions
–b. If indicted, I’m ready to claim that I really didn’t know what was going on
–c. All of the above

1. Give yourself 0 points if you had any clue about what “Management by Objective,” “Reengineering” or “Theory Y Management” means. If you have no idea, give yourself 10 points. You should know by now that old fads are not worthy of the bandwidth of an up-and-coming executive.

2. The number one employee complaint—“it’s too cold.” The second most common employee complaint? “It’s too hot,” according to a study by the International Facility Management Association. Give yourself 10 points if you got either of those answers correct. But give yourself 15 points if you refused to answer the question—because the only employee complaints that should concern you are those of your people.

3. Okay, vision statements from most organizations are forgettable platitudes that should make any sane person wretch. But remember, you want to join the ranks of people who spent days at some fancy resort to come up with this BS. So give yourself 25 points if you can recite your company’s current vision statement. Unfortunately this isn’t hand grenades or horse shoes, so close doesn’t count. To get the points, you’ve got to nail it perfectly.

4. If you answered that the most precious resource for your company are the employees, give yourself 20 points. If you said your boss, subtract ten points from your total. You should know that sucking up should always be focused on the person who signs your paychecks and not a silly quiz at a web site.

5. If you chose obscene paycheck AND claim that you didn’t know what was going on in the company you were running then you must work on Wall Street.

Scoring:
85—Check your pants, I think they might be on fire
70—Get ready to say goodbye to your cube
50—Don’t you have better things to do than take online leadership quizzes?
30 or below—Remember, without followers, there wouldn’t be any leaders

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Upward Assessment of Darth Vader

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

Image: Noel S. WilliamsA recent survey by The Conference Board, a not-for-profit organization that disseminates information about business management and economic trends, showed that job satisfaction in America hit a record low in 2009.  Part of the problem is managers who run roughshod over morale.  Part of the solution is employee surveys that provide an underpinning for managers’ performance appraisals.

Formal grievance procedures against miscreant managers are a drastic option, and often bring adversity to the whistleblower.  But so-called “upward assessments” empower subordinates by giving them input into management performance appraisals.  Measuring management behavior, not some nebulous notion that “the company cares about its people,” will rein in abusive managers simply because once something is measured, it generally improves.

I don’t need to refer to the human resource trend du jour — I already know this because my previous manager was Darth Vader reincarnate.  Recognizing the threat to his evil little empire, he usurped the survey process, twisting it to the dark side.

Published norms, articles about workplace bullying, quarterly process meetings and retreats were all his decoys, but his ultimate subterfuge was the employee survey.   He cunningly constructed this devious document to shirk responsibility and shroud his malice.  His dastardly plot recognized that direct surveys represented a powerful check upon his unfettered malevolence.

When I started this job I was bemused that our 25-person department had its own set of norms:  ten principles that basically boiled down to the golden rule.  Everyone else in our large organization was content to operate under organization-wide principles.

On the surface, our department was a group of top-notch professionals working in accord.   It seemed we had struck the optimal balance between efficiency, effectiveness and employee moral, but why did we have a special set of norms, I wondered?   Why were they plastered everywhere:  on the conference room walls, on our manager’s door, in meeting rooms?  One could not walk more than a few yards without encountering them.

I was new, but no one on our team seemed capable of belittling, intimidating, disrespecting or otherwise mistreating a co-worker.  Was this because of the norms?  Or was something more sinister at play that the norms were hiding?

A few months after I started it was time for my first quarterly “process” meeting.  As far as I could tell, this was rare, if not unique to our department.   Part of the unusual agenda called for a discussion of our norms and a potential employee survey.  An extra copy of our norms was posted on the meeting room door, almost as if there had been a recent breach of etiquette.  There had been, many breaches, the perpetrator ambushing her victims then squirming to our manager Darth for refuge.

As I ventured more frequently into various domains within our organization I noticed people wincing when I told them where I worked.  But I was new, an innocent wookie oblivious to the dark side of the force.  I went about my merry way even as my day or reckoning drew closer.

Our next departmental oddity was our yearly retreat.  Wait a minute; retreats are for dysfunctional teams, aren’t they?   I remembered from business school they might be an appropriate venue for an organization that manufactured widgets even while marketing was promoting screws and operations was into nails.  Clearly, they needed a retreat, but not our small, laser-focused workgroup; unless, of course, this was part of the elaborate charade.

It was, and my days of blissful ignorance were ripped asunder back at H.Q. when I fell into the crosshairs of Darth’s personal assistant.  Apparently, my tendency to ponder nuances annoyed her.  For daring to suggest that inventory items need to be entered into a database for proper tracking I was publicly excoriated.  Such was her venom that several witnesses were quite shaken, a 12-year veteran of salty Navy language, I was even taken aback but maintained enough composure to suggest she read our norms.

I was beginning to connect the dots.  Our department’s public image was but a cover up, all a happy face on a veil that concealed the twisted anger of an ogre who was mollycoddled by lord Vader himself.

I was but the latest victim of a long line of rapacious rampages where employee pride and self-confidence were laid waste.  No wonder everyone was so compliant and cooperative, they had succumbed.  After each devastating raid, our resident ogre sought respite in Darth’s chamber.  Job done, she then retreated to her cube to suddenly transform into the public image of serenity beneath her conspicuous copy of our incongruous norms.

Now I knew why everyone winced, everyone except unaware upper-level management.  Job satisfaction is good for productivity so they must be informed.   Not through formal grievance procedures,  but by eliciting employee input into our manager’s performance appraisals, Darth could be redeemed, and the ogre laid bare and slain.

By attempting to hijack it, our manager had shown his repressive regime’s soft underbelly: the employee survey.   His rendition was an utterly corrupt and deceitful document that deliberately avoided questions about management, misdirecting potential blame to feeble droids.  The sham demonstrated that a targeted survey could be powerful straightjacket on managers disposed to running amok.

An employee survey designed to elicit upward feedback would shine light into the dank crypt where he and trusted assistant conspired to wreak havoc.  Executives could then expose the tyranny lest another promising career be dashed.  Powerful energies aimed at self-preservation could be unleashed toward productive ends, and that represents a big disturbance in the force for good.

About the Author: Noel S. Williams currently enjoys work as an Information Technology Specialist.  While he also holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management, it is his training as Jedi Knight that gives him the fortitude to delve into the dark side of workplace unfairness.

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