Friday, January 24, 2014

How to lose your most loyal team players

Over thirty years of being in a workplaces has given me a chance to observe some patterns. Right from my first job in a hardwear store, whenever I'd join a new place I'd notice that some people were shit, and others not. I thought that's just how it was. I've had the privilege of working as a "boundary spanner" - sales rep, market research consultant, trainer - to dozens of industries and picked some things up.

I've realised that some workers are just intrinsically bad; no initiative, motivation or sense of honour. But I think that's only half the bad workers. The other half are made. These people start with a sense of hope and loyalty to their new employer but that gets lost.

One of my good bosses encapsulated it years ago, talking about someone I worked with:

"Unfortunately, X has worked themself into such a place of bitterness and disaffection that it'll be hard for them to come back to being a good part of the team"

The boss wasn't exactly blaming X, and wasn't arguing that the workplace was blameless. That boss reiterated to me one of the great realities of work.

Just because your boss looks like he has a lot of power (because he seems to have power over you) don't be fooled. We're all pawns.

Anyhoo, X was a pain in the ass. And I was happy enough to see them euthenased. Life's great for X these days. My other point.

Find a way to be happy or get the hell out, life is way too short for this shit.

But, if you're an employer and wish to squander the goodwill of your people I've compiled a handy list you might follow. These action points will - with enough time - turn your most valuable employee into a benign mercenary at best. With some real effort you may be able to create a toxic, subversive detractor. With their help.

These guidelines seem to be fairly universal - I've seen them work across dozens of industries.

How to destroy goodwill  in your business.
  1. Remain unclear in what you expect, but be quick to complain when you don't get what you want
  2. Reward those who shirk team responsibilities to kick their own individual goals
  3. Refuse to acknowledge a person's wins, even the small ones
  4. Make it so that anything a person has can be taken from them without warning
  5. Punish failure harshly, but give your people limited power to avoid disaster even if they can foresee it
  6. Alternate between opposing courses of action on a three year cycle and brand anyone who points this out as "negative"
  7. Remain hopelessly disorganised and ad hoc in your own dealings but demand precision and consistency from your people
  8. Be  critical of your people but apply the veneer of "constructive criticism" or collegiality thereby adding insult to injury
  9. Measure a person's success solely in terms of criterion X but make sure their day is full of activity Y
  10. Allow a number of your more incompetent or lazy peoole to assume positions of moderate political or organisational power. Their fear of being found out motivates them to take over the abive responsibilities on your behalf
So there it is. I have to thank an ex MBA student (I just met) for the last one - he saw it in a place he did some casual work for.

You can eliminate all that pesky enthusiasm from within your business by following ten simple tips.  And done properly, it will build a self sustaining culture of mediocrity where no motivated person will want to join you, or at least won't stay long.

Good luck!

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