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Tag Archives: demotivating employees

Influence employee behaviour by using the Convenient Fruit Principle

FruitBowlOne of my favourite hotels always has a large bowl of fruit sitting on the counter in their front desk area, available to any of their hotel clientele who want a quick snack.  Recently, as I checked in one evening, I mentioned to the front desk agent that I felt the onset of a cold.  She helpfully recommended that I boost my Vitamin C consumption.  To which I laughingly responded that their fruit bowl never contained oranges, only apples and bananas.  She paused, and then earnestly replied, “Oh, we tried adding oranges, but no one ever takes the oranges, just the apples and bananas.  So now we just leave them out.”

The convenient fruit principle

At first thought, you might assume that this discrepancy exists because most people like apples and bananas more than oranges.  But when you consider it further, the reason is much simpler.  Apples and bananas are easy to eat, but oranges are not.  As delicious as oranges are, you usually need a knife to eat them.  And if they can be peeled, most times they are quite messy.  So hotel guests looking for a quick and easy snack always pick the apples and bananas.  I call this the “convenient fruit principle”, and it applies just as much in the workplace as it does at snack time.

Use the convenient fruit principle to motivate desired behaviour

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Blocking internal transfers and promotions is a bad idea!

Demotivator on Warning Road SignSometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, create situations that are non-productive and hugely demotivating. Unfortunately, this is more usual than not.  In fact, this was the very topic of a one of my regular The Globe & Mail columns back in November 2014 titled Why do smart managers do stupid things?

I continue to see examples of this dysfunctional behaviour repeatedly in my leadership development practice.  Last week I had a very positive conversation with a group of leaders in one of my client organizations, but it reminded me of this very negative situation that I came across (and blogged about) back in 2016.  In fact, it stirred up such dialogue in this group that I felt it was worth bringing up in the blog again.

I got a call from an employee at a large client company, very upset because his manager had blocked his internal transfer.  This organization has an online internal job bulletin board that permits employees to apply for internal jobs within the company.  This particular employee had, with his manager’s knowledge, applied for a job in another department.  Since he has been in his current role for over three years, he was seeking different challenges and new learning opportunities.  The interview process went well and he was optimistic about getting this new assignment.  Imagine his surprise to learn that he did not get the job because his manager had blocked the transfer.  Turns out that there had been some other recent unexpected personnel changes in the department, and his manager felt that his move would be too much change, too fast. Continue reading

Yet another sure-fire way to create disengaged employees

disengaged employeesLast month, I blogged about two different scenarios demonstrating how otherwise-reasonable managers do stupid things that lead to demotivated and disengaged employees.  Specifically, I wrote about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions, and those who erroneously mistake attendance for productivity.  Both those posts generated several emails (and even a phone call), all from readers who agreed completely with the points I was making.  A couple of weeks later, I received another email from a reader, outlining yet another situation that occurs repeatedly, almost always resulting in disengaged employees.  This event – when managers watch the clock to see what time employees arrive and leave, but then don’t give them credit for the work they do on their own time – is a huge demotivator.

Work isn’t just done from the office any more!

I couldn’t agree more!  In today’s world of advanced technology, work isn’t just conducted in the office anymore.  Continue reading

Foolish short-sighted management practices … the chronicles continue!

Last week I blogged about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions.  Well it must have struck a nerve for many, because I received several emails and even a couple of phone calls on the subject (all of whom echoed my sentiments, by the way).  It was during one of these phone conversations that another example of foolish short-sighted management practices came up.  This one: managers who turn absence issues into performance issues.

Attendance does not equal productivity

Now once again, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about the poorly-performing employee who, amongst other failings, is consistently absent without good reason.  Yes, in that situation, it IS a performance issue.  But what I am talking about are the short-sighted managers who equate attendance with productivity.  The reality of life is that employees – good employees – get injured, have children who get sick, face vehicle breakdowns, and experience plumbing emergencies.  And when that happens, what they really value is understanding and flexibility from their boss.  Understanding that they didn’t choose to have this adversity befall them, and the flexibility to find alternate solutions that will allow them to deal with the problem at hand AND meet their responsibilities at work.  If you are the manager who doesn’t get this, then you do so at your own peril! Continue reading

Yet another example of foolish short-sighted company policies!

Over the years, I have often blogged about foolish short-sighted company policies and management practices – forced ranking, archaic performance reviews, the requirement that employees substantiate bereavement leave, assuming that attendance equals productivity – to name just a few.  Well, what is really mind-boggling to me is that the list continues to grow.

Today’s example of foolish short-sighted company policies and/or management practices that is irking me: that a manager can unilaterally deny an employee’s application for an internal transfer or promotion.

Unilaterally denying internal transfers or promotions is just wrong!

Now before you start on me, I am well aware of the reasons that managers might want this discretion.  I fully understand that constant turnover in a department is disruptive and difficult.  Sure, you want employees to be in positions long enough so that they are not just making their way up the learning curve, but also around for a reasonable period to master responsibilities and make positive improvements in their roles.  I get that!

But far too often, I come across managers who hold employees back for no other reason than they want to eliminate (or reduce) interruption and instability in their own departments.  For purely selfish reasons, they block their (good) people from moving on to other favourable opportunities.  And because they have been given the unilateral discretion to deny their employees these possibilities, they do exactly that.  Ironically though, these actions don’t usually benefit either the manager (or the organization) in the long-term.  Good employees who are obstructed from achieving their own aspirations get demoralized and demotivated, and eventually just leave the organization and walk …. usually right over to the competitors.

There is a reasonable alternative

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The piss-off factor: yet another short-sighted stupid action by a well-meaning manager

The Piss-Off Factor (or POF)piss-off factor is something that short-sighted managers do to destroy employee morale, and they come up repeatedly on the blog, usually because they happen more often than they should!  Well, I was just made aware the other day of yet another piss-off event; this time about parking!

Seriously?!  This is what is known as a piss-off factor

This company’s offices, even though in a large city, are not in the downtown core.  This particular employee was required to go downtown for a work-related task, so he drove his vehicle there, parked, and later claimed the cost of parking on his expense statement.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Apparently not.  His expense claim was denied.  Reason: the company policy states that employees can claim lodging, meals and incidental costs, including parking for a vehicle, ONLY when they travel out of town.  Because he was parking his vehicle in the same city, the expense claim was denied!  If you think this doesn’t make sense, there’s more.  Continue reading

Trying to motivate your employees? Could you be inadvertently demotivating them?

Demotivator on Warning Road SignA while ago, I wrote a blog post titled How to lower productivity and demotivate your workforce that illustrated how process bottlenecks stopped employees from being productive and motivated. And sometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, inadvertently create situations that are non-productive and demotivating. In fact, I wrote a column about just this topic in The Globe & Mail last November titled Why do smart managers do stupid things? Today’s blog post takes this quandary further. Today’s topic is about when things that are intended to motivate people not only turn out to be hugely demotivating, but also actually incent people to act in the absolute opposite way than was meant. As leaders charged with inspiring and encouraging staff, it’s important to consider whether our good intentions may in fact be producing an unexpected negative result. Let me share some interesting (and unusual) examples of incentives that, while good-intentioned, were hugely demotivating. Continue reading

Five foolproof ways to demotivate your employees

My latest Leadership Lab column in The Globe & Mail is up on their site today.

Five foolproof ways to destroy employee morale

is about what some managers do to completely destroy their employees’ self-confidence, drag down team morale, and create a negative working environment. In short, they demotivate their people! Fortunately, most of the leaders I work with are keenly focused on keeping their people committed and loyal because they know that engaged and empowered employees perform to their highest abilities and produce exceptional results. But every so often, I come across managers who seem hell bent on doing just the opposite. Not surprisingly, their staff hate coming to work, and positivity and productivity plummets. This is their story of failure.


Well, what do you have to add to the list? What have you seen that demotivates, demoralizes and disempowers employees? Rather than comment here on the blog, please add your viewpoint directly to The Globe‘s site, as their (much larger) readership will also have a chance to join the discussion. Or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks). I’m eagerly looking forward to your reactions and perspectives.

And please do me one more favour – help me get the word out … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love to hear their thoughts as well; I bet they have a few to add to this list!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

A shocking tirade from a company’s CEO – what can the rest of us learn?

The proverbial storm has been brewing over the last few weeks at Tate Publishing, a vanity publishing house headquartered in Mustang OK.  Well, not a storm, perhaps a better description would be “a hurricane of massive proportions”.  I must admit that in all my years in this profession, I have never come across something as disturbing and shocking as this.

First, some background.  Apparently, an anonymous email was circulated by an employee over the May Memorial day weekend taking the company’s CEO Ryan Tate to task for his plan to lay off employees and outsource all their jobs to the Philippines.  That got Tate’s back up, and he threatened that unless the responsible employee confessed to the email, he would fire 10 random employees from the production floor.  No one owned up to the offending missive, so Tate then went on to up the ante.  He was now going to fire 25 people.  Turns out that at least one employee was still boldly defiant as s/he recorded Tate’s tirade in a shortly-before-May-31 staff meeting and released it to ABC News.   You can listen to the entire outburst here:

Ryan Tate’s tirade at a company staff meeting in late May

Fair warning: this is stuff that you would never expect to hear from someone who is in a senior leadership position in an organization; frankly I found it disturbing.  If you don’t want to listen to the entire 17 minutes of audio, here are some of the low-lights:

  • At about the 1:43 mark, Tate likens himself to Jesus.
  • At the 4:53 mark, he refers to a $7.8 million lawsuit that has been filed against five former employees of the company.  ABC News later determined that no such lawsuit had been filed; it was a lie designed to bully and intimidate his employees.
  • During the rant, he refers to his employees as cowards, and at the 5:53 mark calls them morons and stupid.
  • At the 9:00 mark, he actually begins to threaten his employees: “I get to put liens on your houses, I get to put liens on your cars, I get to garnish your wages, everything you do pretty much the rest of your life is mine if I want it.”
  • Absurdly, at about the 13:55 mark, he begins to tear up because he has to fire 25 innocent people, and he goes on to say “I’ll pray for you and I’ll pray for your families.”

And oh yes, 25 employees were fired on May 31.

So what can we learn from this debacle? Well, here’s my list to get the conversation started:

  • It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation or how upset you are; as a leader you simply cannot lose your composure.  By virtue of your position, you ARE a role model to others, and you must always be aware and thoughtful of what you say and do.
  • It simply is NOT appropriate to be verbally abusive to anyone, let alone your employees.  Calling your staff “stupid”, “cowards” or “losers” is just not done!
  • We live in the digital age.  Understand that nothing you say or do in a public arena is confidential.  Yes, this was a private staff meeting, but the surfacing of this audio is proof enough that you must always be conscious of your words and actions.
  • It’s probably not a good idea to equate yourself to a religious figure who is revered by many.  It’s not only tasteless but it will make you look like a pompous ass!
  • Don’t ever forget that your employees are people; real people with feelings and emotions.  They are not pawns on your chessboard.  Do not play games with their lives and livelihoods in order to prove your power and superiority.

What would you add to this list?  Please add your comments below.

A leadership fable about how actions speak louder than words …

ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a manager who worked in a credit card customer call centre. He thought he was a great leader, and often told his colleagues and staff that he came by his strong leadership skills naturally. But his staff would not have concurred. In fact, a few of his employees described him as the “worst manager I have worked for, ever!”

For the rest of this leadership fable, read the entire article in the May/June issue of CGA MagazineDo you know any such managers who think they are great leaders?