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The Winning Formula

A new movie premise is that three people decide their work situations are so horrible that the only way to improve them is to kill their bosses.

The Dilbert comic strip continues, in part, because people send the creator real-life work situations to use.

Even people who have jobs are looking for job because they want something different—something better.

What do these situations say about America’s workplaces? I think it says individual managers, supervisors, CEOs, and whole companies are functioning under the impression that fear is a great, long-lasting motivator.

Does fear work to increase productivity in the workplace? Yes, absolutely . . . at least for the short term. It increases negative stress. Fear ultimately paralyzes.

I can think of several organizations that have used fear at times to:

  • Get buy-in for change,
  • Drive higher productivity, and
  • Reinforce the power of authority.
  • But is that what they get long-term?

What if you were in a company-wide meeting with a new CEO and management team and the CEO tells the group: “I’m tired of you acting like seventh graders! Get on the bus with us or leave!” Then you’re required to go to either a focus group to say how you felt about the group meeting or to a meeting of your workgroup where you’re expected to say how you felt about the meeting and the future of the organization. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d have much to say in either meeting. And immediately after the meeting, I’d be more focused on brushing up my resume than being productive.

What if you were a sales person who’s required to meet goals but can only make a limited amount of money? Only if you bring in a new major client (read as a multi-million dollar client) will you be “allowed” to make more in commission. In this case, the fear is that the management team doesn’t know what it wants and doesn’t appreciate good-to-great sales people. If I were a sales person with this company, I’d be looking elsewhere for the freedom to be my best and make the highest amount of money my skills allowed.

What if you were an office worker who has been given an assignment with an ever-changing goal and ever-changing measurements? “I’ll know you’ve done a good job when I see a good job,” is the manager’s only direction. Every time you present what you think is exactly what the manager wants, you’re told, “No, that’s not what I said. This is your last chance to do this right!” If I were that person, I’d go to bed and wake up every day dreading work. I’d be so fearful there would be no way I could function at my best.

What is the winning formula that these managers don’t know? I’ll tell you:

10% fear + 90% hope = a good place to work.

Hope in the workplace liberates creativity, vision, high esprit de corps, and high morale. All of those things result in:

  • Better business relationships
  • More creative and innovative ideas and products and services
  • A strong, sustainable bottom line


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