Monday, 15 June 2009

"You're common, COMMON!"

Fifty-two percent of bosses in the UK have grown worse at motivating their staff since the recession began, according to a survey of more than 1,600 workers by Keep Britain Working, an initiative that "promotes innovative ways to preserve and create jobs," according to a press release.

That news isn't surprising. A rocky economy makes for an employer's, rather than an employee's, market. Many bosses probably feel they don't need to invest energy in motivating staff: Fear of the dole should be enough to keep them doing their best.

But fear--of being made redundant or of being bawled out by the boss--is not a great motivator. Indeed, more than half of the survey respondents said that bosses' failure to motivate staff reduces productivity, and more than a third said it increases the likelihood of a company failing.

My favourite part of the press release were the examples of what Keep Britain Working politely describes as "demotivating boss behaviour":

* "a charity boss who brought in his hunting rifle and pretended to fire it at staff to make them work harder"

* "a boss who made staff clean toilets because she had sacked the cleaners to save money"

* one who "chanted, 'Hit this target, keep your job... Hit this target, keep your job'".

Like most of you, I suspect, I have a few boss horror stories of my own. There was the magazine editor who instructed several of our overworked, deadline-tardy writers to "report during the day, and write at night"--before leaving the office shortly after 5pm. The writers turned her advice into a cheer of sorts, "Report all day, write all night", which we all chanted as we huddled over our computers. We didn't have to worry about anyone else hearing us, as no-one else was left in the building. Not surprisingly, it was around that time that several of the writers began job hunting in earnest.

Then there was the beauty editor at a prestigious consumer magazine where I was a copyeditor who bitterly resisted any attempts to turn her verbiage into comprehensible English. One day when I approached her to query some of her copy, she began screaming that of course I couldn't comprehend her prose, because "You're common, COMMON!" She continued to shriek this as I fled down the hall; by the time I'd returned to my desk she'd phoned the managing editor demanding that I be fired. (I wasn't.)

Can you top any of the above tales of woe? Hopefully not--but if you can, let us know.--SC

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