Those Pesky Demotivators

Mar 24, 2003

It seems to me that I am running into a greater number of pissed off people working in client organizations as of late. Maybe it’s the winter blues. Or maybe it’s war threat induced economic malaise. But more likely than any of these is the possibility that the company these people work for is doing something that is making them mad. Here’s some of what I have heard recently from people who were unhappy: Language: One company we worked with had a number of staff members complaining about some of the owners and managers using a different language around them. Even if those speaking it had nothing to hide, it gave the appearance that they did. My recommendation— one language at all times. Political differences: We’ve seen a number of issues related to political orientation creeping into the workplace. One manager continuously sent out right wing political jokes through the e-mail to everyone in his Outlook address book, a practice that upset those who considered themselves more liberal. Another firm principal got some of his employees upset when he posted a petition to nominate a political candidate with a particular religious orientation. Another firm solicited charitable donations for an organization whose figurehead is a particularly left wing liberal and that upset those who didn’t like him. My advice is to keep politics OUT of the work environment, because you never know who you are going to upset. Expense reports: Companies that delay sending out reimbursement checks really abuse their people. This is a legitimate gripe when it takes weeks and weeks to get paid back money you have effectively loaned to the firm. What else can I add? Computer: It’s demoralizing as can be if you work for a company that doesn’t understand why computer systems need constant investment. Give someone a machine without enough memory that constantly locks up and they aren’t going to be happy, yet this is VERY common. The solution is to constantly upgrade your equipment. Direction: I spoke with a young person in a new company recently whose biggest gripe was absolutely no direction. And when she asked for specific details on an assignment her boss, the senior designer and the company principal would ignore her or get mad. What’s that about?? No one can be expected to be a mind reader! Complete lack of direction or treating young people like they are stupid for asking a reasonable question is a good recipe for running off junior staff (and it worked in this case as she eventually quit). Nepotism: I can assure you that I have met many, many sons and daughters who work in companies started by their parents and who earn MORE than their keep. Heck, my own oldest brother was one of these people at one time, working in a small firm owned by my father. It’s hard. But it’s also hard for the other people there in the company who witness in some cases what amounts to a meteoric rise of these stars. And not all sons and daughters are equipped to take over the family business. In fact, most are not. The solution?? It’s not just in training and communications. Better yet is to avoid nepotism. And if it’s going to happen anyway for any reason, go out of your way (you and your offspring) to avoid the appearance of special treatment. Even then it may not work. There will be employees who are mad and resentful just the same. Pettiness: An employee of a planning and design firm told me recently that his work e-mail system had been modified such that all e-mail messages from his girlfriend were automatically sent back to her! They also made it impossible for this individual to access his web mail from another mail provider. No one ever said anything to him about it, either. That’s petty! This kind of treatment is embarrassing and will demoralize anyone. Does any of this stuff sound familiar to you? IF so, you better start paying attention to it or you could lose one or two of your best people (or more). Originally published 03/24/2003.

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