Dear Corporate Management,
Well begun is half-done. Aristotle
Aristotle was smart. Anyone who grows up in Plato’s Academy’s gotta be pretty smart, right? But Plato didn't use standardized tests or annual reviews, so who knows. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt.
Aristotle was a pretty good teacher, too. One of his students was Alexander the Great who dropped out of college not for Silicon Valley riches but to become King. Ten years later he ruled everything from North Africa through Mesopotamia and all the way to Afghanistan. He led his armies into battle riding his horse and fighting alongside them. Different kind of leader, I guess, than most employees see today.
But back to Aristotle. Let's consider his saying, Well begun is half-done, in the light of your management team's results on disengaging your employees, because by golly you are way past half-done when it comes to demoralizing and disengaging employees from each other and their work.
70% of your employees are disengaged or actively disengaged. Disengaged just means that since that first exciting day when they walked through your doors, all full of hope and idea, you and your managers have inspired them into boredom and apathy. 70% of your employees leave their A game at home along with their B and C game, too. You might call them cubicle zombies; but that’s not fair ‘cause they weren’t zombies when you hired them. So kudos, take a bow, for turning passionate, excited whole persons into mostly empty shells, cogs going through the motions. Hoozah!
Here’s the fun part of that statistic, so fun it is rarely mentioned. 19 - 20 % are actively disengaged which means they’ve gone to the dark side. They are actively sabotaging their work or the work of their colleagues. They are contributing full discretionary effort at undermining everyone. Hearts and minds, people.
Take another bow. You and your managers have achieved this despite overwhelming evidence that your insistence on hierarchical structures, command-and-control decision-making and managers from kills the human spirit and starves you of their best efforts and best ideas. That is darkly inspiring. You have systematically ignored case studies and data and casual observation showing the negative impact of these practices for ... 40-50 years. ROA, Return on Assets, has gone south for publicly traded companies for 49 years. That makes sense if you think that on average, even at these wages that lag inflation, you pay 100% for less than, much less than, 100% efforts.
However, do not stop now. Your work is not finished. There remains a group of hard core ... what ... enthusiasts, engaged employees who insist upon bringing their A Game every day. Those are the ones who give you a dollar's worth of work for a dollar's worth of pay. Despite your efforts otherwise. They offer full discretionary effort to the company and their work which stands as a beacon of hope while it raises uncomfortable questions about training and learning, accountability and purpose, raises and recognition.
What if we offered more training, gave a clearer purpose to their day and recognized their successes and needs and I’m talking crazy here, but rewarded them in meaningful ways?
See? That's awkward. When you've hired managers to oversee cogs and not lead people then who has the skills or willingness to answer those questions? Mmm?
Your Friday casual days, pizza parties and trinkets, like gift cards and 5-year anniversary pins aren’t buying them off. Meaningless surveys, as much to avoid engaging with them, have made no dent in their unabashed avoidance of cynicism. They still are motivated. Stop it.
Instead, I suggest you return to the tried-and-true methods, the ones that had a 70% success rate in crushing spirits and dashing hopes. If you just persist, plan the work and work the plan, you can finish the job.
Just to help you remembers those steps, some of them, here are Eighteen Steps to Disengage the Engaged. These are proven steps, so walk them again, stomp on ‘em over and over until you have 100% disengagement.
Make Meetings Meaningless.
Nothing says you don’t care than calling for meetings that don’t matter.
To make sure these meetings are meaningless, never-ever show up on time. Boom, right there you show your employees they don’t matter.
Never-ever prepare an agenda. Ditto.
Never-EVER-ever follow up on anything said, shared, reported, discussed in that meeting.
Make It About You.
Ultimately it is. That seems to be the issue with these stubbornly engaged employees. They think it is work or goals or purpose and mission. Remind them.
The number one reason people leave their job is because of a bad manager - so you wouldn’t be lying anyway. The only ones who stay behind are those disengaged with their work enough to make the manager look like a problem solver.
Make it clear that the choice for engaging is to whether to engage with you, your ideas, your solutions, your frustrations. Or not. They can remain a holdout or join their colleagues. Bam, simple choices lead to obvious answers. Everyone wants to belong.
OMG. This is so powerful.
Remember how effective the teacher’s pet was in discouraging you and the other’s, not the teacher’s pet, from raising your hand and speaking up? Yeah, well it works even better with adults. Pick one, doesn’t matter. Let that person be the shining hope for all the others, showing them if they make the right choices ... ‘ere’s somethin’ in it for ‘em.
Manager’s Discretion Bonuses.
Awesome. Being the manager's discretion then the criteria is simple! Whatever the manager wants and whoever they think should receive it.
This leverages the power of the teacher’s pet methodology with the household-budget critical bonus. Puts your company’s money where its manager’s mouths are: creating conflict and discouraging engagement.
Never, Ever, Say Hi.
That recognizes the person and starts some sort of engagement interaction thing. Don’t. Even if they say hi to you, don’t say hi back. Nuh-uh.
Hide the Mission and Purpose Statements.
This shouldn’t be hard. 70% of your employees can’t identify it on a multiple choice test even with hints. We’re talking about diehards here and how to disengage them. Make sure those engaged employees can’t find it. They’re motivated. You have to watch out.
Stop Updating their Tools.
Windows ruled the world in 1988. Why change? By change, I mean why update. Let’s say you’re stuck on XP. Stay there. ‘s good enough, right? Plus those expenditures don’t look good on cash-flow statements.
Zero Out Training Budgets.
What’s the point, right? You need cogs, not thinkers. Once they’re in their place, you run ‘em till they break down. Bathroom breaks and lunches are ok, I guess.
Never Say Thank You.
I know you and your managers don't, okay? I just want to remind you it is a job. You pay them. They have bathrooms. Isn’t that showing your thanks. Tough love.
Remember: Stay with what works. And never saying thank you works.
Lay Em Off.
Once you set record earnings, then lay them off. That worked at Cisco. That's a big company. You think they got big doing stupid stuff like investing those record cashflows in their employees? Hell no.
Fire the engaged ones, too. You probably paid them more than the others. It’s okay, everyone has a weakness. This will insure even greater profits next quarter which will keep your compensation package 15 - 20 times higher than your average employee's pay check.
Hire People Dumber’n Less Skilled than You.
Makes sense, right? How can you lead or manage people smarter’nbetter’n you? What's the point of a hierarchy, command-and-control management, if you can't command control them? Keep hiring people with less smarts and fewer skills than you.
Review are Critiques.
Don’t waste time pointing out their strengths and accomplishments. No. Point out their faults. That way they can correct them and by default be a better person; but not too much better. Even better is turn it into a self-criticism session. That's worked so well in China.
Science backs me on this one.
fMRI finds that engaging in self-criticism activates areas in the lateral prefrontal cortex and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex which are brain areas responsible for processing error detection and correction.
Think about that! You could have a whole team of highly critical people. Nothing shuts down engagement like criticism by your peers.
Get Them Off Social Media!
The best of you, the ones with the largest community of disengaged employees, don’t allow this. But, good habits are always good to remember and especially this one. Hire a PR agency instead. They can use some stock phrases and stock photos of happy people cause you don't have any happy people. Keep spreading the cognitive disonnance.
Make ‘Em Take a Survey.
This is another favorite; it's so beautiful. And, you won’t have to read their emails, either!
Take their bonus money and give it to an agency whose only engagement with your company is a one and done survey.
Know how to get the biggest disengagement bang for your buck? Yeah, of course; you’re smart. Make it a long survey. Lots of questions. That gives you the easy out of sayingSo many great answers ... it’ll be awhile ‘for we compile them and meet with our managers about the results.
Them Not to Eat Their Own Dog Food.
McDonald’s told its employees to stay away from fast food and what business are they in? Exactly. Fast food. did that for their employees and they’re a big company. You think you have a better ideas than McDonald’s? Didn’t think so. See, how effective that is at shutting you down. Try it on your employees.
Technically, their third-party PR agency offered that suggestion. See? Keep spreading the cognitive dissonance. Then compound it and say They're not authorized. That leaves everyone asking Wuhl, who's in control here? Doubt and confusion breeds disengagement.
You are The Solutions Blaster.
You have all the solutions, otherwise you wouldn’t be ahead of them in the hierarchy, right? I’m right and you know you’re right to remind them of this truth.
Remind them at every opportunity. Use these power phrases:
You don’t need to think. That’s what I’m here for.
We don’t pay you to think.
Now, if subtlety is your thing try this:
That’s a great idea, Johnny (doesn’t matter if that’s their name; it might make it stronger if it’s not. ‘sides you don’t know their name, anyway. Am I right?) but we pay you to do X. And that’s how you make your money.
Yes, say ‘X;’ it shows you don’t care what they do as long as they don’t bug you with their questions or answers. You have those covered. Right?
What’s your best ways to disengage employees? I know you have some. We’re in this together.
I know this is a bit contradictory, me asking you to engage in problem-solving when I’m telling you not to do that with your employees. But:
A. I’m not your employee;
B. contradictory signals and policies are powerful techniques to keep employees guessing an’ not engaging. See? It’s a learn by doing thing.
I'll send you a long detailed survey ....