From Chapter 13
SENIOR LEADER SPECIAL: EMPLOYEE MANIPULATION
Manipulating with appreciation and meaningless rewards
Anyone who is not a senior executive is requested to log off this chapter. We are going to be discussing manipulation strategies and insights into our deviousness will give you an unfair advantage.
Great, now that we only have top management reading, here goes: employees need to be kept motivated and engaged, at least occasionally. It’s a waste of time because they are really not important. While most corporations rhapsodically claim that their people are their most important asset, it is all bollocks. The most important asset of Google is its search algorithm—if that were to suddenly vanish, all their so-called most important assets would be sitting around doodling home pages in Mountain View. Likewise, the most important asset of Coke is its secret formula. The most important asset of Apple is its products. As the pointy-haired boss in Scott Adams’ The Dilbert Principle states, employees are in fact the corporation’s ninth most important assets, right after carbon paper.
That said, you still might have a few foot soldiers who need to be kept suitably engaged and it’s imperative that you identify them rather than waste your efforts in keeping everyone charged up. You can either use complicated psychological tools and personality tests or simply adopt the Job Be Damned Boffins and Bozos grid to pigeonhole all your employees.
Motivating the Boffins
Once you have classified all your staff, focus on motivating the boffins.
- Pretend to care about their development
Employees want to believe that someone gives a damn about them so act as if you do. Learning motivates early careers so pretend to share your vast experience—gift the latest management book or have them attend some wishy-washy training programme. Middle management professionals crave increased responsibility—ironic given that one’s sole objective should be to avoid work. Send them on international jaunts, award home-printed certificates and write them LinkedIn recommendations—anything that looks like a progressive step in their career will keep them motivated. The downside of investing in employees is that it makes them more marketable and they might leave to join competitors. However, effect drug-induced amnesia as part of the exit formalities—the ungrateful wretches should forget everything that they learnt at your expense.
Boffins: Must-have employees with useful skills and attributes
|Divers||Enthusiastic and eager to please; they dive straight into a project and get it started|
|Systematics||Masters at organization, creating flow charts, to-do lists, pros and cons columns and schedules|
|Coordinators||Enjoy directing things along and putting some order into chaos|
|Specialists||Experts in one particular subject|
|Conscientious doers||The engine of every team and the ones who do all the real work|
|Glib communicators||Great at articulating complicated concepts to the people who matter|
Bozos: Useless dead-weights who do more harm than good
|Gyaani babas||Spout theoretical wisdom unbacked by execution capabilities|
|Naysayers||Party pooping, energy-draining pessimists who have all the reasons why your plans won’t work|
|Socialists||Mother hens who don’t care about what gets accomplished as long as everyone is happy and participating|
|Conspiracy theorists||Everything about the organization, team and task is a dark conspiracy|
|Dumbos||Double-digit Iqs who incessantly ask irrelevant questions|
|Spectators||Step back and watch, occasionally piping in with useless suggestions|
- Conduct Employee Engagement Activities
Interacting with personnel is excellent for your morale. Conduct breakout meetings, hang-outs, online chats and parties. Have the occasional whine-and-dine lunch where you swallow the unpalatable canteen food while chatting with them. Keep the interaction one way—you talk, they listen. Have a Q&A session at the end but make a mental note of anyone who has asked you controversial questions and get your revenge in the next appraisal cycle.
- Charge them up with motivational phrases
Behave like one of those inspirational coaches that you see in sports movies. Give high fives and pat employees on the ass every time they finish a project. Rip off and wave your shirt if the team wins an award. And whenever someone makes a sale, have the entire office jump on him in wild celebration as if he just scored a World Cup goal.
Morale boosting motivational slogans are always popular, though it can be very demanding to keep coming up with new ones. Here is the Job Be Damned Motivational Quote Generator, a variant of the popular childhood game ‘NamePlace-Animal-Thing’, that will give you an adrenalin-racing phrase whenever you require.
The structure of your motivational quote is as follows. Note that these generally sound better in Hindi though English will work almost just as well.
<Name>, tu toh <Animal> hai <Animal>. Ja, <Place> mein/ko <Thing>
Make one selection from each column to string together your motivational quote.
|Name: The person you want to motivate
|Animal: Any ferocious creature||Place: Where you want him to create an impact
|Thing: What you want to motivate him to do|
|Rishi||Tiger/ Baagh||Market||Aag laga de (Set on fire)|
|Ravi||Lion / Sher||Country||Ghutnon bale crush kar de (Get them on knees and crush them)|
|Uday||Elephant / Haathi||Department||Maar de (Kill)|
|Manish||Horse / Ghoda||Team||Aasman tak le ja (Take to the skies)|
|Deepika||Eagle/ Baaz||Competition||Jung jeet ja (Win the war)
Ravi, to toh Tiger hai Tiger. Ja, market mein aag laga de.
Deepika, tu toh Eagle hai Eagle. Ja, department ko aasman tak le ja
- Dangle promotions
Promotions are nothing but a devious play on the human need for recognition. The bitter truth is that one can spend a lifetime within three designations—early career, middle manager and senior leader. However, waiting a decade for each jump isn’t very appealing so organizations create various meaningless titles to promote employees at quicker intervals.
|Early Careers (can spend 4 to 8 years in this designation)||Management Trainee (1-2 years)
|Assistant Manager (1-2 years)
|Manager (1-2 years)
|Senior Manager (1-2 years)|
|Middle Management (can spend 10 to 15 years at this level)||Junior Vice President (2-3 years)
|Assistant Vice President (2-3 years)|
|Associate Vice President (2-3 years)|
|Vice President (2-3 years)|
|Senior Vice President (2-3 years)|
|Senior Leadership (spend the rest of one’s career here)||Associate Director (3-5 years)|
|Director (3-5 years)|
|Senior Director (3-5 years)|
|Managing Director (until sacked)|
Many organizations don’t give you complete authority over your people actions, instead holding a promotion meeting where the senior leadership gets together to discuss who across the company should be elevated. To ensure that your boffins make the cut, include some bozos as well in your list. They are your sacrificial lambs that will get roundly trashed, but having soundly rejected the first few names you put up, the group will be more receptive to the rest and the boffins will squeak through.
Promotions are best received by employees under duress. Don’t hand them out liberally so wait till you see signs of employees getting extremely impatient, even approaching you with external job offers that they have, before you give in to them.
- Implement simple reward schemes
While annual bonuses and regular promotions go a long way to motivate boffins, supplement them with simple reward schemes, such as sticker charts. These work for all level of employees—from early careers to C-suite executives.
Put up charts in public areas such as cafeterias with the names of participating employees on it. Every time someone does something notable such as finishing an assignment on time, not annoying the regulator or not driving the company into bankruptcy, give that employee a gold star. Set a time frame for the minions to try and collect as many gold stars as they can. At the end of each period, allow them to exchange their stars for instant gratification rewards—three gold stars, for example, could earn fifteen minutes of surfing the internet during office, and five, a box of delicious candy.
Pat star earners on the back or ruffle their hair as you climb a stool to stick the stars on the chart on the wall. They will feel quite emotional.