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Treat Your Employees Like Slaves and Wait for the Revolution

"Don't waste your time on making your employees happy, because nothing good will ever come of it. "

You can never over invest in your employees

I do believe this is left over from all those late 1980's, early 90's MBA Schools of Strategy that if you work your employees harder, you will see more productivity out of them. Someone thought Americans should work just like slaves on an old Roman Barge. It is also thought that if you work your employees like slaves, they will act like them. So don't look so shocked when they try to escape, run away, and eventually revolt like them.

The confustion stems from some draconian business school logic that if your treat your employees like crap, they will be productive. This is not true. They will work, because they need money, but they will also look for the first opportunity that comes their way to escape.

Really treat your employees badly and you now open the door for them to revolt. Unions are always a popular way to go with you have a group of unhappy employees. But also you will find that in companies and horrible working environments higher than normal Workers Compensation Claims, Workplace Harassment Complaints, accidents and safety violations (and reports to government agencies), and of course theft.

How do you quell the rebellion? First, you can try to make your employees happy. But that goes against everything you were taught by that former boss you hated so much? He would always tell you;

"Just because your employees are happy, does not mean they are at their maximum productivity."

First let’s look at what makes a happy employee. I have always believed in the saying, a Happy Employee is someone who wakes up in the morning, not because they have too, but because they want too. You’re motivated about your job. It’s not about the pay, or benefits, or even the little perks. It’s about at the end of the day; you leave your employer with a sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT. It’s the spirit of the job, the team work, the overall positive atmosphere of where you work that makes a happy employee. Dozens of survey’s have been done and even in these hard economic times, money and salary are not what make happy employees. Don’t believe me, keep reading.

We have all had a job or time during our employment where you were not that busy. At first you said, “Yeah, I can use this break.” But then after a while, you get bored. You begin to question yourself, but worse, your boss. Ever utter these words…”I wish I had more to do around here” or “I could be doing a lot more,” and the enevitable, “If you gave me more to do, I could be so much more productive.” Excluding those sloths in society, majority of us out there really want to leave work at the end of the day, feeling as if we accomplished something. It’s no fun to sit around with your friends after work and be the only one without some story of accomplishment.

“Today, I wrote seventeen pages of computer code,” “I finished a huge deal with our biggest clients,” “our entire office finally finished that project we started last month,” and “I sat around and really did not do much.”

Which one of these statements, really makes you feel like you have accomplished something in your life and proud that your part of a team or excited about working for your employer. Which one is going to make you want to get up tomorrow morning and do it all over again? Yes, three out of the four statements probably involved some stress, probably involved some effort, and more than likely involved commitment and dedication. But three out of the four created a sense of accomplishment, pride, and self worth.

It’s not a secret, that humans enjoy feeling good about themselves. We all crave recognition, but we also crave and desire self appreciation. It’s very import we understand our place and by accomplishing goals in our workplace, we as human beings feel part of the something.

Here is a question to ask yourself. Do you like it better when your boss has set a goal for you to accomplish or just tells you to do your best on something?

What is your best? Do you always give it your best? Were you better last week than this week? Do you have better days than others? What does best mean? Does someone do it better than me? Was my last not the best I have ever done?

When your given a goal, you know the who, what, where, when, and why of the project or task at hand. Even if it’s a goal that you don’t believe you can attain, you have a target and it’s better to have a target to focus on than to be questioning who, what, where, when and why are you doing this.

Now you’re wondering, if what I am saying is, “keep your employees busy that will keep them happy.” NO and for those managers and supervisors that believe busy work is productivity, you need to turn in your name badge and find a new profession. Employees can smell busy work like a shark smells blood in the water. If you have time to waste on busy work, than you have time to invest on your employees.

What are good investments for creating more productive (happy) employees?

  1. Have meetings with your employees to find out more efficient ways to improve the job design. Who knows more about the way to do something more efficiently than those people who are doing it? Employees know what are wastes of time and effort.
  2. Increase your company’s commitment to REAL TRAINING. I did not say; spend more time sitting in a room, paying someone to talk about nothing beneficial to your staff. Invest in better training for your employees. Stop sending managers off to Florida for a two week training seminar on Lean Process’s only to have him or her return with a great tan and carpo-tunnel from swinging the golf club too much. That is very counter-productive, not just from the point your company wasted thousands of dollars on the training, but also the employees know and sense it, and to use the shark metaphor again. Management Boondoggles like that, throw blood into the pool of employees. If you want to DECREASE productivity, continue to waste training money that way.
  3. Provide your staff with better tools. Oh, but that costs too much. But think about it, if you have an employee who is giving you 100%, but they need a new chair, desk, phone, computer, wrench, mop, etc…. and you provide it to them, now they are giving you 120%, is that not worth it? I had a maintenance person for a very high end property. I made it a practice to make sure he had all the tools required and that he did not need to ask for a new mop or broom ever. Guess what? Yes, this maintenance person was always at the top of his game. I never had complaints on the property. Other managers in that company, were constantly complaining and replacing their maintenance people because they never took the time provide their staff with the tools they needed. They waited until every string was used on the mop, every straw on the broom and they wondered why they were inundated with complaints from clients and customers about the level of service.
  4. Remove the obstacles that promote counter-productive behavior. This could be some draconian company policy that was installed years before and has not been adapted to the new work climate. Just as our clothing styles change with the seasons, you must also adapt your company policies to the times. I did some consulting work for a company here in Seattle that during the summer, they had a modified work schedule, so that employees can leave early on Fridays and take advantage of our short summers. You would have thought they were giving out $1000 bonuses every week. Employee call outs dropped drastically during the summer months, productivity went through the roof and all because they asked their employees to work longer hours during the week. Now there were some managers who objected to this practice. But when you heard their reasoning behind it, you understood it was because they liked it the way it was the other 8 months out of the year. They did not respond in a positive way to anything that changed their way of doing things. THEY WERE A SELFISH OBSTACLE.

So the lesson to all of this is do not keep your employees busy. Busy work is counter-productive. Remember, humans are goal driven creatures. So give your staff goals. Do not make them set their own, because personal goals are not always workplace objectives. Be a good boss and communicate to your employees and challenge them daily, weekly, and monthly by giving them goals to accomplish and let’s see just how productive they become.

Now back to the age old question, does productivity lead to happy workers or do happy workers lead to productivity? If you enjoyed this article and want more, please take advantage of the free subscription to my articles or if you have questions, leave a comment below or email me at

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