Thursday, March 15, 2007

Inspire me!

Motivation is a tricky thing. If people aren't self-motivated, they're not likely to get up and go just because management says so. Yet we'd all rather feel jazzed about where we're working, and it's a lot more fun to be working around other people who are similarly jazzed.

But motivation (let alone inspiring) folks is - as I said not one blogo-second ago - a tricky thing.

Of course, nothing motivates like having a clear idea about what your company's purpose is, understanding what's genuinely good about your products and services, and having that sense in your gut that you can win....And nothing, but nothing, motivates more than winning itself. Success begats success. (Losing motivates people up to a point, but at that point...TIP. If you're working in a company that through ill-luck or bad habit makes a long-run practice out of losing a lot more times than you win, sprint to the nearest exit.)

But trying to motivate and inspire the troops sometimes leads to taking short-cuts and falling into the trap of believing that a pep rally, t-shirt, or mug is going to motivate someone. (Damn, the outlook's not good, I better order me some motivators today.)

Yesterday I posted on business clichés, which, of course, we all use on occasion, but which I find incredibly annoying when they're used repetitively and relentlessly.

Today, I'll focus on something that I find even worse than listening to the leadership spout  clichés, and that's having them reward you with on of those inspirational plaques - brilliantly colored nature or athletic picture - the best of stock photo -  with a motivational saying. God knows, I'm a snob, but I always wince when I see one of these hanging in someone's office.

It is thus somewhat bracing to see business bromides turned upside down on despair.com, which markets demotivators that are take-offs on all those inspirational messages.

There's an entire series of signs, all cynical, some very funny. Here are a couple of the ones I particularly liked.

Ambition: The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly. (Visual: bear eating salmon)

Change: When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can become deadly projectiles. (Visual: tornado)

Dare to slack: When birds fly in the right formation, they need only exert half the effort. Even in nature, teamwork results in collective laziness. (Visual: birds flying in formation)

Discovery: A company that will go to the ends of the Earth for its people will find it can hire them for about 10% of the cost of Americans. (Visual: Taj Mahal)

Underachievement: The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the lawnmower

And, naturally:

Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

As gag office gifts (or office Yankee swaps) go, these are right up there with a statuette of Dilbert's Pointy Haired Boss, and there are certainly many, many occasions and companies for which a little dose of despair is apt. But I have to admit that having read through them all I was almost hungering for one of the "real ones". Snide cynic that I am, even I wouldn't want to work someplace where a lot of these were in evidence.

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My sincere thanks to my brother-in-law John for inspiring me to write this post.

2 comments:

Cahill said...

At lunch yesterday one of the automatons in the cafeteria line said to her friend "The world is your oyster." I immediately without thought quipped "You mean it's gnarly shelled and coated in mud?"

They laughed heartily, but gave me a wide berth at lunch today...

Great post...oh, and the videos on the despair site are excellent!

Juan said...

Great stuff. I love the Underachiever one the best. I just hope that my job isn't so easy that I can be replaced by a robot!

Juan Rodriguez
employment blog