Friday, August 18, 2006

Employee Satisfaction, part II

As usual, I missed the next best Employee Satisfaction meeting inflicted on the workers by BS, thank the zombie jebus. I did attend a few that were real humdingers, but nothing that could compare to the horsey incident, or the one that happened shortly after I was quit, which some employees called the Ship Happens incident.

BS got hold of yet another management tutorial, this one called It's Your Ship, written by naval officer Captain Abrashoff. The last management primer they promoted was Who Moved My Cheese, a book about dealing with change that was obviously intended for readers who can’t comprehend the complex adventures of Dick and Jane. BS management the cheese book, and passed it to the workers who a) felt it confirmed our beliefs that management operated on a four year old level (they were fond of inserting cartoon characters into official training videos), and b) knew change was a part of life before it became an Essential Management Concept.

Anyway, I didn’t read the ship book but I did a little (very little) research and it looks pretty good. If you want a book on management principles and you’re actually able to manage people instead of just issuing standardized simplistic aphorisms and your ability to grasp concepts goes beyond the Dick and Jane level, I highly recommend it. From what I read, the underlying concepts are that you should analyze situations and challenge assumptions before proceeding instead of just applying conventional wisdom (whatever the hell that is), and you should focus on the things under your control. Both are good things for any manager to know. Naturally, BS management totally fecked it up.

The Captain knew he had little control over his crew’s pay and a survey showed that pay wasn’t a big motivator for them anyway (you don’t join the military to get rich – you do it to get girls and kill people on the taxpayers’ nickel), so he put that issue aside and focused on the things he could affect. BS management read that and decided it meant they should assume no workers are motivated by money and it should not be a consideration for them either. The author further demonstrated how he valued the input of his people and let them take ownership of their tasks whenever possible so their pride and innovation would become part of their work. BS took this to mean that every business should be modeled after a ship’s operation, and that the employees were ultimately responsible for their own morale. If they were unhappy, it was their fault for not trying harder.

BS upper management videotaped a seminar wherein they explained all this (giving the poor Captain credit) for middle management, and then challenged them to implement these brash new ideas. BS middle management did this by having all the employees sit in a hot, crowded meeting room and watch the videotape. Yes – instead of trying to motivate the employees, they let them watch the tape explaining how they should all be treated as underpaid sailors who should learn to motivate themselves. That was funny enough on its own, but BS heightened the irony by making them work through lunch in order to watch it.

If there’s one thing my current job doesn’t do, it’s provide enough blogging material. Maybe I should file a complaint.


Tony said...

Having been a vendor to BS and having worked in management for some years these satisfaction posts remind me of what I'm not missing. So many times the worker is so demoralized they view these poor attempts as something grand that will somehow turn their mundane careers around. When trying to empower them I steered clear of the "group therapy" type employee scenarios and prefered to work one-on-one or in small groups.

Tracy Lynn said...

These things almost make me wish I could hire you.
I really have to adjust my meds.

Cocaine Jesus said...

employee satisfaction meeting? you are having a laugh surely?

employee's should be seen but never heard!!

Angie said...

"If they were unhappy, it was their fault for not trying harder" That was the concept behind tying satisfaction to pay. If we were unhappy, we could find a way to fix it (motivated by our greed)...or sit around and whine about it and never get a raise again.

Grant said...

tony - mostly I remember thinking "Another employee satisfaction thingy? Crap, what are they doing to us now."

tracy - I'm sure you got as far as Human Resources before you remembered that you don't, technically, have your own company.

cj - more like having a little cry whenever the topic comes up.

angie - you should work that to your advantage. "Give us more money and we'll say whatever you want."

PBS said...

Have you heard of "Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results"? They have a "Fish Camp" to motivate employees by having fun on the job. It's a worthy philosophy but didn't work at our place. The uppers were having fun at our expense, while we worked! Nothing like having to be the butt of jokes and pranks while still having to do quality work quickly!

Liz said...

Yes, maybe switch jobs Grant because this is good stuff :)

Glad I am not dealing with it though.