The Kittson County Examiner likes to keep his ear to the ground to pick up the buzz on the streets, and so recently, a series of rather disturbing stories have trickled my way involving some rather ham-handed tactics of nearby employers.
A number of local businesses, whom I will not name specifically, have been rounding up employees for occasional “motivational seminars” designed to help workers increase productivity.
The disturbing trend is this: Workers are being told that stress on the job is good for them, and that failure to work hard can easily result in the “chopping block.”
One “motivational” story making the rounds in corportate America, and not just here in northern Minnesota, goes this way:
Some fishery company dicovered a problem when shipping cod from Alaska to China.
The cod were transported live in tanks, but by the time they got to China, they were “mushy” and unappetizing. Then someone proposed that if the cod got more exercise during their journey, they would taste better and stay fresher. The solution: Cod are known to hate catfish, and so catfish were mixed in with the cod to “keep them on their toes” (fins?). The cod were eager to escape the torment of their natural enemy. The cod arrived fresh and tasty because of all that exercise derived from swimming for their lives in their prison.
Moral of the story: Employees who have something constantly nipping at their arses, such as demanding customers or a slave-driving supervisor, will stay fresh and excel for the company!
Another person who works for a local large employer said her supervisor recently told them the delightful motivational tale of the ox and the mule. It goes like this:
The ox and mule worked for a farmer in his fields. One day the ox got the bright idea to call in sick so he could relax and take some time off. The mule went to work without the ox. When the mule got home, the ox asked him if the farmer mentioned anything about the ox’s absence. The mule said no, “he didn’t say a word about it.” Pleased, the ox decided to take another day off. At the end of the day, the mule came home again and the ox asked the mule if the farmer said anything about him. “No,” the mule said. “He Didn’t say anything about you, but he have a talk with the butcher.”
In yet another example among many, a friend told me that his group at work were shown a video which explained how certain groups of plants fared better, thrived and “bore more fruit” when the “lazy” “unproductive” “noxious” weeds they shared the ground with were ripped up from the ground.
Although my little survey of local motivational claptrap may not be representative of all businesses, subtle psychological motivational philosophies like these may be a strategy that is working well for employers. According to the Wall Street Journal:
Productivity, or the output per hour worked, rose at a 2.5% annual rate in the third quarter and will probably average between 2% and 2.5% higher for full-year 2010, unless the fourth quarter had a substantial (and unexpected) drop-off. That 2010 increase follows annual gains of 3.5% in 2009.
Certainly, fear and stress are motivators, but they also result in misery and burnout.
What goes around, comes around, as they say. Sooner or later, baiting employees with the fear of the butcher’s ax, or the horror of being relentlessly pursued by a slimy corporate catfish may backfire and may even result in an even bigger horror — GAK! — maybe more unions!
Some advice from your Kittson County Top News Examiner: Employers would be better served if they discovered the many recent and remarkable studies which show that 10 minutes a day of Zen mediation, or allowing employees to simply take regular naps, can do more to increase productivity than negative, and fear-based motivators, and employees stay happier in the long term.
In fact, NASA scientists determined that taking naps can increase productivity up to 24 percent. Just saying.
Minnesota Paranormala * Bird Brain Genius *