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So You Want to Be a Manager?

Chapter 5: Employee Motivation

Every good manager knows that there are two ways to motivate your workers—the carrot or the stick. These symbols date back to the ancient Aztecs, who would often motivate captives to cooperate with them by alternatingly beating them with canes of long grass (similar to bamboo, but more pliable) and the largest carrots that could be found in the district. Because of the length, the canes could hit multiple prisoners at once, but it was often found that the carrots would actually cause more pain and bruising within the area of application.

In modern day management, the carrot and the stick refers to the tough decision every manager must make between implementing systemic punishments for workers, or individual humiliation and degradation. Which will do more to improve office productivity and curb negative behaviour? If you answered both, you may just be upper management material—if you stay in line and do what you’re told.

Take, for example, a case that recently took place in our Dallas office, where one employee was continually eating another employee’s lunch.1 Two options are possible: 1) Develop an “office linebacker” position, such as the one modeled by “Terrible” Terry Tate in the Reebok reality series,2 OR 2) publicly mock and humiliate the offending worker, focusing primarily on his weight, height, looks, scent, or mannerisms to curb the behaviour. The answer? Both. While the humiliation provides a crippling ostracization from the group that will eat away on the offender from the inside, the systemic implementation of pain to a workforce will almost certainly curb not only the offender’s behaviour, but the counter-productive tendencies other workers may have.

Just remember, should either implementation be questioned, and threats of a union be proposed, it will be necessary to become more passive-aggressive, ceasing all reformation efforts and waiting until the imminent threat of a union argument has passed. It may be necessary to continue this passive-aggressive approach with the instigator until they decide to leave the organization of their own accord due to frustration.3

Should employee morale prove too low to adequately sustain either the carrot or the stick approach, it may be necessary to move on to a) active brainwashing, or b) divide and conquer.


Brainwashing has taken on a negative connotation in our society. However, there is a longstanding tradition of indoctrination that flows through all of our societal touchstones, from religious institutions, through academia, and all the way down to the nuclear family. There is nothing wrong with using this time-held tradition to ensure that your employees focus on the corporate good—particularly if they don’t know about it.

Examples of brainwashing include:

-Instituting arbitrary, but generally innocuous policies that must be adhered to as a part of the “corporate culture,” which can gradually be grown into a general acceptance of any and all working conditions, and reinforced through peer pressure. Examples of this include corporate branding, common dress and deportment, and daily group ensembles of the “chicken dance.” 4

-Tying employees to chairs, pinning their eyes open and forcing them to watch films in which employees enjoy their jobs, participate in union activities, and show individuality. These films should be accompanied by unpleasant or painful sensations to reinforce the wrongness of the displayed behaviour.

Divide and Conquer

Divide and conquer (also called “favouritism” by the uneducated5) involves pitting employees against one another by applauding the accomplishments of one employee, or group of employees, regardless of how mundane or nonsensical those “accomplishments” may be, in order to draw the ire of the remaining staff. A skillful manager will then focus on lauding another employee or group’s accomplishments while shunning the previous favourite, and repeat, until the employees can barely stand to remain in the same room as one another. This will ensure that there is no effective opposition to any policies that may be introduced, which will be beneficial when it becomes clear that the policies chosen require additional work or hardship for staff with no additional compensation, remove rights or freedoms, or place harsh restrictions on individuality.

Finally, should no other tactics prove sufficient to motivate your employees, begin firing the most vocal of your detractors. Remember, your goal is not to fire workers who produce the least, it is to fire those who appear least loyal to you. After all, if your workers aren’t with you, they must be against you.

While ultimately, this final tactic may not increase moral within your unit, it should serve to create an artificial, fear-based spike in productivity, which will allow you to report positive results to those above you in the short term (which is, of course, all that matters).

1 Normally, of course, management would simply take this as a survival of the fittest type of conflict and remain aloof; however, the employee that was taking the additional lunch was also using company time to eat it.
2 Office linebackers were introduced in the Reebok series to curb negative employee habits and increase productivity through the application of pain. Though the series was intended to be satirical, important motivational ideas can be gleaned from it.
3 Within government, it is also acceptable if the employees leave for another branch or ministry; after that, they become another manager’s problem.
4 There has been some evidence that indicates this last option may have directly contributed to employee mutiny and subsequent bureaucracide in some areas of the country. These are, to date, unconfirmed.
5 Uneducated – from the Latin un (not) + e (from) duces (leaders) meaning literally “not management.” Unlike divide and conquer, favouritism involves the continual promotion and assistance of one employee or group of employees, often despite obvious incapability or mediocrity. This idea is further explored in the next chapter, “The Disciple/Golden Boy.”

Still need a laugh? Why not check out some of the other articles from Laugh at the World?

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