Breaking Your Company — Part Two

In Part One we discussed some simple measures you can take to demoralise your staff. In Part Two, we will discuss Advanced Staff Demoralisation Techniques, which often involve building on the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Frustrated Needs by simultaneously denying several needs at once.

Cognitive Dissonance

Use cognitive dissonance to simultaneously diminish self-esteem, health and self-actualisation. Examples of using cognitive dissonance would be to tell staff that their work is Important, their customers are Important, and that we can’t afford to make any mistakes. Then provide tools, processes and methodologies which cause high error rates, and refuse to fix those processes. The cognitive dissonance caused by telling someone that their work is Important, and then setting them up to fail will lead to stress and depression, which are essential if you want to keep staff disaffected.

Another methods of inducing Cognitive dissonance include telling staff that “The Customer Is Always Right” and then making sure they work with customers who are pathologically wrong. Refuse to hear a bad word about the “customer who pays your wages,” forcing your staff to find ways to reconcile the wrongness of the customer into meaningless, soul-destroying busywork, that deep down they know is bad for them, bad for the shareholders and bad for the customer.

The best Cognitive Dissonance trick is to regularly remind staff that they are “the only person who can do this work” to guilt-trip them into remaining when they look for other opportunities, whilst reminding them that they are fungible cogs in a faceless corporate machine who can be off-shored tomorrow, whenever they show any initiative to break out of the psychological prison you are building around them.

Blood Sugar, Caffeine and Sleep

Book early meetings and travel. Book late night meetings and travel. If your staff refuse to attend a conference call at 3am after 24 hours without sleep, question their commitment to work. Then load them up with coffee and sweet treats and see how much more work you can squeeze out of them. You can even make it look like you are a Good Egg for bringing in free coffees and cakes! No-one will suspect you are bombarding them with short-term performance-enhancing drugs which will have devastating effects on their circadian rhythms, pancreas and general long-term health!

Stockholm Syndrome

“Stockholm Syndrome” was first used to describe a hostage situation in 1973, where hostages were observed to have positive feelings of loyalty to their captors, and is equally applicable to the workplace. After a few years, many office workers deal with the cognitive dissonance of being abused by their employer, yet not leaving, by rationalising that they like their management, and that they deserve the treatment. Eventually staff will proudly show visitors around the hovel in which you force them to work, rejecting any suggestion that things could be better.

Performance Reviews

For eleven months of the year, sell the performance review process as something important that you do really well. Tell staff that “I’ve put this on your annual objectives”, or “we’ll address your pay in the end of the year reviews”. Make sure to tell job applicants how good your performance review process is. Act as if you are taking the process seriously until the day of the performance reviews. Have management mandate that everyone in the company must be rated as “Met Expectations”, from the highest-performing staff member, to the most incompetent person. This will destroy self-esteem, the feeling of being recognised, and any sense of fairness.

Employee Satisfaction Surveys

After a while, staff realise that voicing their concerns to management is pointless, and that they may as well howl into the void.

Dangle hope in front of them by running a Job Satisfaction Survey. Make sure to tell staff how important it is, and they you really want honest feedback that you can use to improve the company.

Once the results are in, announce that the staff were all anonymous cowards with hidden agendas, and dismiss any feedback. This feeling of delayed disappointment is much more effective at disillusioning staff than letting them talk to you directly.

The Five Stages of Employee Grief

The Kubler-Ross model is a rough outline to the phases of grief, usually applied to situations of death or illness. In many ways, these five stages of Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance also apply to the spiritual death of your staff in the workplace.

  • DENIAL — a new employee will not want to admit that they have made a mistake. The cognitive dissonance of “I’ve got a job with a great employer” smashing against the reality of how fucked up things are inside your company will lead to denial. They will initially think that they are missing something, that things can’t actually be that bad, and that there is a higher power in management who is making sure that somehow all of this still works out okay in the end. At the end of this period, staff will move into a phase of “are we the baddies?”. Finally realising that they are, will lead to:
  • ANGER — for a brief period after realising that things really are this fucked up, staff will be angry at allowing themselves to be fooled, but then they will think about the fact you pay them and begin:
  • BARGAINING — they will convince themselves that if they try hard enough they can fix things, that they can somehow make their existence meaningful, or achieve recognition and promotion, not realising that values like “hard work”, “persistence” and “innovation” are not valued here.
  • DEPRESSION — after several years of trying to make things work, they will realise that they are powerless to control their destiny and slump into depression. When you identify staff who are depressed, make sure to tell them they need to smile more, because that makes it worse.
  • Finally, ACCEPTANCE — they realise that the machine is not worth fighting, that their skills have all become obsolete, and they can’t get another job; they will resign themselves to coming in every day and doing a bad job and convince themselves that the pay is worth it, and at least they have a pension to look forward to, not suspecting that you have outsourced the pension to another company, who are currently stealing it all under the pretence of “management costs and fees”.

Recognising the stage of grief that an employee is at will give you ideas about how to tailor their working conditions to maximum effect.

In Conclusion

Part Two is much shorter than Part One, but hopefully gives you ideas of how to combine the concepts learned in Part One. In the instalments to come, we will address Business Process Unengineering and Insulating Yourself From The Truth