Mark sat slumped in the uncomfortable auditorium room chair trying to keep his eyes open while his manager, Ray, was intently taking notes. “Employee wants = business gain,” Ray whispered as he jotted it down.
“Anyone understand what this means?” the presenter asked. The audience stared back blankly. “Remember our list of employee wants? Who can give me a recap?” A young, balding college student raised his hand and spoke, “We’re supposed to document what our employees want,” the presenter nodded and continued, “this is where we use that information. As business do we really care what our employees want?” the presenter put his hand to his ear, “I can’t hear you,” he yelled after a soft “no” was heard in the audience. “Do we really care what employees want?” “No!” yelled the audience.
“Exactly! We don’t care! What we do care about is how we can use that information to increase productivity, profitability, and get ourselves that promotion. And how can we do that?” The balding college student stood up again, gleaming at the recognition, “by using it as leverage, to, to, to…” he shuddered, “get what the business needs.” “Yes!” Exclaimed the presenter.
“For example, Mary is a single mother, you know she’s stressed but she’s compliant. She has accumulated 1.5 weeks of vacation time and wants to take a long weekend to take her kids to see their grandparents. Do we let her go?” Silence from the audience, “No. No we don’t let her go, not without getting something in return to make you look like a gracious and productive manager, any ideas?”
The audience shouted ideas out:
“Ask for overtime?”
“Work through lunch”
“Take on extra projects”
“All good ideas, you just have to make sure you know the labour laws. You can’t specifically ask her to work through a legal break period, but you can force them into working through a break by giving them extra projects. Plus breaking a labour law gives the employee power, and we don’t want that. You see, employees are the female in the employment relationship. A good manager keeps them off balance and instils fear of being rejected. Giving them power is the opposite of productive and profitable.
“But isn’t it a good thing to empower employees and encourage them to make their own decisions?” a confused woman in the back row asked.
“Yes and no,” the presenter answered. “It is good when it makes you look good and increases profits, AKA your bonus.” He smiled. “Making the employee work extra hard for a vacation she’s already accrued is a double win for the company. Employees will become accustomed to working harder for their vacations. Can anyone think of a third level of productivity that can be achieved?”
A mix of blank faces and contemplative smiles emitted from the audience. “The third productivity gain from this psychological game is that once employees learn that they need to improve productivity to go on vacation, they’ll naturally work hard before requesting the time off. Once they request the time off (or whatever else it is they want) you can ask for even more productivity (or whatever it is that would benefit your numbers) before the delivery date of their request.”
Mark’s manager turned to him with a smile and whispered, “This is such a great idea, how much do you think we could improve our numbers with this strategy?”
Mark clicked his pen and wrote shortly on his steno pad, and crumpled the paper. After grabbing his brief case, he stood, turned around and said, “Catch,” and tossed the ball of paper onto his manager’s lap. Confused his manager un-crumpled the paper and read “I QUIT” written in the centre of the page. By the time he looked up, Mark was slowly walking out of the auditorium doors.