A friend of mine who works at a very large software company told me about how a bunch of motivational posters were suddenly put up all over his workplace. These posters were intended to be motivational and inspiring. They were everywhere, infesting blank walls and break areas. Here’s an example of one of the posters:
Well, you can guess what happened. This company has a lot of really smart employees and when they saw these posters that had pictures and slogans more suitable to a 6th grade classroom than to one of the largest, smartest companies in the world, the employees were not impressed.
My friend sent me a picture of a poster that appeared in his break room on April 1st:
So, this is all harmless and humorous but points out unintended consequences. Interestingly, the posters actually did improve morale, but not as intended — by bonding rank and file employees against the lameness of the posters.
Workplace motivation is a serious topic and it’s surprising how often management efforts to improve motivation and morale can backfire and have a demotivating effect. “Employee of the Month” awards are a perfect example of what not to do. But in this example, the motivation-improvement effort worked, quite by accident.