Teamwork and Management Greed: Speaking of Negative Motivation

By Barry Maher

Many managers extol and even demand teamwork then set up situations, which destroy any possible team spirit.

Tip: Don’t expect team players, if you haven’t made it a team sport.

If you want team play then set up competitions in which one employee wins and others lose, you aren’t going to get team play. At least not among those employees.

If some employees have to work significantly harder than others who are supposed to be part of the same team, how are they going to feel? Especially if some of those they’re outworking are supposed to be leading the team. How would you feel?

And, though my CEO friends don’t want to hear it, there’s also the continuing issue of compensation. In 1990, the average CEO made about 45 times what his average worker made; today it’s 450 times. Companies lose money and their CEOs get $40 million. Companies don’t reach their targets and their boards of directors redefine the targets—making sure the top executives get their bloated bonuses. Business writer Charles R. Morris calls it, “affirmative action for the managerially challenged.”

If you’re one of those CEOs, you may be absolutely certain you’re worth 450 times what one of your average workers is worth. But I want to hear you explaining that to those particular “teammates.”

“[The CEO] made over $10 million last year, I made $39,000,” is the way one of those average workers put it. “That tells me how he values himself and how he values me. If we all bust our butts like he’s asking, next year I may make as much as $39,900. And he’ll make $20 million. How can we be on the same team when we’re not even in the same league?”

“It is more apparent every day that our managers are making decisions that will influence their bonuses, stock options, et cetera, not decisions for the good of the company,” insists an employee of a major chemical company.

AT&T fired their president after just nine months, saying he lacked “intellectual leadership.” He got a severance package worth $26 million. To me, getting $26 million for nine months work sounds like pretty solid evidence of intelligence. Paying $26 million for nine months work may not be the best possible example of “intellectual leadership” on the part of the board of directors.

On the other hand, Silicon Valley companies are attracting and retaining top people by sharing stock options not just with top executives, but throughout the company—in some cases that includes the janitor.

Lynn Parker who runs Parker LePla—a 22 person PR agency in Seattle, Washington—distributes nearly 40 percent of profits to employees. Her stock option plan vests everyone after six months. Only five people have left the company in the last six years. “Unless your people experience some type of ownership,” she says, “you’re going to have turnover.”

Tip: If I don’t win when the team wins, I’m not on the team. And it will never take more than one victory for me to figure that out.

© Copyright 2007, 2013,  Barry Maher Associates, Las Vegas, Nevada

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