American businesses are achieving the same 2007 productivity with seven million fewer employees in 2011. After 3 years of corporate belt tightening you are about to diagnose corporate anorexia. But as long as you are getting the job done, you won’t ever get the help you’ve been asking for. Consider a new approach. It’s risky, but it could get you the kind of attention you need from the people with the purse strings. Try for a monstrous failure. Slow, epic failure from a team that used to be superstars might be the one thing they can’t ignore. However, unless you want to become one of the seven million unemployed, you are going to have to be calculating, willful and embrace the evil genius within (lab jacket required). Here are the top ways to make your workplace truly terrible and attain an “epic fail” for your team.
#10 Don’t Celebrate Your Successes
Great demoralization happens when teams don’t have the vaguest clue that anyone anywhere appreciates them. Try saying things like, “Well, sure you worked long hours, but it’s your job.” Or try, “Yeah, that idea you had was good, but they pay you to think, right?” Drive it home with, “Your husband/wife/son/daughter/dog/cat/landlord doesn’t even know you anymore, you might as well be here.”
Focus on failure! Point out tiny, meaningless and preferably unactionable errors like typos in completed work. It keeps the team focused on failure and retroactively converts prior success to failure. You want them so rattled that all creative problem-solving will stop. No eleventh hour rally that wrenches success out of the teeth of failure for your team! You have vision and, as it turns out, revision at your disposal.
#9 Don’t Respect Time
Set two-hour-long mandatory meetings and show up 45 minutes late complaining about the barista who took so long getting your double macchiato. Surprise a team member by having them lead the meeting. Then answer emails on your Blackberry. Forward long, pointless YouTube viral videos (there are plenty), send urgent Farmville requests (get that barn built!), email 5-page jokes-of-the-day, and encourage personal phone calls to estranged family members.
If you can get away with it, nap at work. Preferably, at your desk with your forehead resting on the delete key, so you can get rid of all those shared files on the network server. No reason to disregard multi-tasking just because you’re embracing evil.
#8 Don’t Support Anyone
Your team needs to toughen up, so stop coddling them. Sell them out and blame them for everything. Dress them down in front of large groups of peers and company leaders. You’ll need to protect yourself anyway, so do it while showing people what a tough cookie you are.
And, don’t give people the tools they need. They aren’t babies. You have a tight budget and you need a new office chair. That Windows 98 PC has been doing the job just fine for 13 years. No one will be able to say that you aren’t making the most of your resources!
#7 Do NOT Train Anyone!
Throw those new folks to the wolves and see if they have the moxie to survive. If you have to train them, use training tools that are out-of-date and confusing. Give them a manual written in Chaucerian English and return a week later. If there is any glimmer of humanity left in their eyes, you’ve failed. Have them read it again.
Note: If the trainee likes the Chaucerian, invoke your company’s 90-day probationary period and fire them immediately. They’re too smart and a threat. Don’t you love lose-lose strategies like these?!
#6 Let Them Google A Road Map to Success
If you’re a manager, do not tell your team how you will evaluate them. Don’t set goals at all or change them frequently. Vaguely suggest an inaccurate set of success criteria. As a coworker, you can present the team with a proposal that you “discovered” on the network that outlines a completely confusing and incorrect set of success criteria.
#5 Rules, Schmules!
Rules are for minions. If your company has rules that are impossible for employees to follow and still get stuff done (like your corporate computer use policy) focus on those. This will force your tenacious do-gooders to knowingly break rules to get work done. Awesome, right?
Have fun with rules! Make them up as you go. Apply them arbitrarily. Rat people out daily.
#4 Practice Acts of Random Time Management
Look closely at the core of your business and then have laser focus in the opposite direction. Come up with a new logo that everybody hates. Upgrade the corporate style guide to require two spaces after a period and apply it retroactively. And don’t forget to ignore your customers.
If you’re a manager, send your team down a rabbit hole doing extensive research on topics neither important, nor urgent. Don’t organize or prioritize work. And do NOT plan. The work is the work and they’ll get it done, even if it’s in the middle of the night. Remember, anything worth doing wrong is worth doing wrong 5 or 6 times. And next year, you’ll have appropriately inflated hours to get a team 4 times the size with you as the puppet master, clandestinely building your empire.
#3 Hire or Keep Dead Weight
You are not going to fail with every member of your team hoisting away to keep your ship sailing smoothly. Add a little dead weight. A warm body, a bully, an overly political ladder scrambler or any other non-team-playing, sneaky, unprofessional, pain-in-the-collective-neck can be the anchor that drags along behind your team on every project. With enough abuse, you can probably turn an existing staff member into dead weight. As your great people drop like flies, hire up with one quality in mind – the ability to follow your random whim. Just be sure your dead weight employees aren’t very smart or they may out maneuver you. There’s only room for one mad captain on this sinking ship, Ahab!
#2 Don’t Build Teams
Whatever you do, don’t foster teamwork. Plant anger and distrust among the members of your team with stolen lunches, murmured innuendo of another team member’s superiority, and “accidental” reply all emails that name names and crush souls. Try phrases like, “I know no one else thinks you are right for this job, but someday, I’ll be proud of you.”
When the feedback process works, it’s a great way to engage employees, build consensus and solve problems. But you can cut that process off at the knees and use it to create despair. You can waste lots of time and break hopeful hearts by ignoring or (even better) punishing honest feedback. Remember, we’re looking for spirit obliterating opportunities, people!
#1 Don’t Respect People
R-E-S-P-E-C-T is for divas, not your rag tag team. Dispose of all basic courtesy (no please or thank you). Send a clear message that you don’t care about your team’s personal lives by finding ways to keep your short-staffed team on a minimum of 60 hours per week (as long as they’re salaried) until their skin is practically transparent.
Experienced employees have seen worse than you come along, so you’re going to have to work extra hard to abuse and break them. Oh, and those folks on the front line who are the face of the company to your customer are especially important to treat with utter disdain.
Good luck. Studies show that flawless execution of one of these will slowly build a terrible workplace. Executing any three will ensure an epic failure for your team in no time.