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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


"The beatings will continue until morale improves!" is one of my favorite sayings, because it's playful, pithy, and powerful. Why, oh why, do I spend so much time trying to talk leaders out of this approach?

There are really only two ways to change people's behavior:  1. Pain 2. Pleasure

Now, as a leader you'll need to use both, but you should use pleasure at least four to five times as often as pain. If you're using pain more than that, then either you need to improve your understanding of people, or you have the wrong people.

Remember, leading is like parenting because of the huge difference in power between you and your followers. You need to show the "kids" that you care about them consistently, but you don't want to "spoil" them by letting them do things that aren't in the best interests of the whole organizational "family"

There are too many negative side effects of pain (like how people hate your guts), to use it very often. Besides, if you have the right people it's not necessary very often anyhow.

I submit that if you don't think that your employees ought to be happy and having fun at work, then you need to improve your understanding of people. If the deal you're offering your employees is "come work for me and expect a lot of drudgery, criticism, and punishment," then good luck with that approach! I fear you'll wind up with a lot of unhappy masochists on your payroll...

If you've really hired the wrong people who: a) don't have the right values and b) aren't getting great results, then by all means get some new people. In my work, however, I find this to be the case the minority of the time. More of the time it's a case of "The beatings will continue..."


Technique #1: Hire employees who have values that fit with your organizational culture and who get results.

Technique #2: Motivate employees with pleasure the vast majority of the time. 

Technique #3: Motivate employees with pain only when absolutely necessary to protect the well-being of the whole organizational "family"

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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