Wednesday, April 17, 2024

How Often Do You Give People A Good Telling On?

A fellow I knew always boasted about how he kept his staff under control with an iron fist. “Nothing motivates them more than a good telling off,” he would proclaim.

When I asked him if he ever gave them a ‘good telling on’, he just stared in incomprehension.

Morale in his company was at an all time low and staff were leaving in droves. In desperation he called in an expensive consultant to ‘sort the ba$tards out’. The consultant liased with key staff, cogitated for three months, and discussed his findings and suggestions with the highly dubious man. Then, in a lavish set-piece presentation the consultant outlined to the whole company all the wonderful new morale-boosting ideas he was implementing.

My erstwhile acquaintance stood up to thunderous applause and announced that he was delighted that the company appreciated the efforts management were going to and ‘to pay for all these new benefits, twenty-three layoffs would be announced over the next six weeks.’

Not surprisingly, the consultant stormed out in disgust, morale in the company sank to uncharted depths and, eventually, the business went bust.

He never did understand what I meant by ‘a good telling on.’

It is all about positive reinforcement.

It’s so simple that the wonder is that everybody doesn’t do it, but the sad fact is that most business ‘motivate’ their staff by threatening negative outcomes.

* You’ll lose pay * You’ll lose status * You will be passed over for promotion * Certain ‘rights’ may be taken away * You’ll lose your job

All this has ever achieved is creating a ‘blame culture’ in companies where it is better to deflect attention on to somebody else. Office politics.

Negative reinforcement can only ever dampen morale. It has no power to build. Only destroy.

The stereotypical ’40-something’ who is miserable in a dead-end job with no prospects and little hope of escape is the end product of years of negative conditioning.

Make a person fear the outcome of their own actions for long enough and you don’t create a superstar. You create a frightened, trapped jobsworth.And if you have enough people like that in your business then you pretty quickly have a stagnant company.

That is why I believe in ‘telling people on.’

Positive reinforcement is magical. It brightens people’s lives, makes them feel worthwhile and valued. Most importantly of all, rewarding positive actions encouraged more positive actions.

Companies which have learned this lesson absolutely bubble with enthusiastic energy.

Take an example of two schools I know. In both the classroom assistants (teacher’s helpers) are paid minimum wage, work very hard and get all the dirty or boring jobs that nobody else wants.

In one school, these hard-working, long-suffering folk are not encouraged to socialize with the teachers, are often called upon to work extra hours unpaid and are made to feel second-class by the Head Teacher. Not surprisingly they are miserable, demoralized and tend not to stay at the school for very long. They certainly don’t add much to the education of the children.

In the other school the Head is far more enlightened. Classroom assistants are told on joining that ‘all school staff are equal and are here to benefit the children.’ They are welcomed into the teacher’s off- duty room, included in school planning meetings, thanked when they take on extra work and are generally shown that they are valued and integral to the running of the school.

And if one of them is seen to be putting in extra effort or hours it is not unusual for the Head Teacher to quietly thank them and let them take an occasional afternoon off.

Positive reinforcement like this costs nothing. The benefits though, are priceless.

Martin Avis is the author of the best-selling ‘Unlock the Secrets of Private Label eBooks’ – a complete blueprint to private label rights success. Visit to see how you can tap into this goldmine for yourself.

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