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"The Art of Demotivation"

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  • "The Art of Demotivation"

    A book (Fast Company called it a manifesto) that looks like a thought-provoking sendup of motivational schtick, corporate ethics, and the like.

    Kersten is bent on undermining the multimillion-dollar motivational industry -- "Big Boost," one might call it -- that every year persuades America's corporate managers to lay out big money to try to get employees to work harder, feel better about their jobs, and have a better damn attitude.

    "What executives fail to realize is that the life-changing insights sold by the motivational industry are the source of their problems rather than the solution," Kersten writes. "The primary objective of the motivational industry is to stoke the fires of your employees' narcissism so that they fall in love with themselves all over again, just as they did when they saw their own beauty in the distorted reflection of their mother's adoring gaze."

    For Kersten, the heart of the problem lies in what he calls the "noble employee myth," a product of what he dryly calls the "motivational educational-industrial" -- or "ME-I" -- complex. The central elements of this myth are that employees are good and productive labor is natural for them. Management is responsible for creating the circumstances that unleash employee motivation and should be blamed when employees fail. Profits should not be pursued at the expense of employee satisfaction. On it goes -- the very kinds of things you'd expect to read if Jean-Jacques Rousseau happened to be unleashed in an HR department.

    This is all a myth, Kersten argues, because employees aren't noble. In fact, they're the source of most corporate problems. Employees make bad decisions. "[They] possess a capacity for bad judgment that is beyond comprehension," he says. They alienate customers, lack maturity, exploit their employer's generosity, and steal ($21 billion in the retailing sector alone, he cites).

    And if belief in this myth is bad for business, why, it's terrible for employees, too, causing them to suffer an elevated self-image that their abilities cannot support. The result: "They demand more income than they merit, more respect than they have earned, more autonomy than they can handle, and more leisure time than they need."
    No heros in the authors' view, and no solutions either, but looks like a refreshing take on old problems.

  • #2
    Their website,, is a hoot.


    • #3

      Originally posted by Arduinna
      No heros in the authors' view, and no solutions either, but looks like a refreshing take on old problems.
      I go on to whenever I need a good laugh. One of my favorite demotivation posters reads:


      Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people.

      After reading that article, I'm pretty sure I know who wrote it....

      All seriousness aside, I've found Theory X and Theory Y to both be equally unrealistic as universal prescriptions. The fact is that some of your employees will be enthusiastic, self-motivated achievers, and some of your employees are unproductive whiners who should be fired where they stand. Theory Y makes your achievers happy, but allows the dolts to get away with murder. Theory X gets the dolts under control, but usually aggravates the hell out of the achievers who are the source of most of your business performance. My own philosophy is Theory Y until you screw up enough times that I'm going to revert to Theory X.


      My all time favorite demotivator is:


      It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.


      • #4
        That is a funny site. I love the posters!