The Beatings Will Continue Until Moral Improves

The Beatings Will Continue Until Moral Improves

?Mutiny on the Bounty? is an excellent example of how poor communication strategy can lead to unnecessary staff turnover

Image for postI think I?m failing to make myself clear ? ? Pixabay

In this article

  1. Communicating the wrong way
  2. A motivating way to communicate
  3. How to trigger intrinsic motivation in your colleagues

An interesting story about unexpected staff turnover

In 1787, Captain Bligh and his crew were dispatched from England on the HMS Bounty, to collect breadfruit from Tahiti and transport it back to the West Indies. It took five months to collect the samples and re-provision the ship. Men at sea for months, with little or no opportunity to attract exotic, lovely wives back in England, started seriously weighing their futures.

With so much time on the island, a number of of the sailors struck up relationships with the local women and rumors about sailors wanting to stay on the island started to spread.

Naturally, Captain Bligh worried about the behavior he saw in his staff and their waining commitment to the mission. Like any good captain from this time period, Captain Bligh started handing out harsher and harsher punishments to his men.

After all, it was for the good of the men. They were infatuated with a foreign culture and surely, in the end, his crew would come around and eventually thank the good captain for keeping them from a primitive life, retired forever on a tropical paradise.

Image for postCan?t a hard-working guy catch a break! ? Visual Hunt

The crew members of the Bounty were unable to clearly communicate their desires to stay on the island in a convincing way to Captain Bligh and the good captain was equally unable to motivate his staff to complete their mission.

Naturally, this impasse led to a rather toxic working environment causing a further downward spiral in communications between the crew and the officers. Ultimately, a completely disengaged crew took the ship and set Captain Bligh adrift in a small boat with his most loyal supporters.

Communicating the wrong way

People who aren?t in love with their jobs have given up trying to explain their work-related frustrations to motivated people. Demotivated and disengaged employees can?t understand why motivated people love their jobs so much. They can?t figure out why motivated people come to work early, leave late, volunteer for projects, are so driven and intense.

Motivated people don?t understand why other people don?t love the work they do, why they complain so much, why they are always last to volunteer, late to meetings, look so bored or tired. It?s so tempting to ?whip? demotivated people into submission.

This communication breakdown is a serious problem that hurts productivity, hurts staff morale, hurts employee engagement numbers, hurts employee retention and if left unchecked can cause increased sick and stress-related leave, increased resignations and increased re-organizations, cutbacks and layoffs.

You might be thinking;

?Edward, what?s the problem? Fire people who are disengaged and replace them with motivated, driven people.?

Problem 1 ? the number of people who love their work is greatly outnumbered by people who either hate their work and are simply avoiding getting fired or are working because they feel they have to. Even if you have the guts and the power to conduct mass layoffs, trying to replace everyone who isn?t ?driven? is almost certainly out of the question for the vast majority of companies. From GALLUP

Problem 2 ? reorganizing, restructuring, downsizing and redundancies might temporarily improve financial numbers and it might even temporarily improve productivity, but it isn?t a long-term solution. In the long-run, it won?t solve the underlying problem of employee disengagement. So what?s the solution?

Image for postPixabay ? Thommas68

A motivating way to communicate

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is simply a system of rewards and punishments. Work hard, I?ll pay you a bonus. Don?t work hard, I?ll demote you, transfer you, reorganize you, fire you.

The ?motivated? have to understand, extrinsic motivation is largely useless for converting demotivated people into motivated, productive employees. Demotivated employees expect to not get the bonus. They are largely not afraid of punishment or are very adept at avoiding punishment.

On the other hand, employees who are already strongly motivated to work will happily accept a bonus, but the bonus is not the reason they are working so hard. They come to work because they love the job ? they are intrinsically motivated.

Increasing bonuses that aren?t winnable or threatening more draconian punishments simply widens the gap between the engaged and the disengaged.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is that feeling of desire to do something simply because you enjoy it.

For example, I love going to the boxing gym. It?s hot, smelly, exhausting exercise and I regularly get punched in the face. Worst of all, I PAY MONEY for this abuse. Nevertheless, I head to the gym as often as I can.

Not because I think I have to (although the exercise is benefiting my health), but because I want to. I want to get better at boxing ? I want other people to notice and admire my improving boxing ability. I want to share my boxing knowledge with other less experienced boxers and of course, I want to share my passion with like-minded people.

For most people, work isn?t a hobby, but if we look closely at why we do participate in the hobbies that we do, it gives us an interesting way to understand the power of intrinsic motivation and how to start spreading intrinsic motivation to others at work.

If we want others to share our intrinsic passion for our work we need to start offering our team members opportunities to improve their intrinsic feelings triggered by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

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One small personal success story

Intrinsic motivation. I get it. You don?t need to get so close! ? GIPHY

How to spread intrinsic motivation in the office

Autonomy ? Everyone wants to be part of the group ? coming up with all of the ideas yourself and pushing others into executing your plans is foolish if you are trying to build a team.

Why do you have to have all the ideas? I know you?re motivated and smart, but ?demotivated? doesn?t mean stupid, ?demotivated? means demotivated. Do yourself a favor and start listening to others. Stop always giving the solution.

Bring your team together, clearly define the problem you are trying to solve and let your team solve the problem. It might not exactly be the solution you were thinking of, but I assure you; two heads are better than one. Solutions created by a group are routinely better than those created by only one person.

Best of all, by including all team members in the solution building process, no one is begrudgingly executing your plan anymore. Now everyone has a vested interest in making the solution work because it?s at least in part their own idea!

Working on a project you came up with is intrinsically motivating because it re-enforces a feeling of autonomy.

Mastery ? Everyone wants to be respected and admired ? I know you love getting the credit, who doesn?t? But if you?re serious about changing the mindset of your team, you?d better get used to sharing the credit with others and acknowledging others have done a great job, without your help!

If you?re serious about being a leader, then you need to understand leadership is not about control, it?s about helping others grow. The better your team gets at solving problems without you, the more confident they will become.

The more your team members see their skills and responsibility growing, the more your team members will want to offer their unique abilities to other projects and the more they will want to share their unique knowledge with other less experienced team members.

Individually acknowledging your team members? accomplishments and ideas is a sure way to show your team that you respect them and even admire them.

Getting acknowledgment and being admired by your team is intrinsically motivating because it re-enforces a feeling of mastery.

Purpose ? Everyone wants to share their passion with others ? I think getting your team working together to solve common problems is a lot like playing on the same sports team or being in the same army unit or being a die-hard fan of a rock group. Sharing a common passion (even if it?s work-related) allows people who might never socialize in ?real-life? to share a common passion they can bond over.

Sharing your interests with like-minded people is intrinsically motivating because it re-enforces a feeling of purpose.


So, if you?ve been thinking recently that the beatings should continue until morale improves, I hope you understand that over the long term ? like Captain Bligh, you are doomed to fail. Forget about smashing people into a box that fits your model of how you think things should work and start reaching out and intrinsically encouraging the input and ideas of your team instead. Like Captain Bligh, you might think you hold all the power, but ultimately you are greatly outnumbered and a disengaged crew can really make your life miserable.

I?m Edward Alexander Iftody, founder of Edward Alexander Consulting and author of ?Surviving Work?.


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