Monday, 4 April 2011

How to show your employees how much you hate them

Due to a combination of my restlessness, my consulting experience, and employers that insist on moving offices frequently, I've had the dubious honour of working in a variety of environments.

Today I will teach you, the employer, how to show your staff just how much you hate them.

The Kitchen Is Not For Eating In
Since eating and drinking is unfortunately a fundamental part of being human and staying alive, you will need to provide your staff with a space that pretends to address these needs.

The best example I have seen so far has been a "kitchen" with: no sink; no kettle; no microwave; a tiny under-counter fridge for employee food (for approx 50 employees); nowhere to sit and a maximum capacity of 3 people standing. You're probably wondering how I knew it was a kitchen.  Well, it had a counter top. And a coffee machine which also dispensed slightly warmed water.  And The Largest Drinking Water Dispenser In The World1.

The most important thing to remember here is that This Is Not A Communal Space.  Heaven forbid that your minions actually talk to each other.

For bonus points: if you really want to show your code monkeys how much you despise them, you can dispense with the coffee machine entirely and supply only Nescafe Gold Blend instant coffee.  Honestly, developers don't care what form their caffeine comes in2.

The Importance Of The Loo/Bathroom/Restroom
(Note for our North American brethren - there's no bath in there and I certainly don't go there to rest.  Can we call them toilets and be done with it?)

If the cubicle door looks like it's already come off the hinges a couple of times and been sellotaped back on, if the cubicles are made of plywood, if there's a genuine chance that someone could get trapped in there by the dodgy door lock, if the loo paper is that tracing paper you used to get in school, perfect. You've managed to convey to your staff just how little they mean to you.  If you have been successful in this, your employees will show you exactly how they feel about you by the state they leave the bathrooms in.

For bonus points: don't pay the cleaning staff enough so the paper and towels aren't replaced frequently.

The Office Canteen Is Also Not For Eating In
If you've done your job correctly with the kitchen and the toilets, your employees are probably desperate for somewhere they can congregate.  You must not allow this - if they get together, they could have Dangerous Conversations, where they Share Ideas and Collaborate.

A rookie mistake would be to not provide a canteen at all.  Do not fall into this trap! If you don't provide food on site, your staff will leave the building, and who knows where they're going to go, what they'll get up to, who they might meet?  No, you want to provide them with facilities you control.

However, you want them to go to their miserable little cubicles to eat, so make sure there isn't enough space for them to sit in the canteen.  For best results, provide a couple of tables and chairs but ensure they're always filled.  That gives them elusive hope that maybe, some day, they will be the ones on that table.

For bonus points: have a separate management restaurant.  This should be visible enough that your employees are aware it exists and that it's better (table service, for example), but private enough that it becomes a mythical place. Then you must make sure they know, every day, that they are not allowed to use it.

Go For Tones Of Grey And Brown
Nothing says "your life is worthless" like a 1970s-council-style-office.  If it's made of concrete and has laminated mirrored windows, so much the better.  To go the extra mile, put up 10 foot high "inspirational" photos of people playing on beaches, in black and white.  That way your employees will remember that there is an exciting world out there, but they can't get to it, and they can't even enjoy it by proxy in this miserable, monochromatic office.

For bonus points: your cupboards should all be laminated Formica, in murky brown.

Reduce Natural Light Sources
I used to think that working in a basement was the worst fate that could befall me. After I did it twice, I swore to never again work in an office with no natural light.

However, there is an even more devious way to make your staff miserable. Ensure there are windows in the office, nice big ones.  Then build cubicles throughout the floor, so that your employees can see there is a window, but they cannot see out of it, or receive any actual light from it.  Watch them pine and fade away, or fight over the desks close to the window.

For bonus points: make sure the people closest to the windows have their monitors angled for maximum screen glare.  Then these unfortunates will close the office blinds voluntarily, and really minimise vitamin D production in your minions.

Provide Beds/Bedrooms In The Office
Now, you might be thinking that this is a little cushy for your minions.  I can assure you, the drain on morale is worth it.  By providing beds, you don't have to shell out for expensive hotels for visiting employees, or for taxis for those who have to work late.  It gives your staff the message that they belong to you, you even own their sleeping hours.

For bonus points: put the bedrooms on the Management Floor (you know, that special floor for those who have Made It), so that your lowest-level employees have to walk through this opulent splendour in order to grab a couple of hours of poor quality sleep, before being herded back into their cubicles to put in another 20 hour day.


In Conclusion
It doesn't matter what size company you are, by following some or all of these rules you can successfully communicate to your Peons just how meaningless their little lives are to you.  Large companies seem to be particularly good at this, but a determined start-up can also alienate all three of its employees if it tries.

By showing your staff how much you hate them, you are sure to attract and retain the best quality people, and motivate them to work hard and efficiently to realise business value for you.

Oh wait....



1 It was the size of a wardrobe. All it did was filter and UV "purify" tap water. It also claimed to be smart, it would dispense a cup if you needed one and detect if you didn't. It attempted to determine the size of the container you placed in it and fill it appropriately (and failed every time). It would tell you how many seconds were left until it had finished filling your vessel, but not give you the option to stop it, or to continue for longer. Seriously. A tap would have been fine. 


2 In case you don't know - they really DO care.

4 comments:

  1. "Nothing says "your life is worthless" like a 1970s-council-style-office. If it's made of concrete and has laminated mirrored windows, so much the better."

    Do you miss south London then?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beds in the office?! Crikey nothing says crazy hours like not even going home...

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Robann I nearly put a photo of that particular area of South London to illustrate the point, but I thought I'd better protect the guilty.

    ReplyDelete
  4. *haha* I have know before that our office is really great, but now I'm assured that it's almost luxury :)

    ReplyDelete