Enterprise Software

Vote for the best example of morale boosting and busting behavior

Read the top five submissions for morale boosting and morale busting behavior as submitted by TechRepublic members, and then vote for your favorites.

Nominees for Best Morale Boosting Behavior award


1. Pizza, doughnuts, humor, and warning
TechRepublic Member: Dilbert-Tom

Early in my IT career, I had the best manager I've ever had—he presented the "Impossible" projects to the Team by telling us that he told management that the specs were too much to develop in the very short timeframe we had—and then he moderated as WE designed a 'System of Sub-Systems' to accomplish the spec using several small but powerful 'Specialized' Programs (so that we had 5 parallel projects instead of one monster program—we could each complete our piece independently—scrambling the 'apparent' critical paths and bottlenecks and actually completing that project in 20% of the Calendar time that would have been needed to get to unit test of the original Program that was specified.

This was the manager who taught me to buy doughnuts for 'Day' Operations to get faster ape mounts—or Pizza for the 'Night' Operators, which made them extremely cooperative several times that I was on-call, even fixing and restarting (on the phone with me, to assure that I knew what was going on) Jobs that I would normally have been expected to come in [for]in the middle of the night and take care of.

This manager did two things I'll never forget to thank us (the company was able to save over $500 Million because of our fast development, but he could only authorize UP To 3% raises—so):

  1. One Thursday, he called an early morning meeting for those who developed that System—he thanked us, and told us to just go out and enjoy the day—report time to that project—and leave quietly, one at a time so as not to attract attention to ourselves. I think I just mowed the lawn, but it really did feel great.

  2. For my next review we went into the Director's office (everything else was 'Open Cubes', no place for a personal discussion)—after the door was closed, he asked me to thump on the wall a few times and say loudly "I won't do it again, I promise!" After a short pause, he said to thump louder and to sound more terrified when I repeated "Really I won't ever do that again, I mean it!". Then he very quietly asked me to open the door—and the nosy receptionist literally 'fell in' to the room (her ear was on the door) exclaiming "I was just passing by to get a cup of coffee!" Afterwards, he gave a glowing review— and pointed out that the bank was having profit problems and so was unable to give a proper raise. He actually was suggesting that I look around to see what I could make elsewhere (two weeks later I was laid off, he knew but couldn't tell me—but the day after the layoff I had a third interview with my new employer, so started the following Monday [nice severance package too !]). I hadn't really wanted to leave, because I'd be delighted to work for a Manager like that even at sub-standard pay!

He knew that the staff benefiting from our efforts would never take any time to even recognize our excellent development and design (and we anticipated most specification changes that followed, the original programs had those parts of the spec coded as parameters outside of the programs—not hard coded as the original spec suggested). So he thanked us himself, sincerely. He also shared his pleasure as the 'foreseen' modifications were requested in Management meetings with some concern about our ability to make the changes in a timely manner—needed by next week, delivered in 2 hours. He took the time to describe the expressions of disbelief when he personally delivered the results of the parm changes—gave us a bit of satisfaction in being "the best" (several organizations were competing for the same payoff, but we got it all because we were ready first—the other IT Depts suffered from 'over-designed' single program solutions that were quite inflexible, so despite having teams of 20 or more developers—when the design was for a single program, development cannot be nearly as fast as several highly flexible and independent sub-modules can be.)

2. Techno-toys for the troops
TechRepublic Member: David Ford

After a particularly "morale busting" corporate reorganization (where half the IT department lost their jobs), our management seemed to take it to heart that they needed to BOOST the morale. Once the dust settled, they purchased a combination PDA / cell-phone for each remaining IT employee. For me, this consolidated my (company-given) pager, my personal cell-phone, and my personal PDA into one item! I'm VERY grateful for it.

Techno-dweebs (such as myself) really enjoy new techno-toys, so that added even more "plus-points" to the morale.

3. Caffeine and conversation
TechRepublic Member: bvitale

To boost Morale in our facility, I run an "Espresso Social." Once every four to six weeks, everyone on our building and invited guests, stop work at three PM, to socialize, and enjoy Espresso Coffee, served with cake or pastry. This event only lasts for about thirty minutes. Due to the absence of a large Hall, we have this event in the hallway. Each event is usually scheduled to honor some person, ethnic holiday, ethnic group, or achievement. Diverse music is played; Classical, Jazz, Cocktail music, Italian Music, Spanish music, German Music, Indian Music, etc. We often incorporate other events into the social, such as celebrating the Chinese Moon Festival; but in this case we serve Tea, as well as Espresso. We also have incorporated an annual baking contest, and Photo Contest, with the Espresso Social.

Photos of the entire group are often simulcast on the Internet via a Web site. A new photo is made available every twenty seconds, on the internet. A telephone number is displayed on the Web Page. Often connected people would call the telephone number while looking at the updated photos, on the Web site. New pictures are pulled by the browsers every thirty seconds. This simple system was implemented to allow users who were not versed on Video Conferencing to participate in our "social."

In my case I am the Departmental IT Person; and have been given free reign to bolster the morale in our department, by organizing "The Espresso Social." The "Social," has had a monumental impact on our departmental morale. I would like to see every place of business throughout America, have an Espresso Social. I would be glad to discuss the logistics of running an Espresso Social.

After this event, everyone goes back to work, refreshed, and are better equipped to make decisions.

4. Power (to award) to the people
TechRepublic Member: Tom Carlisle

This is not an original idea of mine. I learned it from Bruce Botkin, also of Omaha, Nebraska: Go out and buy a toy dumptruck or tractor and a toy sports car and take them to work. Explain these rules to your staff:

  • The sports car can only be given to a recipient by a coworker. It is to be given to the worker for good deeds, courageous efforts, and helping others. This trophy cannot be given by the boss. The sports car stays on the recipient's desk until somebody else wants to award it to another recipient. It doesn't have to be the person who owns the car. When awarding the sports car, the person awarding is obliged to tell the story behind why the award is being given.

  • The dump truck/ tractor is different. It must be taken off the desk of the current owner and placed on the new owner/recipient's desk by the new recipient himself/herself. The criteria for the award is that the new recipient just did something really stupid and needs the truck/tractor to pull his/her head out… Of course, as the new recipient takes the truck/tractor off the former recipient's desk, the new recipient is obliged to tell the story behind the self-nomination. This award can only be self-nominated—it can not be awarded by somebody else, as much as they'd like to.
  • What do these two awards teach your employees? First, the car teaches them to catch each other doing things right. Second, the truck/tractor teaches them to be open and honest about when they screw up so others can learn from their mistakes.

    5. Kudos to you and a thermos too!
    TechRepublic Member: Prefbid II

    A few years back, our company instituted a "Kudos" program. A Kudos was a small note that any person in the company or any customer could fill in and send in. The comments had to be praise for someone who went "beyond the norm" to help. The card itself was signed by a couple of managers (sender and receiver) and then presented to the employee. The employee could then cash in the "ticket" for a gift. If the employee had multiple tickets in the year, they were eligible for a grand prize drawing once a year.

    Originally, the Kudos was a dud—except in the IS department. The company grand prizes were very nice (cruises, computers, etc.). The original ticket prizes were cheap. The reason the IS department liked it was because the CIO told the administrator to ditch some of the corporate prizes and get something worthwhile—usually things from the company store with the corporate logo.

    The company dropped the program after the first year. The IS department has kept going. The grand prizes are not as grand (limited to $1,000 spending sprees and new computers), but the "ticket" prizes are really rather nice (clocks, ice coolers, thermoses, etc.).

    I forgot to explain a critical rule of the program. Supervisors are prohibited from nominating one of their people (puts a fun twist on the process). This has had the effect of keeping the number of actual kudos' awarded to a manageable level.

    The worst part of the program is filling in the little card. It has to be hand written and the space to write is small.

    What is really fascinating is the thrill people get when they get a kudos. I write a lot of kudos tickets and I am always surprised at what lengths even the most normally sedate and de-motivated people will do when they get one. It's like watching someone yell "Bingo" in a game. And I have to admit—I did the same when the CIO sent me one (I'm a director and directors are not supposed to get one, but the CIO ignored his own rule to give me one).

    This program is absolutely fantastic for project managers. Since most of the PM's "team" is usually task assigned, the restriction on supervisors giving out Kudoses does not apply. Therefore, PM's that are known for giving out a lot of Kudoses at critical milestones and project completion are the ones that get lots of cooperation from other departments.
    I've seen attitude changes that are hard to even describe. I'll give one example:

    Our company had just bought a rather large competitor and it was my job to merge the IT infrastructures. Even though we told the other company that no IS employees were going to be laid off, that did not really alleviate their fears. At the same time, the CEO had put some very aggressive merger milestones in place for us to meet. Nerves were frayed as one rather large milestone was coming close. There was no room for slippage in the plan. Well, as in all projects, a serious mistake was made and it threatened everything. People were pointing at others, trying to avoid being deemed the "source of the error." Because of a lot of arm twisting, we got the error corrected and got the project back on schedule. However, there was a lot of resentment over the arm twisting and a lot of "bad blood" between departments that thought one of the other departments was responsible for the error.

    I had to do something. We still had a year of merger activities to go. So, I and a project admin sat down and wrote a personal Kudos to everyone who was even remotely related to that first major milestone. We even made sure that we included all the people who had even a little bit to do with the project who were in the merging company and we went so far as to include non-IS people in the rest of the company who helped in even small ways. That was nearly 80 tickets (remember, this was just one milestone).

    The results were immediate and amazing. The yelling and finger pointing immediately stopped and never came back. The teams worked harder to get the next task done than even on the first one. People started asking to be appointed to the team.


    Read them all

    To read all the best examples of morale boosting behaviors submitted by TechRepublic members, check out TechRepublic's Morale Boosters Hall of Fame. To see just how low IT managers managed to go, download TechRepublic's Morale Busters Hall of Shame.


    Check out the nominees for Morale Busting Behavior.


    Nominees for Worst Morale Busting Behavior award


    1. Hypercritical boss never says, "thanks"
    TechRepublic Member: Al

    I am in the midst of my second career. My first means of making a living was as a welder and machine fabricator, with a side order of drafting and machinery design. Among steel workers and machinists, there is an old saying: "It takes five 'attaboys' to make up for one 'ah-sh_t'." I have found the same to be true in the office environment and the IT fields—especially in management. One bad move by a manager can adversely affect morale among employees in ways that no number of "attaboys" can reverse.

    Example: A team that I was working with on a particular project that I will refer to as the "West Point Project" was thrown a severe curve when late in the afternoon the client, West Point, for its own reasons, moved up the project's deadline. We had another 42 or so hours of work and only 30 real-time hours in which to complete the project and present it to the client. That meant that the dozen or so people working on the project would have to work around the clock for two days and cram the extra dozen hours' work into that time frame. Our manager gave the order that we were not to leave until the project was finished to the satisfaction of the client.

    We worked around the clock, cranking up the coffee pots, having food delivered, and each person only breaking long enough to grab a bite or go to the men's (or women's) room. More times than not, we ate while we worked, grabbing a bite whenever we could find a moment. At a half-hour before deadline, we finished the project and presented it to a happy and satisfied client. We were exhausted, but we were also relieved and very happy about our ability to turn an impossible situation into a feather in our team's cap. We were happy, that is, until our manager spoke to us after his review of the material and his conversation with the client. Before we went home to get some much needed rest, the manager addressed the team. He began his monologue by praising our work, saying that the client was not only satisfied but was very happy with and appreciative of our outstanding work. We noticed that he stopped short of actually saying "thank you."

    Just when we thought we were getting a little appreciation and thanks for our hard work, long hours, and skills, the manager's mood and tone changed with the word, "but..." Then, in a disgusted tone, he began a litany of faults with our work, such as things we could and should have done differently or better; the time it took to perform certain tasks; and the complaint that, given our performance on this project, we should be able to turn out more work in much less time in the future. He even complained that our work areas were messy and that such disarray could not be tolerated, never mind the fact that we had worked intensively and, for all practical purposes, non-stop for 30 hours straight focused on nothing but getting the job done on time. In truth, we had broken records in some areas and were in no regard incompetent or slow. The manager closed his lecture with the directive that we could go home and get some rest when the place was "tidied up and presentable."

    We later learned something our manager never told us: our company had received a bonus from the client as a show of appreciation for our coming through for them under such strenuous conditions. We never saw any of the bonus that was intended for our team, not even a word of thanks from our manager.

    The manager's fault-finding lecture and ungrateful attitude devastated the morale of the team. The end result was that within six months every member of the team had quit and gone to work elsewhere. When the manager finally began to wonder what was happening and some of us told him, he refused to believe that his derisive lecture had anything to do with the loss of employees. I have long since left that company; but as long as I remained there, the manager's ungrateful, fault finding attitude never changed; and morale continued to steadily decline.

    Once we saw that side of the manager's personality, we saw it in every project we did afterward. There was never a word of thanks or appreciation, just complaints and nitpicking. Since our team left that company, its business has dropped severely. The company is now just hanging on by a thread, just one step ahead of bankruptcy; and it has our former team manager to thank for that.

    2. Death by credit card
    TechRepublic Member: Christopher Cherry

    In the mid-Nineties, IBM elected to conduct a major downsizing—the first major one in its history if I recall. The first people told, near the company's headquarters in New York, rioted and did significant damage to their computers and the building in general.

    IBM's solution to the problem was to lock all the doors and place guards so every person who entered the building had to scan their badge in a magnetic stripe card reader to enter. If your badge would not scan, you were taken to your manager to be given the formal termination papers and then escorted off the property. A moving company would pack your belongings and deliver the contents of your desk or office in a week or two.

    3. Bully takes over
    TechRepublic Member: Elizabeth A. Rosales

    I work for a government agency where one individual had been allowed to be the schoolyard bully for years. We got a new upper level manager who tried to put a stop to it and things were bearable for a while. Then, after he left and his replacement came he decided to make this person a "Lead" technician. The first line supervisor, knowing all about the bully's history, agreed with the decision and unleashed her on all of us. Morale is pretty much non-existent in our area now.

    4. Tech gets 'teed' off
    TechRepublic Member: baileyb

    Half-a-lifetime ago, I ran a satellite office for a well-known UK insurance company—The Royal—in Southern England. I had done particularly well one year, exceeding all my New Business Growth targets by healthy margins. Sizeable bonuses earned! My Regional Boss rang up to congratulate me ( for it helped earn *his* bonus! ), and asked if I played golf...

    "It's been some years," I confessed, "but I used to play fairly well at College." "Fine," said he, "I've booked next Wednesday for us at Wentworth. I'll also arrange that those two brokerage partners at XXXXX, from whom you've got so much business, get invited along. You drive there yourself, and I'll see you in the car park at 9.30...."

    So I did. Got there first. As he turned up in his Jaguar, I opened my little car boot and took out my gear bag and some borrowed clubs. Coming over with the two brokers, he asked "What's this? I didn't intend that *you* play. Here's my bag. You can caddy! It's OK, it's on a caddy-car…"

    Humiliated…

    But I got something out of it! I told the story at the company's Overseas Convention, got a laugh from the Chairman and a raise in Grade (money), and wrote the story up later for a finance trade magazine, who published it and sent me a magnum of Champagne…

    Oh, and my boss had a rotten round at Wentworth. Although I have better than 20/20 vision (aircrew), I just could *not* see his several sliced Dunlop 65s if they were not right in the centre of the fairway.

    Motivational, what?

    5. Keep tabs on time
    TechRepublic Member: Tom Loveday

    While working for a subsidiary of a large multinational shipping company, I worked under a division manager from hell. Each morning he would sit at his desk overlooking the parking lot and write down the names of those that came in after 8AM. The department head for the unlucky individuals seen arriving would then get chewed out and the consequences would trickle down to whomever was unlucky enough to have been seen in the parking lot after 8. Never mind that they might have been at work until 10 the night before. The funny thing is, that division manager would leave his desk at 10AM and not return until 4 when he would begin taking the names of those that left before 5PM. That mystery was eventually solved by an employee's spouse that saw him at the golf course. Eventually, that manager so angered the employees at our location that they turned in a tape of him taking a piece of equipment home for the weekend. He was fired and went to work for a major competitor.


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