IT Employment optimize

What happened to enthusiasm?

We've all attended those company meetings that revolve around quarterly earnings that left us dazed and bored. Why can't executives ever be enthusiastic?

Having worked for a couple of startups in my lifetime, I suppose I have a bit of a skewed expectation of what a workplace should be like. While I understand that in bigger operations, you can't always have that seat-of-your-pants excitement that comes from getting something in under the wire because things are more streamlined and templatized . (And, for the record, the English major in me just died a little when I used the word "templatized.")

But one thing that is often missing from the bigger companies that doesn't have to be is your enthusiasm.

I'm not talking manufactured enthusiasm like having groups of employees huddle at certain times in the day and then breaking with a big whoop. And I'm not talking about phony enthusiasm that some managers use to "recognize" employees so they'll stay motivated: "John did an outstanding job of logging on to his computer today!"

I'm talking about your garden-level oh-look-something-good-happened-let's-recognize-it enthusiasm.

It just seems to me that bigger corporations think they're too cool to show any kind of enthusiasm for things achieved by employees if they don't involved a marked change in the earnings board. I know that it's easier to judge success by ROI, but there are a good many things that happen in the "day-to-day" that are just as remarkable, if only to the groups that accomplish them.

It seems like every time employees do hear some good news (like "We had a good third quarter."), it's always tempered by something ("But we're still cautious going into the end of the year.")  Is this some kind of tactic to keep employees from getting their hopes up or letting their guard down? If so, I don't agree with that technique.

How about telling the gang they had a great third quarter, mention a few people by name who helped make it happen (and not just those who are high-profile to begin with), and express some excitement and gratitude to employees?

You want your employees to strive for your company, show them you recognize it and you're just as excited by their accomplishments as they are. There's nothing unprofessional or unseemly about enthusiasm.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

56 comments
czekalca
czekalca

Reality and Negativity are not the same thing. I've had jaded times, when 20 years at the same company made me believe that nothing ever changes. And my current job is in a large company with two centuries of history behind all the frustrating reasons that things have to change slowly. But I still try to find something to be hopeful about every day. IT is a field that lives with constant change or obsolescence, so I can certainly understand the venting here. But I think Toni is right, a little enthusiasm can go a long way and be very contagious. So tomorrow morning, after you've slogged your way through another day's e-mail, (I double-dog dare you to) look around at your team, then surprise someone by finding something in their work or in your job to be enthusiastic about. Who knows, you might generate smile or two, maybe even find your frustrations lightened by a simple change in perspective...

mjc5
mjc5

Those meetings with charts about quarterly profits are the most important thing. Over the course of time, the employee has become the "enemy" of the corporation, from the view of management, and the stockholders. Like it or not, they want to get rid of you if at all possible, because each employee paycheck represents lost profit. And since the cycle is the next quarter's profit, there is a strong incentive to get rid of people and quickly. Even if it harms the company long-term. Look up the history of Westinghouse. The big problem in all this is that eventually a company is wrecked, possibly a takeover target. But it doesn't matter to the stockholders, they made their money and are moving on to their next pecuniary extraction. How enthusiastic can a person be when their goal is to get rid of you?

frylock
frylock

developers developers developers Watching that makes me think boring meetings aren't so bad.

woftbo
woftbo

We have all heard analysts comments about the "disappointing" earnings, when the company missed the target earnings by $.01/share. There was an interesting documentary TV item re the different work environment at Zappo's.

Analyst A.
Analyst A.

Enthusiasm^2=Managers_quantity-Gramms_off_gold*hours

sysdev
sysdev

Enthusiasm requires the understanding that what has happened is really good and the what will happpen is really good. It also requires confidence in what you and others are doing. Unfortunately, the sever shortage of experienced people in a great many different positions and companies brought us the promotion of Peter Principle violators (those who have been promoted above their level of incompetence) and the majority of those people not only do not see that something good has or will happen, they are almost solely focused on making sure that they do not expose themselves as Peter Principle violators. I am absolutely NOT defending them, I am simply pointing out that this is what they do.

geofer50
geofer50

Hey the execs got theirs and don't want anyone else to question why they did not get anything. It shows how fragile our economy today.

bob
bob

For me, the negative reaction I see here to working for "the man" is even more reason for managers and supervisors to give honest positive feedback to employees when it's due. There's only so much negativity employees will take before looking for work elsewhere. I've certainly stayed at a job longer than I normally would have because I had a great boss, and felt my contributions to the company were recognized by at least my immediate superior. Consistent negativity from the boss will only exacerbate the downward spiral in moral. Glassdoor.com and other websites that have employee ratings of their companies are great resources to use before committing to work for a company. This works at least for larger companies that get rated.

steeqs4
steeqs4

We have managers at my company, not leaders. We also don't have a technical career track beyond "architect", but plenty of steps up the ladder for management. As managers they don't want to recognize good performance because then that may cause technical people to ask for raises and for promotions. They don't want to give raises because the almighty shareholder matters more than the lowly employee. They don't want to give promotions because they haven't figured out a technical career track, and besides, it would probably involve paying out more money. So the result is, no encouragement, no recognition of a job well done, no joy. I have received exactly one "thank you" in my years of employment at this company. I suspect it was an accident.

phillipmilks
phillipmilks

Having attended several sessions where the enthusiasm was sickening (All that was missing was the pom-poms - the cheerleader was the speaker), I can say that the speaker was very enthusiastic about his bottom line. Don't know how much good was accomplished in making the employees feel appreciated because we're all a bunch of cynics. His pitch was "keep doing great things and do it by the book". Nobody asked about raises, etc.

tavent
tavent

it appears that, given the typical MBA grad bred to be "business-manager-as-maven-in-charge-of-this-silo-of-money", they are being turned into accountants with no more grasp of human capital than the computers which store and present the data. So I'm afraid, if we want real LEADERS we have to look elsewhere. And of course, if that leadership represents any kind of RISK to those precious money-silos, all of the mediocre accountants-turned-project-managers, will naturally campaign against taking of any risks. Hence, leadership and visionary direction, will be dampened by those who maintain the status-quo for good or ill.

Vorpaladin
Vorpaladin

Having an English major inside you is the source of your troubles. Solve 2 equations and call someone who cares in the morning.

rmycroft2000
rmycroft2000

The sad fact that in the current environment unless you manage to get well up in management you are indeed viewed as little more than a temporary resource, something to be flogged for the moment and then replaced with an overseas resource at the soonest opportunity. Companies no longer offer actual loyalty to employees as that would imply that the game is not simply about the money, which is really all it is about. Having learned that lesson about 25 years ago I decided to keep my times with companies short and do as much consulting as possible. When you are viewed as nothing more than an easily replaced component in a money machine one is best off to adapt, get the point and move as often as needed in order to make sure that one's personal income is well taken care of and not get too tied up with any one employer. And you can count on it that they will only value you up until the next project delivery, best not to count on much beyond that. Oh, and do keep your skills current, your management is very unlikely to consider that to be something they need to help you with. And then some wonder why I prefer to consult/contract. No illusions, we understand each other very well that way. And do not bother me with the 'enthusiasm', strikes me something as best suited to a kindergarten.

jelabarre
jelabarre

Well, if you're at IBM, all it means when they have a stellar quarter is that they'll only be laying off 4000 US employees rather than 5000. Hard to be enthusiastic when the ultimate outcome is the same. Unless, of course, you're one of those fat-cat upper-management types who'll never get fired regardless of *how* incompetent you are.

tech
tech

...so naturally, there is no need for enthusiasm. The bosses don't care who works for them, they just need warm bodies that will work for a pittance (so they can fatten their own checks). There are literally hundreds of people that can do your job and will work for less, they are just waiting for the chance. If you are enthusiastic and happy in your job you may stay and, gasp, ask for a pay raise. You staying, and making more than a newbie base rate is counter to them making more money. Then they have to increase your vacation time, more money right out of their pockets. The new hires generally come in with a decent attitude and minimal lip service will keep that going for three to five years until they start costing the company too much money, in higher pay rates and more vacation time. Then it's time to find the next flunky. Who needs enthusiasm in the workplace? It is counter to their goal of keeping payroll low, and performance high. But most importantly, it impedes the bosses ability to fatten his/her check because, lets face it, you cost too much. With all the advancement in technology, the need for truly skilled workers has waned. With a few hours of training we can find some poor schmo to do a job; do it for less pay; less vacation; less sick time; less demands overall; by in large, there is no need for a 'Knows it all' employee. Managers, Executives and Owners only care about one thing, fattening their own wallet (and/or the wallets of shareholders). Your happiness runs counter to their goal. It really is as simple as that. This is the era of Ebenezer Scrooge and we are Bob Cratchit.

info
info

...You could be looking at the 'child soccer game' syndrome. There are no winners or losers, and noone gets their effort touted about the other players, er, employees. That would make 'someone' out there actually feel envious, hurt and resentful! That would be bad! ('English Major'? You didn't use one bit of punctuation anywhere before the end of a sentence... Starting a sentence with, 'and'? Oi, if Webster could just see us now... ;) )

robert_r_penn
robert_r_penn

I'm struck by the cynicism in the comments on this blog that says I'll be enthusiastic if you pay me. Enthusiasm is more about culture than money. I think the biggest deterent to enthusiasm in big companies is that managers often adopt a fire-fighting mentality where they expect heroic efforts to get the job done, and as soon as the current fire is out, they throw the staff on the next one, with no time taken to reflect on what went well or lessons learned. Performance feedback becomes feedback on screw-ups but not on positive accomplishments. This drains the enthusiasm from teams and creates the conditions for the natural face lift people get when start smiling after they resign.

flmagman
flmagman

Toni, You must be thinking of the past, when recognition programs existed because some companies actually valued their employees. As vijaynats said, it's not blatantly about the money, nothing else. And I'm not talking from the regular emps, either; I'm talking from top management. The motto has become 'Get all you can out of them before they leave,' and nothing more. The startups? Excitement comes from working on something new and fresh and hoping it's the next 'killer app.' I've seen that same excitement from really small companies today (which I'm not a part of right now), so I know it exists. Recognition and fairness go a long way toward building enthusiasm. In the meantime, I stay enthusiastic from learning new software, trying new ways to do things, and remembering that each breath I take is a reason to be happy.

Odipides
Odipides

I find it's mostly small things that make employees motivated not all the rah-rah. 1) Taking a REAL interest in what they are doing/how they are (not just lip service) 2) Peer recognition of work not just some pointy haired idiot wandering round saying "well done!" at the slightest provocation. 3) Decent equipment rather than hardware & software tools that were obsolete 5 years ago. 4) Easy going working environment. Flexible hours (within reason) and places to crash for an hour or just wind down periodically without someone breathing down their neck. 5) PROPER project management in preference to asking developers if they've finished a chunk of work every half-hour or until the PM gets an answer they like.They latter just stimulates lying and totally de-motivates technical staff. I've also found that a middling monthly salary (mid-range in the salary bracket) but significantly bigger bonuses on completion of projects (on time, in budget etc etc) makes a dramatic difference to effort.

billfranke
billfranke

Why should executives be enthusiastic? They don't care about anything but the bottom line. If making enough money to pay investors dividends and finance executive yachts and golden parachutes is all that life in a big corporation is about, why should they be happy? As our politicians, other government officials, and the media tell over and over again every day, "the real world is a dangerous place. Everything you do and everywhere you go and everyone you're related to or otherwise associated with puts your life in danger, so surrender your civil rights and political freedoms to the FBI, CIA, ATF, TSA, and other Homeland Security goons in exchange for a false sense of security as we spy on you day and night." Corporations use the same strategy: doom and gloom and "Your Job Is at Risk" if you screw up because there are thousands of unemployed out there who can do just what you do. Don't become one of them. From what I've been reading over the past twenty-five years or so, only small start-ups and maybe now Google are "fun" places to work. Enthusiasm comes at the beginning. When everything becomes routinized, it disappears. Look at any revolutionary movement, look at any new wave of evangelical religiosity. Only the first few generations of "believers" are enthusiastic, and then the fire disappears. It's like love and marriage. Why do so many marriages end in abject failure and misery for the couple? It's just another day, it's just another day. Corporate life is boring. That's why I work for myself and that's why I work alone. It's not just another day. Every day is a new day. I have no investors to pay off, only a family to support. When life is about survival, one has to be enthusiastic or else one dies. Corporate life is not about survival, it's about keeping one's job in order to pay off the mortgage and finance the rest of one's obligatory unsustainable debts. It's not about satisfying your own physical and emotional needs but about guaranteeing them for the corporate masters and their underwriters.

bholenath
bholenath

[q]How about telling the gang they had a great third quarter, mention a few people by name who helped make it happen (and not just those who are high-profile to begin with), and express some excitement and gratitude to employees?[q] .. And a cheque as a token of appreciation.

Snak
Snak

.... I worked as a beach photographer. I recall one woman, harrassed by her three children on their way down to the beach: "You're going to enjoy yourselves whether you like it or not". I still chuckle over that one. For the record, and despite the fact that we suspect that all appraisals are 'satisfactory' (no pay rise above cost of living), my employer really does big up its employees. I like working where I do despite the fact that I could earn more elsewhere. Job satisfaction is worth several thousand a year.....

vijaynats
vijaynats

Lack of enthusiasm is because all the money is made by the Management and Shareholders! Does profit growth reflect on salaries and incentives of employees everytime? Hardly! No matter how much you slog, your earnings depend on that appraisal or review (that's very much politics driven) and not on profits. So who cares really? "There's not much in it" and naturally you can't expect any enthusiasm to flow out like some fresh desert spring. It's money that really motivates - SHOW US THE CASH, WE'LL SHOW YOU THE ENTHUSIASM!!

kjohnson
kjohnson

I guess the reason the executives are not enthusiastic is they're not all that interested in what they are doing. If you prefer your staff to be passionate, keen, enthusiastic etc. instead of just good at what they do, you'd best make sure that they are able to bring their interests to work and make use of them.

rfernan
rfernan

Everything in big corps are so manufactured that you can just replay the previous quarter's meeting video and change the figures. Voila! you have seen the FUTURE. I just hate it when they temper good news with the dreaded 'but' and never seem to stop emphasizing on the balance sheet...like when did enthusiasm, creativity, hospitality, get quantifiable!!!

ExCorpGuy
ExCorpGuy

I remember an "all hands meeting" held by my last Fortune 500 employer where they were showing us the latest quarterly results. Our division, US based IT vs. a global powerhouse that everyone would know, was proudly touting their results on a Powerpoint presentation. Our division leader was crowing about a return to profitability on the slides. I had to look twice but was still astounded. Our division managed a $40K profit with 700 FTE employees for the month! In my previous employer this would not even have been a rounding error! Needless to say, it was about a year before I was laid off due to economic factors. I should have jumped ship right and then when I saw the slide.

poomba1
poomba1

Sorry, this enthusiasm you seek is often in the form of a off coloured beverage followed by a deep sleep. I'll pass....

AV .
AV .

I think bosses today look at their staff as being as disposable as used paper towels. They won't give you anything but your paycheck. They don't have to because you're just a warm body and if you don't produce, you're out. I just love the Ebenezer Scrooge/Bob Cratchit reference. It is so true. Here's a real life story to illustrate. One year, I made Thanksgiving dinner at my home for my family, about 20 people, and one of the executives from my company needed some kind of support, so he sent an email to my work email account instead of calling my cell. When I didn't answer his email request, he made a big stink about it with my management even though I was technically on vacation and someone else was supposed to cover. I was told that I should have responded, though at the time the last thing I had time for was logging into my company email (its not on my phone and they don't even pay for my phone). I always look at it as you get as much as you give and if a company treats me that way, I give less than I could because its just another thankless job. AV

OurITLady
OurITLady

We race to implement the "latest and greatest {insert tech here}" then without developing a proper maintenance plan, documentation, knowledge transfer to the support teams, or post mortems we start on the next big thing. Worked for a while, but gets frustrating after a couple of years of it.

WayTooSerious
WayTooSerious

Then, you clearly don't "not make enough money." Employees who don't make enough money find being enthusiastic difficult.

ilovesards
ilovesards

but first, where is that school that i should go. so that when i graduate, ill just sit, motivate, shout=fire people. now a days,most managers seems comes from the top. not from the bottom. this is the way to chaos(armagedon) . correct. enthusiasts are needed down, to feed those on the top . its like, head is made more beautiful, due to the hard workings of ugly or unnoticed feet. well, when feet gets sick and dies=head also dies.

da philster
da philster

Welcome to the age of "shareholder equity". Is there anything wrong with that? No. Should it be positioned at the top of the "pyramid" as it is now? No. During the most interesting period of growth in America, the order of importance was quite different. It went something like this: The Enterprise The Product The Customer The Employee The Community The Shareholder This has all changed with the Shareholder/The "Street" at the top of the heap. Quarterly results mean everything regardless of the long term effect on all the other pillars of this equation. Look where that's getting us ........... Interesting times indeed.

billfranke
billfranke

My Gawd, man, don't you realize that giving money to corporate employees (unless they're top executives who cause the corp. to lose money and shed employees) for whatever reason reduces the amount that can be paid to the saintly stockholders whose invisible spirits dictate the direction in which the invisible hand of the free market travels? What would Ayn Rand, von Mises, von Hayek, and Milton Friedman say about that? "Not in the objective self-interest of the corporation to pay more than necessary for human resources when they're so cheap and abundant these days."

billfranke
billfranke

When I was in the US Navy back in the mid-1960s, the commanding officer at my naval air base spoke to us a couple of days before Xmas. He said "There will be a Christmas party on Christmas Eve. You will all come, and you will have fun!" I guess you can order people to be enthusiastic. You just can't reasonably expect anyone but the toadies and sycophants to actually take such orders seriously.

vijaynats
vijaynats

Maybe the economic slump is due to inadequate pay leading to inadequate purchasing power leading to inadequate consumption leading to inadequate sales leading to economic slump. The Smallest of traders are better off than MNC employees in my place, small biz is just about right for a family's needs...why work more than that?

parnote
parnote

Your comment exemplifies what's wrong in many corporations today. They are "dehumanized" with their solitary focus on profit and productivity and a total disregard for those who perform the work that garners them those profits and that productivity. Profit, profit, profit. Productivity, productivity, productivity. Sadly, that is all many workers hear while the company regularly posts profits quarter after quarter. The other part of the problem is that many times the WRONG people have been promoted to powerful positions within a company, and as long as the profits and productivity remain high, those wrongly promoted individuals retain their positions without regard to those rank and file employees who's efforts are largely responsible for the productivity and profits.

mrpekarik
mrpekarik

Hey, I'm one of the invisible stockholders and so are you. It's called your 401k. But back to the subject, I thinks it's more about control. Managers will not give out praise or enthusiasm because the perception is that they do not have control over their workers. If only they realized that just the opposite is true.

GAProgrammer
GAProgrammer

Do you go to the store and say " hey, that is $1.50, but I am going to give you $2.00?" Of course you don't. Why? It doesn't make sense. Take your class warfare arguements to another forum please.

kwickset
kwickset

I always thought it was only the Germans who had ways to make you laugh.

Imprecator
Imprecator

"Oh, and remember: next Friday... is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to, go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans"

GoingSolo
GoingSolo

Sounds just like my company, Webroot.

sissy sue
sissy sue

"The other part of the problem is that many times the WRONG people have been promoted to powerful positions within a company." Many people who want to get ahead are just in it for the power and the money, not because they want to push their organizations to new heights of productivity and creativity and not because they are great performers. They are motivated solely by self interest. Therefore, on the way up, they learn to flatter the right people, polish the right apples, and schmooze their way to the top. Once they get there, they make the right friends, attend the right parties, and join the right country clubs. Then, even if they screw up, the CEOs are reluctant to let them go because they are buddies, and no one wants to lay off his buddy. Upper management is impressed by the latest sparkly thing, program, or buzzword that is going to save the world, and many times, they make decisions solely on the basis of the hottest technology -- not the technology that is a good fit for the application. Then the manager retires, rolling in money, leaving the plebes to struggle with the problems brought about by the manager's poor decisions. Of course, after much money has been thrown at the development of an application built upon the wrong technology, upper management is reluctant to throw in the towel and admit that a mistake was made. The plebes who manage the tool are the ones who have to live with it. How can anyone be enthusiastic when they are forced to live with the mistakes of their "superiors", and forced to be the "fall guy" when the tool fails to meet the expectations of the organization?

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

And as Ayn Rand, as I indicated earlier, did partake in social security (and in her hubby's name) and other socialized programs while some of her followers didn't, she proved her own ideals did not work... or lacked the time to see them in action, but either way I'm glad she took them because people suffering as slaves or in poverty is something I don't care for and especially in a country that promotes the pursuit of happiness and (purportedly) doesn't allow one to use their freedom to rob others of theirs'... but price wars and other tangents to drive out competition are best served another day...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

And "Skinflint"? His name is "GAProgrammer", though the first thing that came to my mind when reading "Skinflint" was "Skinhead" and I honestly don't know why... I don't know if GAProgrammer is anything apart from being an ungrateful cheapskate who wants everything for nothing...

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

trained their own cheaper replacements, or using illegal aliens illegally and in order to devalue wages before bashing American workers as not wanting to do the work. H1B fraud, Americans spending $50k-$100k or more for training (and the time involved) just to redistribute their wealth to someone else... You'd be surprised at the breadth of the problem... As for Ayn Rand, the moment she took social security (and used her husband's name to get it) is the day she proved her own ideals were not as pragmatic as she thought them to be. Others who followed her did not take social security despite paying into it, so anyone saying "but she paid into it" doesn't make an ideal excuse either... Remember the 13th Amendment as well...

rmycroft2000
rmycroft2000

And you can take your Ayn Rand induced nonsense and put that away as well. The article is about why people are not enthusiastic, and most of that comes down to self centered management that could not really give a toss about employees. So as a result I almost never work as an employee anymore, why bother. Instead companies can pay me as a consultant at a much higher rate and I don't worry about their profits anymore than they worry about how I pay my house note. Capitalism at its finest and most self centered. Welcome to the world built by class warfare as run by the elitists. And then they moan that I won't work for cheap. Sorry mates, you made the rules, now pay up.

dmritchie2
dmritchie2

Does this mean that you never tip a waitress/waiter after excellent service? After all, they are getting paid and you paid the proper amount for the meal didn't you? Skinflint.

GSG
GSG

Friday is Hawaiian shirt day. You are required to wear a Hawaiian shirt. That didn't really happen, but it was something similar. My department, to build "team spirit" required everyone to wear a certain color on day... yellow. 1) the color is not one that looks good with all skin tones. 2) I'm one of those people. It makes me look like I need a liver transplant. 3) I own nothing with that color. 4) I and most employees came to work without wearing that color. When asked, I replied that if I was going to be required to wear a uniform, then I'd expect a uniform allowance. Until then, I was following the organizations dress policy. All it did was fuel resentment instead of team spirit. When told to stand in a circle and fall back and trust my co-workers to catch me, I refused on the grounds that catching me had nothing to do with their job descriptions, and that while I knew they were good that their jobs and trusted they were trained to answer the phones, file, etc..., I was not confident that they'd been trained in the latest rescue techniques, and I'd require proof of their paramedic licenses. Luckily, the instructor had a good sense of humor.

Professor8
Professor8

This is what they're being taught in the B-schools. They're looking for the main chance to gain money and power for themselves, not to make good products... and incidentally have everyone in the company benefit from the profits deriving therefrom. When the execs get "enthusiastic" these days hold onto your silver and gold because they're hatching another scam that will leave you and much of the citizenry worse off. It used to be that the STEM workers were enthusiastic. We were great believers in meritocracy. If anyone came up with a great new idea, we all cheered and jumped in to make it happen and reap rewards proportionally. (Oh, and the big-small dichotomy is bogus. I'm thinking of the biggest conglomerate where I worked, and where cross-operational synergies happened frequently.) We really did do great things to make all kinds of our own and other companies' products better. Now, it's all image and zero substance. Cheapness without value (even without ethical values). The other thing that's happened as an effect of this shift is that we've all gone through our A lists of most promising seeming employers, the B list, C list... No one is enthusiastic. We don't like the execs evil schemes. We don't like the low-quality over-priced products. We don't like being bodyshopped. We want real jobs, again, making great new products, and new kinds of products to serve good purposes.