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

    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

    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

    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
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    low IT managers managed to go, download TechRepublic’s
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    Check out the nominees for Morale Busting

    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
    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’
    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

    “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…”


    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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