… or how not to motivate your staff
In a previous job we had a team meeting each morning at 9:15. The purpose was to go around the team and in almost scrum like fashion tell everyone what you did, what you’re planning to do and anything holding things up. Occasionally it would also allow people to tell others about some useful new technology or way of doing things that may be of benefit to others.
This was great, however one team member occasionally turned up late. Sometimes due to traffic, but often due to a long running medical complaint that had come out of remission. As a result he earned the displeasure of the development team’s manager.
One morning this manager faced with this individual being late once again instructed his team that any time someone arrives into the meeting late they were to receive a slow handclap. A gesture that indicates dissatisfaction or impatience .
A few minutes later the late comer arrived and the team started its slow handclap, egged on by a grinning manager. I joined in. However, something was intensely uncomfortable about it.
The next time the late comer arrived mid-meeting the team again started its slow handclap. This time I didn’t join in. And it clicked what had made me so uncomfortable the first time around. A slow handclap is a gesture designed to publically humiliate the person it is aimed against, which was why I felt so uncomfortable about it.
While it might be perfectly acceptable and understandable for a group of people to spontaneously employ a slow handclap against a politician making a speech, say, the Women’s Institute against the then Prime Minister , it is most definitely not acceptable for a manager to employ his staff into joining him in a bit of group bullying.
For a group who have less power it can be effective to help redress the balance to some degree. The WI against the PM, for example. However, for it to be employed by someone who already has power against someone who does not, a manager against a junior team member, it is inexcusable.