Monday, June 8, 2009


(SUMMER 2009)


By : Mr. G. Stanley Putts, M.B.A., Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Managing Officer, SpeedSave Credit Reporting Associates, Inc. (a Delaware Corporation); Professor, Employee Management Strategy Development, State University of Southern New Jersey School of Business (1988-present); Licensed Psychiatrist in the State of New Jersey.

It's that time of year again. As managers move into the hot months, they face new threats to productivity. Summertime means that more consumers are in the market for business. During the summer, managers face fresh opportunities for growth and profit. But summer also means that employees have other things on their minds. According to Department of Labor Statistics, productivity levels fall at least 43% between June and September, even when payrolls increase. What does this mean? Simple: It means that employees don't do their jobs as well in the summer. Managers need to reverse this alarming trend. To do so, they must do two things: (1) Understand the employee's mind; and (2) Adopt result-oriented measures calculated to increase productivity.

Good managers understand that employees make or break a company. Without motivated employees, companies could not keep their businesses afloat. Without diligent workers to handle the myriad mundane tasks necessary to sustain a profitable outfit--from opening mail to answering phones to proofreading letters to driving trucks--businesses could not grow. Without good employees, businesses would never produce returns for shareholders. And let's not forget who's important. Shareholders put up the capital needed to open businesses; and they want to be rewarded. It's up to us--the managers--to make sure their investments pay off. Employees have no stake in companies. They merely work to ensure that shareholders receive their rewards. In return, the company pays them an amount that allows them to fulfill their own financial obligations without impairing healthy profit levels for the shareholders. In sum, paying employees is a necessary investment. It would be nice if we did not have to pay them anything. But we do not live in a perfect world.

Good managers pay employees just enough to make them feel that they are not being exploited. This is essential; managing pay is a crucial management skill. In fact, good managers know how to set pay precisely to maximize two effects: (1) Shareholder profit; and (2) Employee morale. Shareholder profit is easy; one must merely crunch some numbers and show a higher total this year than last year. But employee morale is much trickier to achieve. After all, there is no quarterly balance sheet column to account for employees' feelings. Yet good managers must master employees' feelings just as efficiently as they must master profit levels. To accomplish that goal, good managers must understand the employee's mind.

As a trained business psychiatrist, I am pleased to offer managers an insight into the employee's mind. Many managers view their employees with barely-veiled contempt. They see them as a nuisance rather than a resource. They see them as ornery children who must be violently restrained in order to maintain favorable productivity levels. Although violence, repression and contempt are appropriate tools in the battle to secure employee morale, one must think more profoundly. Conceptually speaking, employees serve the company. A good servant does not just perform the tasks appointed to him; he also has the proper mental outlook. Servants, in other words, have two duties: (1) They diligently perform required tasks; and (2) They take their motivation from their masters. Thus, there is a physical and mental element to service. In my experience, I have found that the best employees have the best mental outlook. They look to their masters for both direction and meaning. They truly believe in the employer's mission, and their activity derives from their mental dedication to that mission. A truly motivated employee is a loyal servant. His will focuses not on himself, but on his employer's needs. He experiences emotional satisfaction when the employer achieves success. His own desires fade into obscurity. In essence, then, good employees have the proper will. They are not distracted. Their minds merge with the employer's will. They sacrifice their own well-being to please their masters. When a manager succeeds in transforming mere employees into true servants, there is no end to a company's potential success.

But that is Utopian thinking. As managers, we strive to make true servants out of our employees. Yet all too often we must settle for less. All too often, we cannot fully replace every employee's will with the employer's mission. There are always a troublesome residues in the employee's mind: Individual desires, personal wants, dreams, resentments, family tribulations, financial worry. We cannot always fully win over an employee's mind. No matter how much we try, employees always hold a little bit back for themselves. That damages productivity. Productivity demands maximum concentration and dedication to the employer's mission. When an employee is thinking about something other than the employer's success, his work will not be as zealous as it would be if his mind were clear. To that extent, dreams, desires, wishes, fascinations and individual characteristics harm productivity. Employers cannot tolerate this. When employees start thinking about themselves, productivity suffers. And when that happens, profit margins dwindle, injuring the shareholders.

Managers have a duty to please the shareholders. They can do this by getting a handle on their employees. As mentioned, the key to productivity is employee will. The battle for employee will begins with employee morale. To channel employees' will toward the employer, managers must be prepared to adopt result-oriented measures calculated to increase employee morale. Spirited employees with high morale have the proper will. When it comes to employee management, then, good mangers must consider how employees think. As mentioned, employees have a dangerous tendency to think for themselves while on the job. Good managers find ways to eradicate individual thinking among employees and to replace it with high morale. Still, this is no easy task. Individual employees may be thinking about coming weekends, girlfriends, sick parents, outstanding loans, car payments, poor health, their children, sex, last weekend, parties, the beach, vacations, Friday night movies, their homes or even the mere fact that they are hungry. When employees think about these things, they necessarily are not thinking about the employer's mission. This is dangerous.

Worse, employees minds drift even more during hot summer months. They dream about family barbecue get-togethers, beach parties, bikinis, sunbathing, poolside excursions, boat rides, amusement trips and drunken forays in the dunes. More to the point, these thoughts only intensify when employees look outside the window and see how sunny it is, then reflect that they are stuck in an office tower for the next 15 hours. It is no wonder that productivity falls 43% between June and September. Good managers must stop these thoughts before they start. In a word, individual employee thinking is dangerous to employee morale, productivity and shareholder satisfaction. As managers, we have a duty to guard against it at all times. We do not pay employees to be individuals. We pay employees to serve us.

Good managers get a handle on their employees. To eliminate dangerous individual thinking, good managers are not afraid to take bold steps. A good manager does not increase morale by "being nice;" a good manager yells, threatens and creates intense workplace rivalries. "Nice managers" encourage employees to think for themselves. "Nice managers" try to be "friends" with employees. They even give employees "privacy" and "respect" while on the job. Yet this leads only to wasted time and wasted money. Unsupervised employees exploit the business for money while giving nothing back to the shareholders. Good managers, by contrast, scrupulously oversee their employees to ensure proper morale. They segregate employees to minimize small talk, gossip, chatter, joking and laughter. They install surveillance cameras to ensure that only company work motivates employee behavior. They publicly discipline employees who surf the internet for personal reasons while on the job. When necessary, they call lazy workers into their offices for full-scale tongue lashings. In short, good managers create a positive atmosphere in which employees are happy to carry out employer business. In such an atmosphere morale increases and servants serve well. Good managers are like good fathers: They assert their authority strongly and often.

Good managers must not be afraid to scream, yell, insult, degrade, humiliate and belittle their employees. When it appears that an employee represents a danger to employee morale through individual thinking, humor, good temperament or popularity, a good manager must not hesitate to tell him to "Get a grip or get fired." When an employee exhibits a propensity to do things in a manner different from prescribed protocols, a good manager must not hesitate to personally discipline the employee. Willful employees represent a danger to all. If employees do not respect protocols intended to ensure maximum productivity, shareholder satisfaction will suffer. In that light, any attempt to do things differently must be vigorously suppressed. Managers must show that they know best. And they must not be afraid to crush any dissent before it threatens employee morale.

We do not want willful employees. Good employees are good servants, and servants are not willful. In fact, a servant's will is always subservient to his master's will. In that sense, willfulness and service are mutually exclusive. When a manager detects willfulness in an employee, he must act quickly and decisively. Personal insult, threat, reduced pay and isolation represent ample means to eradicate willfulness. Extreme cases may necessitate physical restraint, company re-education or hanging the employee upside down and forcing him to recite the company motto until he exhibits proper respect for the employer's mission. Willfulness cannot exist in the workplace. Good managers tolerate only one will: The will to serve the employer.

Managers must not have moral qualms about the methods they choose to increase morale. True, some methods may alienate employees more than others. But as long as the end result generates more productivity, any method is justified. To that extent, managers cannot sympathize or empathize with employees. Employees are not the same as shareholders. Employees exist to enrich the shareholders, not to enjoy their lives as unique individuals. And managers do not exist to secure comfort and peace for employees. To the contrary, managers exist to please the shareholders, and shareholders will not be pleased with low productivity. In this light, good managers have a clear purpose: To increase employee productivity at all costs. As we have seen, high productivity and high employee morale go hand in hand. In the same vein, high employee morale results when a good manager eradicates dangerous individual thinking among employees and readjusts their will. Thus, good managers have a well-defined task: To vigorously increase productivity by increasing employee morale through the suppression of individual thought.

As good managers, let us strive to reverse the trend this summer. If we understand what it takes to generate high morale, we can get a handle on our employees. The time for understanding and tolerance is over. Good management demands the courage to disparage, suppress, overpower, intimidate, cajole, deceive and badger our employees into productivity and service. After all, we are not doing this for our health. Employees are not individuals. They are the means by which shareholders secure suitable profits. They need to get their heads in the game, and this is a game we need to win. We serve the shareholders. To perform our task, we, too, must view employees for what they are: A means to an end.

We wish you a prosperous and productive summer!

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