A longtime friend who works for a Fortune 500 company told me today that management has a new internal communications program. This time the message is on accountability and refers to tasks that are woven into each employee’s personal evaluation criteria. The response within the ranks: We’ll do it when you do it.

That’s a predicable unfolding of human nature, particularly in a company that has been dismantling the infrastructure of thank-you gestures that once made people feel recognized. It’s only going to get more pronounced in this Fortune 500 company and others like it.

The problem with the company’s approach is that it favors manipulation over inspiration. It tells people what they’re expected to do, but doesn’t connect it to a human outcome or company purpose that would make them care.

As Dennis McCarthy, CEO of sales consultancy Paradigm Group and author of The Loyalty Link, told me back in the Nineties, “Nobody gets out of bed and says, ‘Gosh, I can’t wait to go enhance shareholder value.’”

Predictable programs like this are about how the C-suite chess players want the pawns to move, and it forgets that the pawns are actually people. When you do that, you get either commanding or corny internal stuff. And predictably, it backfires.

Companies will need to avoid this mistake in the years to come, or risk getting blown up in the social sphere. The key: Executives stop maneuvering the organization and start communicating with people as human beings. Humans are funny creatures; we have desires and we usually take jobs for something more than just the paycheck, whether we admit it or not.

We want to be part of companies that seem to be going somewhere, doing something, and causing something, that inspires us at some level. That’s the button to push if you want to spark change and momentum inside.

Leave a Reply