How to Subtly Piss off Your Employees and Make’em Skedaddle

What does it take to get employee engagement down, turnover up, and your Glassdoor reputation score down in the pits? The answer is simple. Make your culture stink. Here’s how.

All Work and No Play? Jack and Jill Become Dull – no, make that EX – employees.

Step One: Don’t Let Anyone Have a Sense of Play in their jobs. I’m not suggesting that a lack of ping pong tables and Nerf guns is going to sink your company. Far from it. That’s not the kind of play I’m talking about. (Although group recreation can have a positive effect on employee morale and performance – and many convicted murderers have never played!).

I’m talking about the idea that if your team members really enjoy what they’re doing – it can be as fun as play. So, what does that take? At highly innovative companies (think Southwest Airlines, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon), employees are free to put their ideas and their personality into their jobs. If you’ve ever had SWA flight attendants sing the safety instructions to you, you’ve experienced one way in which play can be effective in business.

Play is the way we learn: It’s tied to curiosity, experimentation, and exploring challenging problems. All of those are things that make businesses grow.

Leaders can maximize this motivation first by matching the right people with the right positions. Once matched, give team members the freedom to apply their passion, their ideas, and their curiosity to solving the challenges that lead to success for them and for the company.

Does it matter? If they don’t care, they’re not going to stick with it.

Step 2: Hire people that don’t value what the company does, or their role in it. One of the first jobs I had out of college was working for a book publisher, managing the back list…all those books that need to be reprinted. A huge part of why I loved that job was because we published books that helped people grow. Every time I reprinted another 5000 books – that was 5,000 people I was helping with their relationships, their parenting, their spiritual life or their finances. On the other hand, marketing software that helped the telephone company make more money? Meh. Not so fulfilling.

Not that helping companies make more money is bad. For me, it just wasn’t a match to what I valued most in life.

“Behind every winning organization is a unique identity,” writes Lee Williams of Success.com, “one that sets it apart from others and gives employees a strong sense of belonging, ownership, value, and meaning.”  Who wouldn’t prefer to work where he or she felt part of a greater purpose?

When leaders maximize the match between corporate mission and individual purpose during the hiring process, they maximize the likelihood that employees will stay and thrive in their jobs. Every day, keeping the intrinsic purpose of the company front and center brings satisfaction to employees. If you want them to leave, make it all about margins, accounts won, market share, and them being darn lucky to be employed.

All Take and No Give? If they don’t grow, they’ll go.

Step 3: Avoid giving your employees opportunities for personal growth. I worked at a small startup where the founder-owner cast a vision of the company as a place where each of us could work long-term, with a huge payoff for those who loyally did. A key part of his strategy for keeping employees was to invest in their personal growth. It was marvelous! I needed to create a marketing database that couldn’t be bought off the shelf. I was given permission to learn SQL and use that knowledge to develop customized reporting. I needed to learn how to be a better manager and team player. I was sent to the Dale Carnegie Course. Three to four times a year, we all took part in management training and consultant workshops that not only developed our workplace skills, but also our character and relational skills. Many, but not all those original two dozen employees stayed with the company for a decade and longer.

When the outcome of work benefits the individual’s identity, the work enhances his or her potential. By giving employees the opportunity to develop new skill sets, receive training, or try new things, leaders can harness their natural self-interest to create a win-win scenario.

So there you have it. The formula for sick culture: (Stifle Play.)+ (Obscure any connection between company purpose and individual Purpose.) x (Neglect developing an employee’s Potential.) = High Turnover & Poor Performance.

Now, on the chance that you might really want to build a great company culture, just flip those around. Focus on why people work, and connect that why with every prospective employee and teach every manager the leadership skills to guide your current employees. Behavioral screening such as that done by ZeroRisk HR and other companies is a great way to ensure that you’re interviewing people who will find personal growth and fulfillment at work. And leadership training and coaching from certified members of The John Maxwell Team will guide your leaders into the habits and mindset that nurture the culture you really want.

Think about this:What kind of culture do you really want? Do you promote or stifle play (curiosity, fun, innovation) at work? Is there a match or a disconnect between your purpose and the company mission? Do you grow at work? Do you help others grow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.