After reading various books and magazine articles on management, many clueless managers suddenly become prone to making grave mistakes based on a certain fallacy:

High morale leads to high productivity.

When these managers hear how successful companies manage their employees, sometimes even going to great lengths to provide morale boosting perks, they think that if they do all of that to their employees they’re going to see a drastic improvement in productivity.

What a bunch of cargo cult thinking bull.

Not many know that it is actually the other way around: high productivity leads to high morale.

To see the logic behind this, let me quote a story about morale sent to Dilbert creator Scott Adams and printed in The Dilbert Principle:

From: (name withheld)
To: [Scott Adams]


  So here’s the latest from my company:
  Our systems organization has recently gone through a series of layoffs, each supposedly final. Whole groups have been outsourced, but only after lengthy and public debate of how their detailed technical knowledge is “non-value-added.” There is an ongoing “Bullet Team” to try to implement the “Indian Initiative.” We have just reorganized, and half of the management has been appointed very obviously on the basis of their ability to suck up to the guy in charge of that half.
  Morale is just a wee bit low.
  Now, surprisingly enough, the morale problem has been acknowledged. (I think they’re a little worried that people are starting to leave without being laid off first.) A “Work-Out” was called to address the issue. Alternatives discussed at the Work-Out included:

  • Recognizing and rewarding technical expertise.
  • Getting a pay scale close to market value.
  • Communicating outsourcing plans and guidelines
  • Retaining folks with those less “value-added” skills.

  After all those alternatives (and many more) were discussed, the outcome of the lengthy deliberation was… The FUN Team!!!
  Employee morale is low. We need more picnics and bowling. If we just socialize more, all our problems will go away.
  If I had just gone to more leadership classes, I’m sure I’d understand all this…

The moral of the story here is that no matter how many “morale boosting events” or “employee awards” you give away to your employees, their productivity will not improve in the long run as long as you do not deal with the real pressing issues.

As such, it is much better to focus on removing the things that hinder their productivity like obsolete equipment, constricting bureaucracy and lack of training. By doing so, you are more likely to see improvements in productivity and morale.

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