I have an idea for a book.
Since Iíll never write it. I might as well go ahead and give away the
Management by guilt
Make Your Employees Feel Bad
And Then Watch Them Produce
I humbly admit Iím a master at
the craft of making people feel remorseful. And after years of practicing
at home, first with your pets and then with your spouses, you too can
transfer the art to the workplace, where it can do wonders.
There is a price to pay, however, and
sometimes itís steep. The target of your attack must have done something
really stupid before the guilt will work. But remember, the damage done by
the stupid act can be far outweighed by the accomplishments triggered by
Confused? Let me give you an example
that actually happened last week involving Ralph, my general manager, and
me, the Master of Guilt.
Ralph and I decided it would be a good
idea for me to fly to San Diego to attend the Action Sportswear Show,
which generally consists of booth after booth of young, voluptuous,
hard-body models displaying the latest line of swimwear sold in one of our
retail stores. Usually Ralph goes to these trade shows, but he was busy. I
had some other things I needed to see in San Diego, so I gallantly offered
Since he gets all the literature for
these shows, I asked him the exact dates. He told me it ran through the 15th.
We talked about it again a couple of days later. He confirmed the dates. I
asked him if he was certain. He was.
I booked a room at the San Diego
Marriott, next door to The Convention Center, for the night of the 13th.
They were surprisingly eager to hear from me. I flew to San Diego that
morning and checked in, amazed at the depth of the recession. A major
convention was going on next door and the Marriott looked like a ghost
But the hotel looked positively
bustling compared to the scene that greeted me when I walked over to the
Convention Center. There were no bikinis, no sportswear, no action, no
nothing. The doors were locked. That dreadful feeling began to set in.
The only hope was that the show had
been moved to a smaller location. That must be it. I knew it had downsized
over the years; it must have a new venue that Ralph had neglected to
mention to me. Or else Ralph had given me the wrong dates. Nah. I had
asked him at least four times.
I called Ralph from a pay phone.
"Thereís nothing happening at the Convention Center," I said.
"Did they move it?"
Ralphís first reaction, of course,
was that I had screwed up. He wanted to know what city I was in.
"Iím in San Diego," I said,
my teeth growing tighter. "Why donít you find the literature for
the show and check the location?" I paused. "And while youíre
at it, check the dates."
Ralph, his confidence fading by the
millisecond, started rustling papers. "Iíve got it right here. Hold
on a second." Long pause, and then a notable clunk, probably Ralphís
head. "Uh-oh. Youíre going to kill me. The show ended
I said nothing. The silence was
"I am so sorry," Ralph said.
"I donít know where I got the idea it ran through the 15th.
I was positive."
Now here is where my book,
"Management By Guilt," kicks in. The damage is done. Make the
most out of it. Many managers would throw a tantrum, screaming and
yelling. Others would try to say something positive, like, "Donít
worry about it, Ralph, everyone makes mistakes. Learn from it."
Not me. Ralph and I have been
together for over 10 years. We have mutual respect. I would never yell at
him or sugar-coat his mistakes. In these situations, with people you
respect, honesty is the key.
Thatís why I let the silence hang for
a few seconds, and then, through clenched teeth, summed up the chain of
"You stupid idiot," I said.
And then I quickly hung up the phone.
But thatís not where it ends.
The key is not calling back. In fact, I had no communication with Ralph
until I returned to the office two days later. He didnít know if I was
still fuming or if I had pardoned his huge error.
When he met me as I got out of my
car and offered to personally pay for my airfare, I knew I had him.
"Management by Guilt" was just beginning to reap its rewards.