21. The Art Of Demotivation, E. L. Kersten, PH.D

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21. The Art Of Demotivation, E. L. Kersten, PH.D

Post  jrpstonecarver on Tue Aug 30, 2011 1:09 am

What to say about this book? It's a tough one to review.

I've seen bunches of business fads come and go in my time in the high tech industry. I have seen offshoots of the human empowerment movement, various ways of categorizing people by communication style, and a zillion pep rallies of various forms. They were all, in a word, crap.

I am a cynic, though, and I admit it.

When I learned of this book from the chief of Despair, Inc. - the makers of Demotivators (tm) and other amusements - it seemed like it might be a funny read. I wish that had been the case.

Kersten's tome comes across as all too serious. I think it's supposed to be humor, but if so it didn't work that well for me. His thesis - that management is better off creating a demotivating work environment in which employees will resign themselves to their fate, thus costing the company less in benefits (and related expenses), taking fewer chances, and even being so paranoid about keeping their jobs that they won't leave as often - sounds all too real to me in this day and age.

Personally I've been lucky in much of my work. I've had a few enlightened employers and some good managers, so I have seen how a good work environment can function. In my own time in management I've done my best to make things work like that for my employees too. But I have also seen some of the darker side of things, and I know many who have seen far worse. Kersten's suggestions could be marching orders in far too many cases.

While I suspect his tongue really is firmly in his cheek, that only came through effectively (for me) when he briefly discussed how senior management should be treated, and how they need to be kept apart from employees. A couple of those sections caused me to smirk, at least.

But nothing caused a belly laugh, and I can imagine someone who isn't in on the joke thinking this is a real blueprint for how to manage a company. It's that dry and straight in its presentation.

As a result I am not sure this book is successful. Maybe if you've read a bunch of books on management theory the jokes are more obvious, but I found myself cringing too many times at how close to reality his "recommendations" are in far too many cases. Ever since the MBAs starting running the zoo companies are less human and less caring. Squeezing every last dime out of an operation doesn't leave room for anything as simple as having fun in the office. The Art Of Demotivation could easily make that worse as far as I can tell.
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