Learning about employee happiness from a visit to John Lewis

The Diary column in today’s Guardian has a certain amount of fun at the expense of pornographer Richard Desmond, who in addition to being a purveyor of filth also owns Express Newspapers and is a purveyor of lies about Princess Diana, Madeleine McCann, climate change, immigration, the social security system and…well you get the picture. Apparently he has banned kettles at the newspaper’s offices after tripping over the lead of one. The staff are apparently rather, er, steamed up about it and much effort is being diverted from inventing complete nonsense about the European Union into open conflict as to how to make tea and coffee. Another entirely predictable example of Herzberg’s theory of motivation, with a nod to Maslow as well I rather think.

It very much reminded me about the divisional MD I once knew who got it into his head that his employees were wasting too much time making and eating toast. Having wasted a considerable amount of time hanging around the kitchen (he was a member of the family that owned the group and perfectly free to lurk instead of work should he so choose) he invented a completely bogus Health and Safety report (its non-existence confirmed to everyone by his secretary behind his back) and banned the practice. Staff turned up one morning to find the toaster gone. They were, again entirely predictably, very unhappy and spent far more time complaining about it than they ever did making toast in the first place. It became common practice for some visitors to the office from elsewhere in the group – that would be me then – to reply after having been offered coffee that some toast would be nice as well. This ensured staff remained annoyed, the grievance carried on and yet more time was lost.

“There are practical little things in housekeeping which no man really understands.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The author’s website

The author’s LinkedIn profile

The author’s Twitter feed

Standard