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Management Revolution

Management Revolution

I received the email below yesterday, just after RedBalloon for Corporate hosted a Webinar on Employee Engagement for 250 people. I didn’t receive the email until after the event. But I assume that this person was commenting on the session regarding this ‘management revolution’.

Alas, the email was not signed and was sent from an unknown email… so I guess the best thing to do is to respond here.

Date: 10/27/09 15:50:00

“Naomi Simson, WAKE UP ! People go to work TO BE PAID, VERY few ( ‘cept maybe some women) want ANY so called ‘thanks’ for doing what they are paid to do. OH! I forgot, we are now in the 21st (oops, the ‘touchy-feely, namby-pamby’) century. THIS attitude is one of the major problems in the world today. Management have THEIR job, also. That does NOT include holding the hands of people with self esteem problems. If the employee’s WEREN’T doing a good job, they’d get fired! I suggest you find a job that has some meaning.”

Firstly thank-you to the author (and I will for the sake of writing refer to this person as a ‘him’ given the reference to women) for letting me know your thoughts. Without taking the time to write, I would naively go along my merry way thinking that the whole planet is in harmony when it comes to managing and engaging people this century.

People go to work to be paid for performing certain tasks. This, of course, is the basis of western economies. A person has skills and time which they sell to an organisation in return for a salary. People must be paid for what they do. It puts Wheeties on the table, keeps children in school shoes and all the essential things that we have because we work.

The thing is that those people selling their skills and time ie employees –  have a choice. In fact, they have many choices:

  •     Do I choose to work here – or work somewhere else for the same money (or in some cases less) because I feel better about myself and what I achieve at the place? Does my employer notice what I do?
  •     Do I work hard when I’m at work and use my initiative or do I do the bare minimum?
  •     Do I want to fit in and assist those around me – or make life hard for others?
  •     Do I tell people outside of the organisation about what a good company I work for – or that I hate my boss?
  •     Do I recommend it as a great place to work – or am I asking my friends if its better at their work?
  •     Do I want to continue to learn, grow and develop so I can add more for my employer and in return myself or do I do the minimum I can get away with?

This is fundamentally the question of discretionary effort. An employee can either choose to participate fully or not. They can simply go to work – do what they are told and go home without thinking about it – or be thinking they will be fired. Or they can use their ‘discretionary’ effort for the good of the whole business and ultimately its profitability.

A can assure you, sir, that I am wide awake. I am listening, learning and alert, listening to business leaders and HR directors. All wanting and needing to do more with less. As Ann Sherry noted at the recent HR Leader awards – if you mention the word ‘productivity’ then you are really talking about ‘people’ they are in fact one in the same thing – people doing things to improve, innovate, and grow a business.

This is simply a question of commercial return. I really like the people I work with; the RedBallooners, I am interested in what drives them, what they are passionate about, I love discovering what journey they are on and what is important to them. This cannot be faked. I like people.

The first step to being an effective manager is to like people.  And be truly interested in them. If you’re a manager and don’t like people, perhaps you’re in the wrong job. Business is a people game.

Sir, thank you for your contribution, it is greatly appreciated. To see that there are people who are still well entrenched in the past. Your business may well thrive without the ‘namby pamby touchy feely’ acknowledgement of people. But I am not alone in seeing great commercial returns from listening to my team, and responding, in the same way, I do with customers. I leave you with some powerful statistics – let the numbers speak for themselves:

Companies that raise employee satisfaction by 20% will increase financial performance by more than 42%.
Global Study by David Maister, Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High-Achievement Culture (2001). Sourced from December 2008

A detailed study of 40 global companies found that firms with the highest percentage of engaged employees collectively increased operating income 19% and earnings per share 28% year-to-year. Those companies with the lowest percentage of engaged employees showed year-to-year declines of 33% in operating income and 11% in earnings per share.
Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study. Sourced from December 2008

“Companies that utilised an effective employee recognition program enjoyed a 109% three-year median return to shareholders vs. a 52% return for those companies that did not.”
Watson Wyatt Study of 3 million employees, as quoted  in Forbes magazine (2004)

Hays Group research shows that 70% of engagement is determined by the employee’s direct manager.
The Hays Group, (2008) 

Reader Interactions


  1. This post has left me astonished! I completely agree with your comments Naomi and only have to wonder why the author didn’t put his name to his thoughts.

  2. It’s such a shame that someone feels the need to justify what they do (or not do!) by sending such a negative email to you! if they don’t agree then they should keep to their ways and let you manage the way you choose.

    Personally, I think you are amazing in what you have achieved with the culture at Red Balloon and I think your company’s success only validates your culture ethos. (I want to jump on a plane and work with you!). I love my job, but if my boss or other partners comment on what a good job I am doing, the money is insignificant. I want this company to grow and be more successful and my salary has nothing to do with it.

    Your webinar was fantastic and left me with lots of thoughts on what our small team here could be doing.

  3. Great response! People like this just bug me. Tough-love rarely works. And let’s not forget the timeless facts presented in the Good to Great businesses as well.

  4. Naomi, I’m surprised you even bothered with this one.

    It’s clear that if your emailer is a manager, then he is not being paid enough money to add employee engagement/motivation to his list of tasks.

    Some businesses operate in tougher environments than others. But if they can get out of the mindset of it all being about the touchy-feely stuff, and actually highlighting behaviours that lead to higher productivity, then they’ll start seeing genuine returns.

  5. Hi Naomi,
    As a volunteer manager of an organisation, I employ a number of ladies and I am very proud of the work they do and I have no problems in telling them how much they are appreciated.
    I don’t quite know where this neanderthal crawled out from but (he/she/it) misses the point that if you treat your employees as people they will in turn (99.9% of the time) return that respect.
    I have both male and female employees and they are all treated and paid the same.
    My motto: "What goes around – Comes around".
    You only get back what you give.
    If you ever decide to mentor business builders, I would love to be one of them.


  6. An excellent reply Naomi to a very off-hand, obviously unhappy and unfulfilled worker – I think he needs a red balloon experience don’t you! I think so much we do in life is reliant on ‘state of mind’. Positivity breeds positivity and likewise the reverse, this person is certainly in the latter camp. I’ve loved reading your millionare experience blog… and have followed your business for a while now!
    Great stuff!

  7. I have just attended your webinar, I just had to express how inspirational it is to hear someone talk about these issues with such passion and dedication.

    Thanks so much for giving us the opportunity to hear how you champion engagement at red balloon.

    You have inspired me to go out and motivate my colleagues and leadership team to strive for engagement and recognition in our teams and company.

    I look forward to letting you know how we go with improving engagement here at our company.

  8. All I can say is ‘thank goodness I am not married to this man’.

    Thank goodness that successful businesses (which will be successful in the future)have true leaders who understand engagement of employees. Those that don’t will be left behind! Let’s hope that this gentleman has a back up plan for his future !

    Keep being great !

    Jenny White
    Leader of Service and Fun
    White Now

  9. While it is truly sad to see comments like those you received in the letter I fear that solely doing a job for the money regardless of the enjoyment factor is more common that we would like to believe. I am currently in the process of leaving a highly paid corporate job for …. well I’m not entirely sure yet but I now know my health and happiness need to come first. But since making the decision my eyes have been further opened to the huge amount of negativity in the workplace – every person I talk to has something negative to say about their job, the company, their colleagues or managers. Leaving was such a difficult and lengthy decision and now I can’t wait for my final 14 days to be over!

    Naomi I think a lot of companies could learn huge volumes from your messages.

  10. “Obviously this guy has his head so far up his own backside it’s popped back out the top! I have been in management in the hardest most dangerous industry in the world, commercial fishing. If you have seen ‘deadliest catch’ on t.v you have some idea, no sleep, no rights, just do it. There is a saying for the crew, It’s not for us to wonder why, just to do or die. Let’s look at this from another angle cattle farmers clear their fields of trees so there is more grazing area. studies have now proved, that if you leave the trees the cows have shade to keep them cool in our horribly hot weather and hence more comfortable. This of course makes for happier cows.

    Guess what! The comfortable happy cows produce better meat and more milk! So basically if the farmer keeps his ’employees’ happy, he enjoys better production and greater profit. The bully that thinks he is manager has employees that he keeps unhappy and with no incentive to help him, generate greater productivity and are looking in the paper for another job. On the flipside the mamby pamby manager has happy staff that are on time, come up with ideas to increase productivity and attack each day with zeal. Knowing that they will be rewarded with praise and thanks for coming up with such a great idea. Productivity goes up, so the profit does. But most importantly they are not looking to find another job and as any good manager knows the hardest thing is getting good people and keeping them. Besides that Naomi has her name and picture on the cover of the book she put her ideas into, the guy well he doesn’t have the guts or nuts to let anyone know who he is! I think that says more than he wrote.”

  11. Hi Naomi
    I suspect that the author of the get-a-life email hasn’t asked his employees if they are happy working… or if they are looking for another job. I imagine they are. In addition, a bitter former employee can be an expensive liability.
    And if employees are just conveniences who should be grateful, not people, then it is likely that his company’s customers also know they are just conveniences, because his service will be low quality.
    Roll out the Respect revolution. It requires more imagination and patience to act respectfully, but it is without doubt the best way. It is your values: you pay the price and want the benefits.

    Mr. Get-a-Life shouldn’t push his on you. Tell him to nick off.

  12. oops..what a sad employee..I can’t imagine how he could survive? I don’t think he will understand your reply either..just simply, he doesn’t understand “People Management“ how it works.. how he can grow the business..
    The business & the culture must be very poor…

  13. Wow, you know this type of archaic view is out there, but it is still surprising to see it. I wouldn’t mind betting this person was seriously short on cuddles from mum and dad growing up!

  14. Browsing the blog of one as clearly charismatic and tuned-in as yourself, I just could not go past this particular entry without wanting to add my own two cents’ worth.

    There is a little bit of truth in what both of you have to say.

    It is actually true that many people feel as if they are being held to ransom by having to work, in exchange for the ‘priviledge’ of being allowed to live and feed their families. That they are thereby prevented from indulging in the countless other wonders this planet has to offer each and every one of us. The kinds of things that only the more “successful” of us ever get to truly enjoy. This obviously is a rather bleek and negative view for someone to hold.

    On the other hand, there are those of us who find challenge and satisfaction in work and achievement, and tackle our roles with zest and energy each and every day.

    The job of the manager therefore, is to motivate and impassion to such an extent that the perceived hopelessness and futility of work evaporates from the consciousness of those afflicted by such abberations of perception (because work is and can be immensely rewarding in itself). However, in order to do this, the manager must be able to recognise and praise, not in the superficial and (dare I say it) ‘namby pamby’ ways that corporations have become accustomed to (like meaningless ceremonies for the employee of the year), but in ways that actually have a truly positive impact in the lives of people (like promotion, better pay and benefits etc).

    People can only aspire to greater things when there actually are things for them to aspire to. In my own experience of having worked at numerous organisations throughout my career, it is obvious that these days, you cannot count on your employer to recognise the effort you’re willing to put into your work by showing the same kind of committment to you in return. That for anyone to get anywhere these days, they have to either threaten their current employer with leaving, or actually take the plunge and leave in favour of a better job elsewhere that briefly recognises their achievements in the job they’re leaving by granting them a “promotion” their existing employer is denying them, and then promptly forgets they exist at all.

    The cold hard facts are that work is something we all HAVE to do whether we like it or not, and in doing so, we can’t spend our days luxuriating at the beach as we would prefer to be doing, for example. But, beyond that depressing view is also the fact that work is a truly rewarding thing, especially if it is something that becomes part of who you are and fires you on in some special way.

    But even such enthusiam can have a use by date, especially if the lack of recognition for a person’s contribution to a company’s profitability becomes large enough in that person’s mind to make them lose hope all together.

  15. Great response to this unnamed email. It looks like this person is upset by others getting away with not doing their job as they believe they should. This is also a big issue when leaders do not manage underperformers or reward the brilliant performers. Many get lost in the middle section feeling left out and annoyed that they are forgotten. I think if this person received due recognition and if non performers were dealt with effectively – he might feel differently. Alas – no name – so we shall never know 🙁

  16. I would like to thank you Naomi, for publishing and addressing that hideous email. I have a very strong curiosity about what the people working at that company would say in a confidential arena. I’m quite certain there would be some underlying feelings of discontentment and worthlessness due to being repressed and ridden to get a higher productive output with little in return.
    I very much agree with and love your managerial style and I too believe that it is not as common as it should be. Yes you still have to earn money to provide for your family and pay the mortgage, but we spend over half of our awake lives working and a good part of the other half thinking about work!
    I find that if you’re not happy in your job, production goes down without you even thinking about it. It makes a world of difference if the management of a company actually CARE about you and not just the bottom line. When this happens, you find that you love the company as a whole and you stay there not for the money…. Not for the perks, but for the people.
    You strive to do better and beat your personal goals not only for yourself but for the satisfaction of contributing to something bigger than yourself and working towards something you’re truly passionate about. Little hint for the person who wrote the email: THIS passion and drive, doesn’t come from people who just “go to work to be paid”, it comes from people who love their jobs and organisations.

  17. Hi Naomi,
    Thank you for the article! Your personal experience is very inspiring!
    I fully share your point of view. At the end of the article you reference “Hays Group”. Is it safe to assume you meant Hay Group (, not Hays Companies?
    Hay Group has done a lot of reasearch into employee engagement. Our book “The Enemy of Engagement” (by Mark Royal and Tom Agnew) talks about many of the issues you raised in your article.
    It’s a common mistake to confuse us with Hays Companies though:)

  18. Hi Naomi –
    May I say that time and time again we are ‘posting’ these people’s negative and often downright ignorant comments and in this case, giving ‘him’ top billing and a post of his own on your very worthy site. I wonder if its time to stop responding to these people and let them find something worthwhile to do with their time (you can bet he isn’t running an amazing company), rather than using up yours? It does worry me how often we feel the need to justify the negative comments, but not the positive ones.
    Just a thought!

  19. Hello Naomi
    Your points are well made and that happier, and more ‘intrinsically motivated’ employees perform better than those who are ‘incentivised’ with bonuses, etc.
    Dan Pink’s book, “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” goes into full detail about this. It is as you have found through your experience, that providing people with reasons to be at work that fulfil: autonomy – self-direction and empowerment, Mastery – to learn, to be challenged and to succeed, and Purpose – that our lives have meaning.
    These also fit very neatly into Glasser’s Choice theory: that we have five needs; Safety/Survival, Belonging/connecting/love, Power/significance/competence, Freedom/autonomy, and….Fun/learning and adventure! So there!
    We are moving into a new era where old ideas of what works, quite rightly, will be challenged. A workplace based in fear, and carrots and sticks will slowly slide away. And a workplace with systems based in intrinsic motivation and fulfilling our human needs will thrive.
    Good on you Naomi, keep going!

  20. I just had to respond to this email. As a consumer and a former mystery shopper, it amazes me that there are people/businesses who honestly do not realize why it is important to acknowledge employees and that a happy employee usually means a happy customer. Whatever your doing Naomi, you are doing it well and I think in years to come your company and the by products and developed networks will reflect that. I’m a big believer in gratitude and it saddens me when people take others for granted and miss out on beautiful experiences because of it. And to the gentleman who wrote the email originally… it would appear that by your desire for anonymity that you know in your heart that you could not openly stand by your words, because truth and regard for another do not need subterfuge because there is nothing to hide.


  1. […] then look at what Naomi says: I really like the people I work with; the RedBallooners, I am interested in what drives them, what […]

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