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A Lesson in How NOT to Motivate Employees

I came across this little nugget this weekend and I just had to write about it.  Unfortunately it’s a true story – and may pick up some “viral legs” – so remember where you may have heard it first.

It seems that an owner of some convenience stores in Iowa decided to have a contest where his employees could win some cold hard cash.  Nothing wrong with that – right?  Well – here is a copy of the memo, as reported by the DeMoines Register  from the business owner to the employees:

“New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!!

To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today’s date, today’s time, and your name. Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.

“Here’s how the game will work: We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week. Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.

“If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH. Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with the exact same name, date, and time. Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again.

“And no fair picking John Doe from (the XX store). He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!”

I did remove the name and store from the memo’s last paragraph from my post here – the full article can be seen here:

Needless to say some employees have quit – and at least one has won unemployment compensation benefits as a state judge has ruled the memo a “deplorable act” and therefore a hostile work environment in siding with employees.  As was reported in the article there were employees who were not following policies for dress, cell phone use etc.   Had the store owner appropriately addressed these actions he probably wouldn’t be smeared all over the internet.

I hope this little nugget helped to bring a smile to a dreary day – but more importantly focus you on the extremes that can happen – and the consequences those extremes can cause.


TriStarr Staffing provides unique solutions for your staffing and HR Needs.  Whether you need short term temporary employees for a project, or sophisticated Recruitment Process Outsourcing solution, TriStarr has the experience to identify solutions right for your needs.  A free HR Audit will provide you with peace of mind knowing your HR Practices are up to date, and in compliance.  For more information click here and paste “I’m Interested in a FREE HR Audit” in the comment box.

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