The CEO of a company noticed that discipline was getting lax in his company. People were wasting too much time gossiping. They’d taken to visiting each other’s work stations and passing the time of the day over endless cups of tea. Lunch hours stretched from half and hour to almost two hours. With work piling up, it was inevitable that a blame game became the most convenient peg to hang all maladies on. The atmosphere at the work- place was rancid with rotting inefficiency and disintegrating responsibilities. He lost it completely when he caught people taking siestas after lunch.
Tactful suggestions had broken into smithereens against willful apathy. Gentle reminders had been brushed away from defensively hunched up shoulders. Strict injunctions had been buried, hammered into the ground by stony looks. The man was at his wit’s end.
When the stick fails to do it’s job, there is no option but to deploy the carrot, is there?
He decided to keep it simple. He announced a 10% bonus to every employee who wound up his lunch time in twenty- five minutes instead of half and hour and could keep it up for the entire month. If he slipped up once in the whole month, he’d get only 5% bonus. If an employee was late two times, he’d lose his bonus completely. If he was late for the third time, he’d have 10% deducted from his salary. More than three time would attract serious disciplinary action which may or may not result in termination.
The CEO was quite confident that the system would work. He was right.
It worked well. In three months he had targeted other maladies in the company. Morale boosted and so did efficiency. Work flowed smoothly in a work space where bottle- necks were conspicuous by their absence. The CEO patted his own back and felt smug. And prudently kept his fingers crossed.
In six months, the fabric began to loosen. It is as if people were tired of pulling their stomach in for the look- we- are- such- a- great- team photo. Shoulders had begun to sag and stomachs had begun to protrude. The CEO was apprehensive.
In an effort to kill the monster when it was little, he enforced the rules even more strictly. In a final act of desperation, he included himself in the net. He too would toe the line he was asking his employees to toe. Providence stifled a giggle and picked up a hefty club, waiting for the right opportunity.
The CEO had gone out to lunch with a friend who was visiting the city after almost a decade. It was only when the lunch was over that he remembered his half an hour deadline. He had exceeded the deadline by over twenty minutes already. By the time he would reach his office, he would be a full half and hour late. He began to fret.
The 5% deduction in the bonus was too miniscule for him to worry about. He was a conscientious man and was more concerned about the principal he was violating. He knew it was a test of his accountability as a leader. He knew nobody would point out this transgression to him since he was the boss. This very immunity added to his feeling of guilt. He began to feel uptight.
When we walked into his office, his secretary involuntarily looked at the clock on the wall. His post- lunch visitor had been waiting for half an hour and she was beginning to feel anxious. To him, already feeling guilty, it was a reproof more cutting than a verbal expression. He was uncharacteristically- and under the circumstances, unreasonably, incensed.
Brusquely, he summoned her to his cabin. Over a minor error in a letter she had drafted, he blew up and came down hard on her. She emerged from his cabin fuming and resentful.
“No matter what how much I do around here, I’ll never be appreciated. I hate this place!” She fumed silently to herself. Back at her desk, she asked the switchboard operator to connect her to a client. When the call didn’t come through even after fifteen minutes, she went stomping to the operator’s desk and gave her a proper dressing down.
The operator had been diligently trying to connect the call but she hadn’t been able to. To be reprimanded so strongly for something that wasn’t her fault, riled her up. She in turn let her irritation loose upon the peon who had just walked in with a tray laden with tea for everyone. The operator’s unreasonableness upset the peon terribly. Muttering and grumbling to himself as he went around serving tea to everyone, his grumpiness was obvious to everyone. An hour before he could wind up for the day, the peon left office for his home, thoroughly frustrated with everyone.
When he reached home, he found his twelve year old son lolling on the sofa, watching TV. He’d had endless arguments with his about watching TV. The peon had strictly forbidden his son to watch TV if his homework wasn’t finished. That day, however, the son had duly finished all his work and was expecting a pat on the back from his father.
Instead, the father blew up, assuming that the son was again playing hookey with his work unfinished. The injustice of it stung the child. Infuriated and too proud to offer an explanation to his unfair father, he banged out of the room and went to his room. There he found his cat asleep on his bed. He had tried to teach the cat to sleep in her own basket, but she had proved resistant to learning such a simple thing. In a fit of temper, he gave one kick to the cat. She yelped and scampered out of the window in self- preservation.
I want to ask you two questions.
Who kicked the cat? Was it the boy or was it the CEO?
Whose cat did you kick today?
1. I have no idea who wrote the story originally. I heard it from someone. The form in which I have presented it is entirely my own. I have embellished it to make a more interesting read. However, if you know whence the story originated, do let me know in the comments and I will credit the source.
2. I don’t agree with the CEO’s stick and carrot approach. It was bound to fail. The point of the story is to demonstrate the cascading effect of one person’s anger. That it was unfair is merely the icing on the cake.