18 Times Companies Tried And Failed To Motivate Employees

Kasia Mikolajczak
Man with his face covered in sticky notes
Unsplash | Luis Villasmil

I bet you had many dreams as a child and one of those dreams was to find a great job. Am I right? Ah, I know the feeling. However, it's not always easy to accomplish that. Some workplaces seem great on paper but turn out the opposite in reality.

So it's no wonder many people are leaving to pursue bigger and better things. And even when employers try to satisfy employees, they go about it the wrong way. Here are a few examples of employers who tried but failed miserably to make things decent for their staff.

This Useless Exercise

people in an office meeting
Unsplash | Redd

"I once worked at a company where morale was very low due to extreme micromanagement, low pay, and having to provide tech support for a product that frankly sucked. So, they called us into a series of meetings to 'discuss' the issue. The guy leading the meeting asked us as soon as we sat down, 'Who here is happy in their job?' And like one or two people raised their hands. He then said, 'Well in this economy, you're lucky to have a job at all. Meeting over.' And then he left."

I mean, what?

This Total Ignorance

sign that says "we hear you."
Unsplash | Jon Tyson

"We had to take a survey and one question was: 'Aside from getting a pay increase, what would make you feel more appreciated in your current position?' We all wrote down things like birthdays off with pay, less overtime, allowing coffee/soft drinks while we are working, and increase breaks from 10 minutes to 15 minutes. We all handed in the surveys. They did not implement a single suggestion."

Why even ask then?

This Odd Survey

a frustrated man throwing a pen away and putting his head on the table
Giphy | Equipe de France de Football

"They sent a survey asking what our perceptions about the workplace were. Voicing some issues with some areas was 100% going to get you in trouble so I complained that the survey was not anonymous, and didn't complete most of it. Some days later, I was personally contacted by three people who wanted to find out what was wrong. They completely missed the whole point."

If you want honesty, make it anonymous and you'll get plenty, lol.

This Blatant Omission

person on a laptop
Unsplash | Christin Hume

"We had an employee morale survey and 'I am paid enough?' was one question. CEO eliminated the cost of living/annual raises. That question was removed from the employee survey."

Why am I not surprised?

This Punishment

man putting on a suit wearing a red tie
Unsplash | David Huck

"They would update the dress code every time anyone came in wearing anything the boss didn't like, even if it was entirely appropriate for work. Bill got a new tie for Father's Day and it has bright green stripes? We got an all-staff email the next day banning 'distracting colors.' There were only like 15 employees all working in one small building, too, so it was obvious who the boss was targeting each time."

OMG! Wow!

This 'Lost In Translation' Moment

woman looking confuses
Giphy | Harlem

"A hardware malfunction shut down our data system for three days, resulting in over half a year of mandatory overtime to make up the lost production time. When announcing this via email, the office supervisor used a quote by Ferdinand Foch. He was a French general in the first World War, famous for advocating the throwing of waves of men at barbed wire and machine guns because it'll totally work this time. This was meant to be an inspirational quote."

Somebody needs a lesson in tact.

This Lesson Learned

woman holding a tray of food
Unsplash | Sasha • Stories

"My sister worked at a fine dining waitress job years ago. Her boss liked to keep his staff 'on their toes' to ensure no laziness or poor performance and said boss decided it was a great idea to test the waitresses. His wise idea was to have the chef pick a person waiting during each shift and subtly or openly screw up their orders. Wrong items, cold items, added stuff that was asked to be removed, etc. This went on for several days, one by one each person on the wait staff had a night of chaos and reduced tips/complaints. Not even a week later, half the kitchen and wait staff had left and all the complaints added up, enough that the place closed within six months."

Well, I hope this boss learned his lesson.

This Failed Bonding Experience

ice cream being scooped
Unsplash | American Heritage Chocolate

"Our new manager scheduled an 'ice cream social' one day for thirty minutes. A few of us walked in about five minutes after it started because we had to finish up a task, and the room was completely [expletive] silent. Everyone got one small scoop of ice cream. Once we (the slightly late people) got our ice cream and sat down, the manager announced to the room, 'If you've finished your ice cream, you need to go to the floor and get back to work.' It's a [expletive] factory. The work will still be there and it's not like we've got customers waiting on us. It was the most depressing and half-assed mandatory fun I've ever experienced at a job."

That does not sound like fun, huh?

This Mandatory Fun

Woman yelling "We're all gonna have FUN!"
Giphy |

"If you did not display an enthused reaction to the 'Mandatory Fun' activities, you were put on the [expletive] list."

This sounds like a job I used to have. The manager of our department would force stuff on us, and if you didn't display excitement, you definitely would hear about it later.

This Onslaught Of Meetings

people in a meeting
Unsplash | Headway

"We were all swamped with more work than we could do and there were often mandatory meetings would happen often that were to discuss why we were behind and what they could do. One guy actually spoke up and said, 'STOP HAVING SO MANY MEETINGS AND LET US WORK, EVERY MINUTE OF THIS MEETING IS PUTTING ME FURTHER BEHIND!' They literally called another meeting 30 minutes later to discuss how the last meeting was not a positive experience for them."

The same workplace I mentioned above did this. Needless to say, I was so sick and tired of all those useless meetings.

This Awkward Scenario

woman looking confussed
Giphy | Preity G Zinta

"Each of us had to go into a room with the COO and a general manager and watch a Youtube motivational video with them. It was one of those narrated videos where it's some person drawing cartoons and text on a whiteboard. Anyway, the theme of the video was that you should be following your passion and pay should be secondary and not a motivation. After the video they then asked us, individually, 'Would you like to ask us to lower your pay?' As if that was the takeaway we should be getting from the video. It was totally absurd."

Come again? I can't even process that.

This Tyrant

coffee drip from a machine
Unsplash | John Schnobrich

"I had a friend whose supervisor got upset because she heard people chatting while getting their lunches out of the fridge and making coffee. Her solution? Lock the break room at 8 a.m. (so you needed to come early if you want a cup of coffee), and lock the bathroom so people would need to approach her and ask for the key every time they needed to use the facilities. Imagine being in your 30s or 40s and having to ask permission to use the bathroom."

I seriously wouldn't be able to work there.

This Stupid Solution

woman saying "stop whining and find something to do."
Giphy |

"At the credit union I worked at, us tellers complained that our incentive pay wasn't fair compared to the other departments. The lending and wealth departments got their incentive pay just by doing their jobs. The tellers had to compete with each other so ONE of us would get incentive pay, and the requirements were difficult and out of our control. So we complained and suggested a more fair program. The GM decided that if we were going to complain, then NO ONE gets incentive pay. Everyone was pissed!"

Aha, I get it — just don't complain.

This Slap In The Face

coloring book
Unsplash | pure julia

"My last veterinary hospital was really understaffed. Management asked what they could do to improve things and we all said that even just one extra nurse would make a huge difference. Do you know what we got? A [expletive] coloring book. According to management, coloring helps with mindfulness which reduces stress. The fact that we'd never have time to use it didn't seem to matter."

I don't know about you but this feels like a slap in the face, no?

This Sacrifice

woman doing an eye roll while drinking from a cup
Giphy | Brooklyn Nine-Nine

"When my company decided to downsize, the CIO gathered everyone from IT into a large conference room to give the news. During his speech, he told everyone that we'd all need to make sacrifices and he himself had to sell one of his houses. Everyone in the room looked at each other trying to figure out if he was trying to make a joke. He was 100% serious."

I so wish I was in that room to witness it, lol.

This Employee Deal

people having beers
Unsplash | Fred Moon

"I worked at a brewpub that touted an employee deal of one dollar beers and 50% off food following a shift. The owner also bragged that it cost them 10 cents to make a beer. After a shift, some staff ordered a pitcher, which is around four beers, and the bartender charged them the requisite four dollars per employee deal. The owner watched the security footage of the pitcher at the table, compared it with the four-dollar charge, threw a massive [expletive] tantrum, and took away the beer and food deal for employees altogether. The bartender lost a bunch of prime shifts as well. Math is hard."

What an ass.

This Ridiculous Workplace

man wearing a suit laughing hard
Giphy | HULU

"I worked for a company that was run by Scientologists. They started by making us watch a Scientology video before every shift. When sales didn’t improve the way they thought they would, they then made us watch them during our lunch breaks. Then they told us that they wouldn’t pay us until sales improved, then they stopped commission altogether. Eventually, I left. They then tried to sue me for supposedly being on my phone during work. I proved them wrong, and they dropped it. Soon after, almost every other member of staff left the business and they were forced to close."

Serves them right, huh?

This Horrible Boss

bathroom stall
Unsplash | Tom Rogerson

"I worked at a place where the owner had cameras installed all over. Ostensibly, it was so that he could keep an eye out for shoplifters. The thing is, those cameras were installed EVERYWHERE, including the break room, and the only two places where there weren't any cameras were the bathrooms and the boiler room. So naturally, people would usually go for their lunch breaks outside, or if it rained, they'd go to the boiler room to grab a bite and have some semblance of privacy. I seldom ate lunch, so I usually decided to just hang out in the toilet cubicle, just scrolling on my phone. A few days later, there I am on my break, in the stall, just standing and leaning on the partition and scrolling through Reddit on my phone, when I get a call from my boss. He said that he can see me standing there and demanded to know why I hadn't moved for 25 minutes."

"I was flabbergasted, to say the least. It turns out, that unmitigated asshole installed a camera IN THE BATHROOM over the weekend and the angle was such that you could see partway into the stall. I was livid and told him so, but his rationale was that he was concerned that I was doing drugs in there. Needless to say, I handed in my notice the very next day."

OMG, that's not right.

Wow, can you believe these stories here?

woman saying "That's not right."
Giphy | mintmobile

And I thought I had worked in some toxic environments. Clearly, my past jobs weren't as bad as these examples here. I really do feel bad for these employees, though. All they wanted to do was work hard and get rewarded for it, but what they got was just blatant punishment. What would it take for employers to treat their staff right?