Merge's Blog

The piss-off factor. More stupid actions by short-sighted managers

Just a little over a month ago, I blogged about the piss-off factor – how short-sighted and small-minded managers do stupid things to discourage and turn off their employees.  Apparently it struck a chord with many of you because not only did a few of you comment right here on the blog, but I also received emails and phone calls from several of you on this subject.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the piss-off factor is alive and well in many organizations!

Just yesterday I got an update from the person who gave me the original story.  Same dork management team, still doing stupid things.  This time they held a “fun” afternoon event at a local eatery, ostensibly to thank employees for a job well done.  All the employees in the division were invited.  But the division also has a group of regular contract staff – people who are employed by an external contract firm but work nevertheless side-by-side on a daily basis with the regular employees in this area – and these staff were deliberately excluded.  Because they were not employees.  There is also a small group of IT professionals who are from another area of the company, but who support these regular employees on a daily and consistent basis.  They were also not invited.  The reason: once you start inviting people who are not employees of the department, where do you draw the line?  “It’s a slippery slope, and we can’t go there; far better to just limit it to the regular employees.  Otherwise, costs will just spiral out of control,” said one of the managers.

Seriously??  If you’re celebrating accomplishments, then doesn’t it make sense to invite all the people who had a hand in making success happen?  At the end of the day, it’s a small gesture in the big scheme of things – chances are that most of the “other” staff would just drop by briefly to have a quick drink and say hello – but it’s a gesture that goes a long way.  Perhaps more importantly, excluding these contract and IT staff from the event is a huge de-motivator.  If you want to make people work as if they are part of your team, then make them feel like they are part of your team!

What do you think?  Is it a “slippery slope” as one manager called it?  Or can I chalk this up to yet another (sigh!) example of the piss-off factor in action?


  • Merge, there are legal reasons not to invite contractors to social events. It has to do with treating them like employees but not hiring them and has been used in courts against employers. I’ve been on both sides of the coin – as a contractor and employee. I wish it were different, but we go with Legal’s advice. If the IT folks are employees, they can easily be included.

  • I’ve got to say Linda that while I fully respect the opinions of the legal professionals who are there to help us, there are many times (and this is one) when it’s better to make the common sense decision rather than the “safe” legal one. There are times when, as leaders, we need to use our own best judgment, and in the situation that I described, the need to support team morale far outweighs the potential legal implications. External contractors are invited to company events all the time, and this could easily have been positioned as a “joint celebration.” But the reasons that this management team gave are just plain ol’ short-sighted.

    But this is a discussion forum, and differing opinions is what makes the conversation valuable. Curious to know if any of our other readers have an opinion?

  • Personally, I hate work functions where I’m being “thanked” for my hard work. I feel an obligation to socialize with people I barely know and it’s eating up time that I could spend on other non-work activities. How can my employer thank me in a way that I will appreciate? Profit sharing. Think about it, money is the reason most employees show up for work.


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