Give up the “sticks”

“Why not whip the teacher when the pupil misbehaves?”

— Diogenes of Sinope

It’s tempting to punish people when a problem happens. It’s tempting because it’s easy to assume the link between cause and effect. “I punished him, he got the message, the problem is fixed.” This is a good ol’ way of reasoning familiar to everyone since childhood. The only problem is that it is wrong. In case of malfunctions you have to punish a system, not people, in order to fix a problem forever and for everyone. Ever punished a system? I never heard about successful cases.

You can’t punish systems. You have to change them instead. You can’t change people. You have to take them as they are. Let’s make the “sticks” exclusive privilege of a state as most stupid things are already its privilege.

There’s a quote from an old email from my boss explaining his management approach:

They [people] (1) are responsible for the declared results. If they (2) did smth wrong they (3) will be punished.

There is one strange thing about this email. I never saw my boss use a “stick” in the years I work for him. No, your guess is wrong. We had a lot of situations calling for it. We just work differently, trying to never blame neither ourselves nor our colleagues. Peculiarity is that my boss never openly promotes his real management style around the organisation. But I deflected.

In the end I have a question for you. If we give up “sticks”, should the “carrots” follow? I’m sure they should. What do you think?

Give up the “sticks”

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