By Gerry Murray. 28-08-2022
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“The carrot and the stick are pervasive and persuasive motivators. But if you treat people like donkeys, they will perform like donkeys.” ~ Sir John Whitmore

My future son-in-law recently got a new job. In fact, he got a more human-centric job. I say this because for 1 year he worked for one of the world’s foremost consulting firms. Organisations outsource various services to this firm, which can range from procurement to IT support and much more. 

In order to squeeze the juice out of each and every employee (or so-called “knowledge worker”), they use software monitoring tools. Everything he did was monitored, including toilet breaks. He felt like a prisoner, a criminal who can’t be trusted. Needless to say, his motivation took a battering! 

A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the prevalence of such tools in workplaces and the negative impact they have on morale. You can read a syndicated copy of the article by clicking on this link

[Caveat: I can see how technology can provide me with feedback at an individual level on how I spend my time at work. And if I’m taught how to use it to take responsibility for improving my own performance then I might welcome it. Apple’s weekly screen time report is a simple example.]

Like so many things in organisation life, the people who approve of the use of such monitoring tools are usually not subject to them themselves. It’s the equivalent of everyone losing their office to sit in an open-plan space whilst the boss retains his/her office. 

I’m fundamentally opposed to the use of such tools to either punish or reward people for their efforts. It misses the mark on so many levels of basic humanity that I wouldn’t know where to start. No wonder there’s a problem with low workforce engagement and morale. No wonder there are issues of trust. No wonder people are burning out and suffering from mental health and stress. 

Above all, it shows the failings of people in leadership positions to bring out the best in others in a human and respectful way. The carrot and stick prevail, despite all the evidence that this approach simply doesn’t work. 

The irony is that anyone who’s ever tried to ride a donkey knows that donkeys may be more intelligent than we think! 


Listen to the Podcast


A man crosses the border each morning on a donkey and each day his donkey is loaded with only bags of straw. When he reaches the bridge marking the border, the tax collectors search his bags to calculate what duty he must pay on his exports. Every day, they find nothing. And yet, in the evening, after their shift has finished and they are in the tea houses or restaurants in the city, they see the same man spending lots of money and boasting that he is in fact a smuggler and that no one can catch him. Every day, incensed at his bold claims, the tax collectors obsessively search his bags of straw. They sift the straw, cut it into pieces, rip open the fabric of his bags, attempt to burn the straw, check his hat, and his beard and even cut open his shoes in the hope of finding coins between the leather. And yet, each evening, he is seen back in the city growing ever more prosperous and ever more brazen, even offering to pay for the tax collectors' meals and drinks while continuing to tell stories of his wily smuggling. The tax collectors continue their futile interrogations of the straw bags for years, to no avail. This continues until, now a prosperous man, the smuggler moves away to another city and settles down to enjoy his wealth. Years pass and one day, in the market, one of the retired tax collectors meets his old foe and asks, 'Mister, many years have passed: I am no longer a tax collector and we are just two old men. Please, you can tell me, what was it you were smuggling all that time?'The smuggler replied, 'Donkeys.'

Man: I cannot sleep at night, I keep seeing donkeys playing football. 
Doctor: I am giving you some medicine, start using it tonight. 
Man: Can I start tomorrow? 
Doctor: Why tomorrow? 
Man: Tonight is the finals.

A horse and a donkey meet and go to the horse's house for drinks.
On the walls of the horse's house are medals trophies and ribbons.
Donkey asks: "what are all the rewards from?"
Horse: "I used to race and I was pretty good so I won all these medals and trophies"
After they finished drinking, They make plans to meet at the donkey's house next week.
The donkey is thinking, this horse has all these awards hanging while his walls are naked. He starts thinking about what he should do..... He comes up with an idea.
He goes to the zoo, takes a picture of a zebra, frames it and puts it on his wall.
The horse comes over and they start drinking.
Horse: "Hey what's with the picture?"
Donkey: "You don't recognise me? That's when I used to play for Juventus"
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