A meme, there I said it--meme, has been spreading its invidious way through my Facebook feed. It reads, "The 7 Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives." I didn't have the stomach to read such banality, but the title alone did make me think about the habits of unsuccessful agencies.
Over the years I've worked full-time at a dozen agencies and freelance at a dozen more. Here are some of the habits I've seen and experienced.
1. Make people feel like they are interchangeable parts. They themselves don't matter. Someone else, in fact, plenty of other people are waiting for their job. You're just lucky, in this day and age, to have a job.
This assures your people that they weren't hired for their talent, skill, taste or presence. They're hired not for any value-add, but to be a body in an allocation plan.
2. Give people no feedback on the job they're doing. Don't talk to them regularly and thank them for the work they're doing. Review them, formally, once a year. And then, postpone giving them that review for at least six weeks to make them feel small and insignificant.
3. In meetings where work is reviewed, constantly refer to work done ten years earlier. There's no better way to make people feel like they can never measure up than to give them something impossible to measure up to.
4. Make your expense system as complicated as possible. Nothing helps morale more than people who have to lay out money to the agency (the holding company, the stockholders) because the reimbursement system was designed by Torquemada. Keep rejecting receipts for $9. Eventually your employee will give up and that money will go straight to the bottom line.
5. Give some people good computers and others shitty computers. This is a great way to remind people daily how small and insignificant they are.
6. Adopt a nasty tone in memos from key executives. Who doesn't look forward to that monthly note from the CFO reminding them to do their timesheets. It's best to make this writing as shrill and Kafkaesque as possible.
7. Keep the workplace disheveled. The filthier the work space, the tinier the bathrooms, the paucity of the amenities, the better to make people feel like crap.