Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fear and Greed: The Republican Playbook

I think I know why it is so difficult for me to like Republicans.  They’re unlikeable.  I know, you are probably saying “Wow, that’s some serious Socratic shit there my man”.
There is a saying in business to the effect that people are best motivated through fear or greed.  Some managers believe threats of lay-offs will motivate people to work harder.  This is especially effective in down periods of an economy when it is an employer’s market and jobs are not plentiful.  Similarly, greed can also motivate through the form of exorbitant bonuses or one time awards to maximize performance in the short term or in a burst mode.  This is often seen in trading and never better exemplified than in the 2011 movie Margin Call where all of a firm’s traders will be out of a job at the end of the business day and in order to get them to dump some toxic mortgage backed securities, management incentivizes them with $millions of bonuses for one day of aggressive trading.
But, both fear and greed have very short half-lives.  Yes, it is possible to get some impressive results in the short term, but in the long run these two motivational tools can cause serious harm if they are used repeatedly and arbitrarily.  You can whip a horse or kick a dog only so many times before he just takes a dump and says ‘up yours chief.’
Conversely, understanding what motivates employees over the long haul will create long term value and employee engagement.  There have been hundreds of studies conducted on motivating employees and developing an engaged workforce.  Most point to a workforce that feels:
·         That someone is looking out for them
·         Their opinion matters
·         They are being treated with respect
·         They have an opportunity to grow
·         The company mission makes them feel as if their job is important
This representative list is not about fear and greed, there is no carrot and stick, but there is belief and hope.  I am no Pollyanna. Twenty six years of private sector work starting as an entry level engineer to an executive you see things for what they are.  Fear and greed are the cornerstones of a culture that can create wealth but no value.  Hope and belief creates sustained value and shared wealth.  Fear and greed are fleeting, belief and hope is unrelenting and universal.
So what does this have to do with Republicans and conservatives?  Since the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been one group constantly trying to find us a new enemy.  Yes this new breed, these neoconservatives or neocons, have moved on from fighting communists to finding our next enemies that we must fear.  Did al-Qaeda attack us on 9/11?  Absolutely, but these neocons have been on an all-out assault on the world’s largest religion.  Gingrich has been leading the assault on the threats of Sharia law to the American way of life, but offers no facts to back up that wild assertion.  Our way of life is under assault from the radical Muslim.  The war on Judeo-Christian dates back to the Crusades, but this time the future of the world lies in the balance.  Yes citizens of America be afraid be very very afraid.  Oh, and watch out the ‘brown invasion’ from south of the border will end our way of life as Caucasians become a minority in America by 2040.  Build a wall, arrest and deport them all.  Save America.  We are at a critical junction in American History and in order to save this great republic and American exceptionalism we must not re-elect President Barack Hussein, probably Muslim, Obama.
Now thanks to the sarcasm and snarking of the likes of Sarah Palin, the ideal of belief and hope has been mocked and ridiculed.  But you know what? It is exactly those tenets that fuel this nation.  Why is a dollar worth a dollar; because people believe in the full faith of the U.S. Government?  Our economy is driven by 70% consumer spending which accelerates when folks believe things are getting better.  Yes, hope and change were a campaign slogan but great periods in American history coincide with an engaged populace.  When a leader is looking out for the everyman, not the rich man; when a leader inspires a nation to believe in a vision, not fear a foreign challenge; when a leader treats his employer with respect and not disdain.  That’s hope and faith, and that’s how you lead.

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