Mutiny on the HMS Bounty

Ah, Captain William Bligh, Vice Admiral of the British Royal Navy and colonial administrator gives some comfort in knowing that people do not change… only situations are different.

Pirate skullCaptain Bligh, an understudy of Captain Cook, became immortalized by the famous mutiny on the HMS Bounty around 1789. Bligh is often characterized as an overbearing monstrous dictator. He was only 33 years old at the time of the mutiny.

While governor of Australia, Bligh’s tyrannical nature brought on another, less well-known, mutiny, The Rum Rebellion. Bligh was court martialed twice, but was acquitted both times.

The story of Captain Bligh accurately summarizes the motivational principles employed by some contemporary companies. Increasingly stressful workplaces place a high measure on accountability, production, and efficiency, without a good understanding of human motivation. Then, despite the evidence, they double down. Work harder! Work faster! Fire the lazy ones! Set higher expectations!

Double Down

Doubling down on a losing hand: Workplace reform that is destined to fail.

People are motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic considerations. Extrinsic motivators include recognition, praise, and promotion. Intrinsic motivators are the desire to grow and develop, self-actualization, and personal fulfillment.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is more powerful and long lasting. You capture a person’s heart. We all have a natural intrinsic motivation. We are born with it, just look at children. They have an insatiable curiosity, always asking “why?” Children have an innate desire to explore and to become masterful. Teaching children to tie their shoes, ride a bike, or play a sport is a truly heart-warming experience.

What is interesting is that intrinsic motivation declines as a child grows up. As a child matures, schools become increasingly extrinsic in their motivational factors. Schools become more controlling with instruction and less reliant on exploration and discovery.

Jacquelynne Eccles and Allan Wigfield, of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, authored research that shows the negative effect that “high-control” school environments have on intrinsic motivation. Teacher-directed, tightly scripted rote exercises and competition erode intrinsic motivation.

What is even more interesting is that whenever any undertaking that was initially intrinsically motivated (activity motivated by enjoyment and fun) becomes incentivized (externally motivated), the intrinsic motivation diminishes.

So workplaces hellbent on working their people harder, smarter, and more efficiently until their morale improves are doomed to fail.

Demotivational Excellence

Of course, just to keep things in perspective, you can always purchase The Best Demotivators Calendar here at Despair, Inc. for only $10.00 US.

Make Captain William Bligh proud.

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