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Mockery of stupid motivational office posters

Mockery of those stupid motivational office posters.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

There's a funny news site over at .

living under a cave
Saturday, October 26, 2002

I think this one says it best:

Anyone seen any "real" motivation posters at their workplace?

Saturday, October 26, 2002

It's an old cliche, but our "You want it when?" poster always makes me smile every time I notice it.

Matthew Lock
Saturday, October 26, 2002

I've seen real ones. When I saw them at a client site I took a double-take. Couldn't believe they were people that believed they were useful.

And then my own company started producing a home-grown version, a card with all the rules of being a great employee.

Yeah, I was made redundant last month.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Our company recently asked us to take the Dilbert cartoons (and such like) off our walls and pin-boards. Seemed to be that everybody had them and the solution was simply to remove them.

Now we all think the company is suddenly wonderful again.

We are not fooled
Sunday, October 27, 2002

I saw them in my last assignment...
All over the place.

... some people over there believed in them.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

My employer two jobs back had a few of them here and there, and they would actually use the little slogans in meetings and daily conversation.

The best send-up I've seen of those posters and slogans in general was in a first-season episode of Dark Angel, where they had to get past a retina-activated door lock. The held the (now detached) eyeball of one of the bad guys up to the retina scanner, and the door compliantly unlocked. The character Max then commented, "Hmm, I guess there is an 'eye' in 'team'." Hee hee.

Troy King
Sunday, October 27, 2002

'Your lack of planning doesn't constitute my emergency' and my personal favourite.  'When confronted by a frustrating individual I relax, breath deeply and count to 10.  This generally provides adequate oxigenation to Bitch slap the stupd Mother Fucker.'  Can I say that here?  I'm paraphrasing of course.

Brad Siemens
Sunday, October 27, 2002

The Despair web site is wonderful, however to bring this thread back onto a computer-ish topic, look at and note who the posted is aimed at:

- Amusing good natured Linux users.
- Motivating hypercompetitive Mircosoft programmers who are under express orders from Gates to "Dismantle Linux".
- Disaffected college students.


Sunday, October 27, 2002

I like how every poster is aimed at:
-Disaffected college students.


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Yeah. They had them one place I worked once. the "powers that were" there really were serious about the posters being up to motivate us and impress clients. (the sr VP/PM there actually told me that once when we were standing together looking at them).

The poor shmuck of a senior VP/PM really thought those posters would accomplish that. Clueless.

And while the leadership was hanging motivational posters, the rest of us couldn't hang up enough Dilbert & Far Side strips fast enough.

Horrible, Horrible, grinding place to work. The happiest people there are the ones who left.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

I too have worked in a place where they made us remove all the Dilbert strips.  I only lasted 1 year in that place.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Taking down Dilbert cartoons is exactly what Dilbert's boss would have Dilbert do, and already has.  That's what makes both the cartoons and the real life office situations so damn funny.  In fact, a few years ago a co-worker and I sent in a story line to Scott Adams in which Dilbert started posting "Dilbert-like" cartoons in his cube.  His boss didn't understand why they were funny and eventually ordered Dilbert to take them down.  That actual story ran in Dilbert's cartoon about a month later, so we took credit for it whether it was really our idea he used or not. :)

Sunday, October 27, 2002

I laughed my ass off at the anti-motivational posters ...

but ...

I believe motivational posters CAN have a positive effect, as dumb as that may sound.  Is there anyone here other than me, willing to admit that motivational sayings actually DO have some value?

I think the problem is that bad bosses, in shitty workplaces, think they can paper over the problems with some high-minded motivational schlock.

But who among us has not been inspired by some cheesy, inspirational saying -- "Dare to Dream," "Dare to be Great," that kind of stuff -- or am I the only person here who has a few favorite motivational quotes?

I bet Joel, your hero, has a few favorite motivational quotes.

yo mama
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Even the book people ware has a chapter on how horrible these posters are. In fact, of all the chapters, DeMarco criticism of these posters is probably the harshest criticism in the whole book. That tells loads about how much he believes this things should be avoided at all cost.

You see these things everywhere.......

    A nice boat on the river with a bunch of people rowing “together” in sync. The caption below says:


It is this kind of garbage day in, and day out. If anyone thinks that a poster on the wall is going to substitute for a good management and good people...think again.

After a while, those posters become the brunt of jokes. You even tell by the reaction of the people in this thread. We are laughing at something that was good intended (those examples are making fun of the well known originals...but you can see what we think!!). While some posters do have some nice pictures, and nice inspirational sayings...they become superficial over time. After a certain point, they then become the brunt of jokes.

The real good companies don’t have or *N E E D*  to put a stupid poster on the wall. Employees heart and soul down deep knows this, and thus over time the poster becomes like a artificial is not real. It becomes plastic.

There are some exceptions, and nothing is wrong with a company slogan.

However, a stupid lame inspirational poster can do much more harm then good. They should be avoided at all costs. Certainly a company should display quality awards, and industry standards that were hard fought to attain.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Companies like Arthur Andersen used to be big on those sort of air-head things in their recruiting.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

I, too, have worked at a company that used all sorts of stupid motivational posters, ra-ra memos, pithy sayings, guidelines for behaviour, mouse mats, stickers, etc to tell us how we were all a team.

It wasn't the stupid trinkets by themselves that annoyed me. It was the fact that the company didn't behave in any way like their posters proclaimed. Every time you looked at a poster, it reminded you how dishonest and incompetent the management was, how they would say one thing and do another, and screw you over any chance they got.

A co-worker and I used to proudly hang up all these things in a prominent place, constantly amused by the delicious irony that our boss never saw.

Darren Collins
Sunday, October 27, 2002

I've got one just near me that says

"Solution is spelt with a U".

Underneath it a co-worker has written in small print

" is useless"

Monday, October 28, 2002

_Some_ motivation posters can have _some_ benefit when applied as part of a bigger whole in the right circumstances to _some_ groups of workers. Mostly however they're brought in by incompetent managers to groups of workers to whom they're wholly inappropriate. I doubt they'd ever be appropriate to a group such as developers.

Mr Jack
Monday, October 28, 2002

But wait ...

What if the whole purpose is use our own sense of the ridiculous to meld all of us scoffing developer individualists into just the kind of shared-vision guys-together Gestalt we all despise so much?


Could it work?

Attending the wake
Monday, October 28, 2002

And now, some good news...

My coworker, Josh, has had one of these Despair calendars on his wall for months.  (Not more than a year.  He'd get a new calendar.  Of course.)  We love it.

Our COO likes Dilbert as much as the rest of us.

Another coworker took a fortune from a fortune cookie and put it on the office kitchen's fridge.  It says "All your efforts will be worthwhile."

I spent a couple of minutes making another slip of paper with the same dimensions, and put it underneath.  It says "Or else".

Every once in a while, we manage to have fun around here...

Paul Brinkley
Monday, October 28, 2002

I've always been fond of those signs that say, "Notice: The beatings will continue until morale improves."

J. D. Trollinger
Monday, October 28, 2002

I have a t-shirt that says that. (Well, technically, it says "the floggings will continue until morale improves", but same thing. Except it weeds out the clueless types who don't know what "floggings" are.)

And yes, my company has motivational posters all over the place. And all sorts of "teamwork" crap. The sad part is, we have people who actually believe in this stuff. There's this one woman in Marketing who has various motivational sayings plastered all over her cubicle. And I do mean plastered; they cover every available square inch. It would be funny if it weren't so sad. Or it would be sad if it weren't so funny, take your pick.

Monday, October 28, 2002

I like the folks that put one of these silly statements into every email they send.  They also embed them on every second page of a presentation.

Not convinced
Monday, October 28, 2002

"Don't fall in love with your idea".

I used to have a coworker (well, a marketing guy)  that had that line in his office. The funny part is, they managed to bring the company belly up with their "ideas".

Leonardo Herrera
Monday, October 28, 2002

...And when the laid offs began, we started a "head count" in our labs' entrance. It was a draw, like that old western towns welcome signs... "Welcome to Development City. Population: 13". Then that number was crossed out, "12", then "9", then "3", and then our boss said it was disgusting.

Yeah, it was, but funny as hell.

Leonardo Herrera
Monday, October 28, 2002

>>> The sad part is, we have people who actually believe in this stuff. <<<

The really, really sat part about it is all those developers who like to bash these stupid motivational posters as meaningless insults but never do anything about it - like finding a better employer.

Monday, October 28, 2002

I've never worked for a company that had motivational posters everywhere, but I can only imagine how demoralizing that would be.

Demoralizing because the image the posters describe and the behavior of management are nearly always going to be worlds apart. Another "Do I say, not as I do" thing.

Nothing wrong with motivational sayings; put them in your cube if it helps you keep focused. But to plaster them all over the hallways is just stupid.  The whole idea seems similiar to the propaganda we saw in the Soviet Union circa the Cold War. All these pithy, uplifiting statements extolling the virtues of communism, all the while the people are starving.

Mark Hoffman
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

My fave has always been the old Scott towels ad: "Is your washroom breeding Bolsheviks?" There is a mustachioed radical looking fellow drying his hands with a snarl on his face.  The ad copy goes on to suggest that by treating employees right (such as giving them Scott towels), one is doing one's part to fight the tide of global communism.

Yes, I've worked places with that on the walls.  And yes, they've been cool.

Contrary Mary
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I worked a contract in an IBM manufacturing plant that was plastered with the things.

Personally I quite like some of the posters. I think the reason they are hated has little to do with the posters themselves, and everything to do with the attitude of management who inflict them on the workplace.

If I put a poster in my workplace, then it's likely to motivate me. There are a bunch of reasons for this, and most of them don't have anything to do with the poster itself.

However, if managers impose the things on me, they are just as likely to have the opposite effect. It an attitude of "You will be motivated. Or else..." Possibly combined with an attitude of "the budget for the team day out was cut, so we'll stick some posters up because we can't afford to do anything really motivational."

I did work for a .com once who put up Despair's posters. I wonder what happend to that company?


James Shields
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

While it's incredibly uncool to say so, and doesn't make friends around the water cooler like bashing and derision do, the *content* of those posters is absolutely correct.  Having them placed around you by management, however, is demeaning and silly.

Attitude is extremely important.  I'd rather be surrounded by guys of average talent who were positive, than a bunch of geniuses with bad attitudes.  And I'll bet you 100 to 1 we'd get more done.


Robert Anderson
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I'd sure like to take you on at 100 to 1.

Unless of course you're in another business but software.

In software brains are what matter - and you're talking about the "genius" being ten times or more productive than the average guy, let alone the dead wood.

And have you ever thought how long your "terribly nice but dim" colleagues are going to keep the good attitude when their company starts going belly up because there isn't the intellectual talent to produce good software?

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

"I'd sure like to take you on at 100 to 1."

You're on.

"Unless of course you're in another business but software."

The "business of software" is so vague that I would say it must apply to what I do.

"In software brains are what matter - and you're talking about the "genius" being ten times or more productive than the average guy, let alone the dead wood."

No, productivity in the large is what matters.  When you have bad attitude weenies, it doesn't matter how smart they are when they are hiding away working 16 hour days optimizing their obfuscated perl code contest entry, because "the business is doomed anyway and the stuff the managers are asking for is stupid."

"And have you ever thought how long your "terribly nice but dim" colleagues are going to keep the good attitude when their company starts going belly up because there isn't the intellectual talent to produce good software?"

First of all, I said "average talent."  Nowhere did I say "dim."  Nor did I say "terribly nice," I said "positive."

Now that that's out of the way, I will let you in on a big secret:  software is not rocket science.  It's not the domain of intellectual giants.  Especially in the business sector where most of the work is.

Secret number two:  You know how the best employee at McDonalds is the retarded guy?  He comes in on time every day, gets the floor spotless, even in the corners, and says hello with a big smile to everyone. That's not a bad analogy for who succeeds in the software business.  Software requires patience, attention to detail, and a sustained thankless long term effort.  These things come from positive attitudes, not 200 IQ's.  I would conjecture that they are inversely correlated with super high IQ's.

Sorry if that hurts your pride.  I know a lot of software types get off thinking that they have "intellectual" jobs.  It just ain't so.


Robert Anderson
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Brilliant satire Bob! Loved it. I could almost hear a couple of ex-managers of my acquaintance speaking those peircing 'truths'.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

You make an interesting parallel, but the point is wrong.  In McDonalds, if you don't use intelligence, you build up too many little mistakes to meet your deadlines, or can't react to changing situations.  The "retarded guy" is actually a prop to please the customers, give them a moral reason to give McDonalds money.

I've met some of the "buddy" programmers.  They suck.

But I'm partial to your points; some people have such big egos despite working in the armpit of CS.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

<<Brilliant satire Bob! Loved it. I could almost hear a couple of ex-managers of my acquaintance speaking those peircing 'truths'. >>

I think you mean "piercing."

I'm only partially being facetious.  Lest you think I'm a manager-type, I've been in the code trenches for about 10 years.  Not forever, but long enough to make sufficiently many observations to have the opinion that I expressed.  I've worked at dead-end companies, I've worked at an Ivy League institution, and I currently work in an organization where hand picked PhD's are sweeping the floors.  My sample range is broad - and admittedly, maybe it's skewed so that my notion of "average talent" is not the same as someone with a different experience base.

So I'm exaggerating with the McDonalds analogy - I think astute readers understand that.  But I really do think that people need to get over themselves when it comes to the intellectual requirements for 99% of software development - my own included.  There are corners here or there that I would reserve for the top flight CS weenies.  But for everyone else, a positive attitude, teamwork, consistency, and about a dozen other qualities are more important than sheer intellect.  If you will be honest with yourself I think you'll agree with me.  I know it goes against the Joel principle of requiring superstars at every position, but maybe a way to look at it is that I am more sympathetic to the "get things done" criterion than I am to the "smart" side of the equation for who you want to consider a superstar.

Tj - I don't know what "buddy" programmers are, so I don't know if I agree that they suck or not.  Moreover, did you really just use "adapting to change" in the context of working at McDonald's?  Just checking.

I've never seen a group of cynical whiners with cubes plastered with Dilbert cartoons and posters ever amount to anything other than perhaps gathering a cadre of other low-ranking sympathizers who feed off of their negativity.  It's really quite childish.  Successful people don't exude negativity, in my experience.


PS Yes, I think Dilbert is funny, and I laughed at  But I don't go around wallowing in self-defeat, and as you can probably tell, people that do that annoy me.

Robert Anderson
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

What happens when one guy at McD's gets fired, and you only have one other person working with you?  Could you construe that as... "adapting for change"?  You underestimate peoples' jobs too much, and the people needed work them.

> I don't know what "buddy" programmers are, so I don't
> know if I agree that they suck or not.

Well, this is what you wrote:
"He comes in on time every day, gets the floor spotless, even in the corners, and says hello with a big smile to everyone. That's not a bad analogy for who succeeds in the software business."

If you believe this... then we are too different to come to any insights together.  I suppose I was wrong in replying in this thread.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Hmm, I'm being prickly when someone chooses to disagree with me.  I'd better be careful with my interactions for today.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

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