When I had an ad agency, a young bloke fresh out of one of the advertising schools applied for a job as a trainee account executive. He had all the right qualifications but, at the time, business was sparse.

"I don't think I could find enough work to keep you busy," I said.
"That's okay," he replied, "You'd be surprised at just how little it takes."

That little episode neatly sums up the prevailing attitude to work in South Africa: a person doesn't have to kill himself to get anywhere. If a company employs someone, it owes him a living. Management gurus have a word for the phenomenon: "Entitlement". They describe it as a psychological disorder that stymies progress. Because it's insidious, you should learn to exploit it if you want to drive the business down the drain.

But what does entitlement involve? The key elements are:

assured salary or wage increases that aren't linked to heightened productivity or better on-the-job performance;

automatic double year-end cheques;

automatic promotions based on length of service rather than proven ability;

company-sponsored membership of medical aid and pension schemes.

Whatever you do, don't encourage your lackeys to actually earn a living. Frown on performance and initiative. Encouraging them will only inspire creative thinking and innovation, which God forbid, may increase productivity and ultimately profits.

Take inspirations from an event I came across in Oxford Road, Rosebank, where a gang of municipal road workers were repairing potholes. One of the men complained to the foreman that he didn't have a pick.

"Ag, so what, man," retorted the foreman. "If you haven't got a pick, you don't have to do any work."
"But then, baas," the labourer lamented, "I haven't got anything to lean on, like the other guys."

This attitude was reinforced when I visited a large industrial operation on the East Rand. The plant covered a huge area. There were people everywhere. I was impressed and asked the public relations executive who was showing me around: "How many people work here?"
Without blinking an eye, she replied: "About one in every 10."

I reckon that a hell of a lot of people stop looking for work the moment they find a job. To promote this climate of entitlement, reward your workforce for merely pitching up, clocking in and clocking out. View what they do in the intervening time as of no great consequence. And don't become too picky about quality control. Keep the business stumbling along the track to ruin by insisting on mediocrity. You'll achieve this by creating a comfort zone in which everyone feels safe with the familiar, unvarying routine. A routine that allows workers to believe that they're moving forwards when, in fact they're marking time.

If you keep the business on this laid-back tack, competitors will usurp your position in the marketplace, hastening the demise of your company. Drew Lewis, chairman of an American railroad company, Union Pacific, put it to his employees this way: "If I promise you a lifetime job, what's it worth if we're not competitive?"
It's worth a deck chair on the Titanic.

The other good thing about rampant entitlement is the immense cost. Tot up the employee wage bill, retirement packages and other perks. Then add to the total the cost of lost productivity, lousy product quality, terrible customer service and all the other things that demand excellence in exchange for employment. The sum is astronomical.

So what can you do to further increase the impact of lacklustre performance? The answer is simple. Increase your tolerance of second rate. Be prepared to take and accept what you're given. And shun any form of discipline. Remember that company time is not sacred. Which reminds me of another incident.

A young girl had applied for the job of my general assistant. When I asked her if she had unusual talents she hadn't listed in her CV, she said she had won several prizes in crossword puzzle and slogan competitions.
"Great," I responded. "But I'm really looking for someone who can be smart during office hours."
The girl crossed her legs demurely. "Mr Cheales," she said, "this was during office hours."

I also recall one of my secretaries, a young lady who rejoiced under the name Arlene and who had a penchant for never being on time. One morning I nabbed her sneaking through the door at 9.30.
"You should have been here at half-past eight," I remonstrated.
"Why?" Arlene asked. "What happened?"

If you want to scuttle your business, I recommend that you implement an entitlement policy that I guarantee will lead to catastrophe.

To do so, implement these 10 easy steps:

Ensure that the company's job appraisal system is not effected by an individual employee's on-the-job performance.

Design the promotion system so that it doesn't reward an individual employee's merit.

See to it that all employees are immersed in dealing with a complex web of corporate policies, procedures and regulations.

Smother all initiative under an oppressive, never-ending blanket of paper work.

Tie your compensation policy to seniority rather than achievement.

Arrange and insist on attendance at endless, unnecessary meetings and make no attempt to follow up on decisions that are taken.

Build a cosy comfort zone for all employees in which they feel safe irrespective of productivity or display of initiative.

Reward those that adhere to policy rather than those who innovate.

Employ layers of people who ensure that others obey the rules rather than produce results.

Keep employees cooling their heels or allow them to play darts while you take your time telling them what to do.


1. I thought I made it clear
2. Let's not rock the boat
3. We tried that once before
4. Who cares? It's the company time after all
5. I'm the boss. Do as I say
6. I can't stand change
7. We made the cuts, now lets get back to work
8. I'll do it as soon as possible
9. I prefer to work alone
10. Speaking as a Nestlé man
11. Get him on the line!
12. I've got 20 years experience
13. Let's keep it confidential
  Return to FunZone!