Is It Possible to Perkisize Employee Motivation?

"Wake up campers.It's a glorious morning. Today is evaulation day, the keyword here is "value". Do you have any? Not yet. But by the end of this summer, this camp will be filled with SKINNY WINNERS!"

For any fans of the movie "Heavyweights," this quote immediately rang a bell in your mind as coming from Tony Perkis, the neurotic camp director portrayed by Ben Stiller. In the movie he takes over "Camp Hope" and attempts to implement a weight loss system with the campers. What does this have to do with employee motivation?

Like basically every company, Perkis has one goal in mind: making more sales. His sales were directly related to his campers (aka employees) and their success in his program. It was up to the hard work on the campers part to lose the weight and for them to go the extra mile for his program, he needed to motivate his campers. It's also where things get weird.

Perkis's style of motivation involves a combination of leading by example (not a bad thing) with fear and intimidation (not a good thing). He leads by example by performing exercises on his own that he expects out of his campers. However, he uses that example to belittle his campers and use intimidation as a way to achieve results. He also uses techniques like taking away food from campers, expecting a whole lot in a short time, and using negative re-enforcement to achieve weight loss and his ultimate desired results.

What are his results? General dis-engagement among his campers and some actually GAIN weight in the process. The campers and staff eventually overthrow Perkis, exposing his negative system to the paying client base (parents) and ultimately ruining his business. Other camp staff take over the camp, using positive re-enforcement and rewards to achieve results, losing weight and even winning the coveted Apache Relay.

So what's the employee motivation morale of this story?

Negative re-enforcement rarely works as a motivational tool. As the second half of the movie shows, the campers are more motivated by the positive mentality of their new leaders and ultimately motivated by trophy value in winning the Apache Relay. Positive re-enforcement and rewards are always key drivers of motivation. More effective employee motivation will always end with better long-term results.

What do you think?