“Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it’s contained.”

President Snow, The Hunger Games – Donald Sutherland

The blockbuster book and movie, The Hunger Games, is set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world pitting people against one another in order to survive.  It is a brutal zero-sum competition.  It is also a story of how one person can impact change.  Does this remind you of your workplace?  

The classic management theory has similar traits to the orchestrated environment created in The Hunger Games. Our workplaces may not be as brutal but it takes and makes people conform to perform.  If you are selected to enter the workplace you are given – or learn – the rules.  You earn rewards when you conform.  And you are punished when you do not. Employees learn how to survive.  Sometimes.  

Gallup reports that a mere 21% of workers are “engaged” at work.  Additionally, 44% of employees reported experiencing stress “a lot” the previous day – a new all-time high.  Why?   Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us our well-being needs to be satisfied before other needs can be actualized.  Our workplaces are pulling us into a game with high stakes:  survival.  We keep scorecards and pit employees against one another – forcing rank on pay and promotion.  When workplaces don’t provide basic psychological needs, we lose out on innovation, dignity, respect, learning, and divergent thinking.  When people conform to the workplace games we get productivity and efficiency.  We miss the opportunity to look beyond the scorecards and design an environment that changes the game.  

What will you do?  Remain, leave, or change the game?