04 Happy Clappy Meetings

High morale is an unfailing indicator of organizational health. Similarly, low morale is a sure sign that something is wrong. There is a certain kind of managerial mind that seizes upon this relationship and attempts to exploit it in reverse. The logic goes like this: Force morale up and other good things will follow.

Ah, but how to force morale up? In particular, how to do it without investing all the bothersome time and energy and expense necessary to make things truly improve? That’s a tough one, but don’t think people won’t try. Thus the sour humor of the saying, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

A common attempt to force morale is a ceremonial meeting in which the boss, smiling broadly, stands in front of the assembled group and opens the floor: “Let me hear what you folks have got to say,” he tells them confidently. “Anything at all, even the bad news and the hard questions.” Note the tone here and the subliminal message: There is nothing to hide because we’re all a big, happy family. (Happy, dammit, happy. Pay attention.)

At one company I know, the Happy Clappy ceremony is called an All Hands Meeting, all hands because everyone is invited to attend. But when one brave soul actually held his hand up and asked the CEO a hard question, the result was not exactly what he might have hoped. The CEO mumbled something and quickly got off the stage. Later that day, the impudent questioner was called on the carpet by his immediate boss and disabused of the illusion that hard questions were actually welcome. After that, the meetings were unofficially called No Hands Meetings, since it was understood by all that no one was to raise a hand to take part. —TDM

When you get the sense that what is being solicited is not your input but only your approval, you know exactly what’s happening: Welcome to another Happy Clappy meeting.

Photo Credit:  Chris Linn, Corporate Entertainer