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October 2018
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10 techniques to guide your team towards sustainable demotivation

Pieter VDPieter VD

10 techniques to guide your team towards sustainable demotivation

Yes, you read it correctly. This article is not about motivating people, but about demotivating them. Motivating people is boring. As a consultant, motivation of people is considered important. But after a few years, you know all the tips and tricks, and it bores. So I became a demotivation coach.

After years of experience and a lot of scientific research, I compiled an extensive list of demotivation techniques. I am not very proud of them, but anyway… Here are some examples.

To eliminate all possible misunderstandings after reading: I’m not an actual demotivation coach. This post is meant to be satire.

The aggression technique

Use the agression demotivation techniqueBash or threaten people. Be aggressive, physically or orally. Make sudden loud sounds. Storm out of meeting rooms for no reason. Sneak up on people. Snap at everyone. Take one bite of their lunch sandwich and stare them down if they see you doing it.

This one is almost too easy. If you are just a beginner demotivation coach, use it, but otherwise don’t: there is no challenge. It could even be risky: maybe one day, someone just hits you back physically.

The approval technique

Approve a holiday request, then wait a week, then refuse it for some stupid reason. That way the vacation is already planned and hopefully takes more work and money to change for the employee.

Alternatives can be found in other approval processes such as approval for trainings, job switches, expenses, etc.

The ‘holiday’ variant is extra demotivating, because apparently ‘holidays are important’.

The irresponsibility technique

Refuse responsibility and make life easier on yourselfRefuse responsibility. Delegate it elsewhere. If everyone does this, nothing gets done… Ever.

If you want to take this technique a step further, wait a while before refusing responsibility. The person asking you to do something still thinks you will actually do it.

I didn’t actually write this article. And if I did, I am not responsible for its contents.

The job interview technique

Arrive late or leave after 15 minutes. Don’t finish your sentences. Ask again and again: can you make that concrete? Be uninterested. Ask closed questions only. Use body language to make them unsure: shake your head continuously, sigh a lot or roll your eyes.

The next level: present them with a fantastic job and give them something completely different to do, when they actually start. Tell them they just misunderstood. Trivialize their problem if they keep complaining.

Job interviews are genuinely awesome to demotivate people right at the start. You cannot start earlier than that.

The team demolition technique

Team demolition is easy demotivation to implementOrganize a team event and let it fail horribly. Don’t prepare, only improvise. Force people to drink alcohol all day long. Give long boring speeches. Put incompatible team members together and elaborate extensively on their bad relationships. Focus on things that don’t matter.

Or even better: let them work on the next big vision and then do nothing with it. Pretend it never happened.

Easy to implement, with a rather big impact.

The miscommunication technique

Don’t be clear in your messages. Rephrase a decision as a question. Turn an advice into a question. Ask an opinion or feedback and then become angry when they give it to you. Afterwards, repeat that you still want feedback. Rebuke people for not understanding the message.

This approach requires some training; it is not that easy. Practise it at home with your partner, kids, parents or try it on someone at the bar. The result might eventually be important.

The unstable organization technique

Demotivation through changing vision and organizationChange your vision every month. In January, focus on customer segment A and a random turnover amount. In February, change to segment B and a negative margin amount. Notify your employees about the current vision, but don’t explain. If they question the change of vision, say it was always the vision from February. If you talk about it, don’t ever be enthusiastic: talk in a monotone voice and keep your arms alongside your body.

Focus on short-term metrics. Change them regularly. Use the metric that least reflects the actual situation. For example: during summer holidays, use the weekly revenue metric. Explain that people are really working slowly and are lazy, because the metric shows it.

Change your organization every 6 months. (But if you can do it faster, congratulations and go for it!) If you have an organization with a flat hierarchy, introduce a heavy middle management layer. If you have very creative employees, introduce a bureaucratic culture with a lot of approval cycles. Be subtle about it and never admit any changes! And never link it with the changing vision. Disconnect the vision and the organization completely from each other.

This is demotivation guru stuff: participate in my masterclass demotivation (or don’t).

The self-replicating technique

The self-replication demotivation techniqueMake other people demotivate each other. For that, you’ll need a culture of demotivation. Take this list of techniques. Put them on a whiteboard and give people points each time they demotivate someone. An extra advantage to this is that people will try to invent new and other stuff.

The more people that leave the company, the easier it becomes. It’s the ultimate sustainable demotivation. The bad internal imago just multiplicates itself. (Free tip: publish the minutes of every exit meeting unfiltered or emphasize the bad parts.)

But beware, a balance is needed: if too many people leave the company, you have to start over each time with the new employees.

During my 15 years as a demotivation coach, I only ever arrived once at a self-replicating demotivation culture. Which is a demotivation in itself and thus a success.


Below you see an overview of all techniques mentioned in this article. I added 4 properties to each technique. How difficult is the implementation? Who can implement it best? What is the duration of demotivation? And finally, what is its effect?

Technique Difficulty Role Duration Demotivation effect
Aggression Too easy Manager Days Depends, mostly little
Approval Easy Manager Months Some
Irresponsibility Easy Everyone Weeks Some
Job interview Average Interviewer Months A lot
Team-demolition Average Manager Months A lot
Miscommunication Average Everyone Months A lot
Unstable organization Masterclass Manager Years Sustainable
Self-replicating Masterclass Everyone Years Sustainable

There. This is it. I hope you or your team are appropriately demotivated.

If you want more information, please hesitate to contact me. Are you really sure?

If you think of other sustainable demotivation techniques, don’t let me know. I’m not interested.


Agile believer, amateur philosopher, IT-er, change agent, dad / husband, sustainable motivator

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