Mandatory corporate cheerleading tires me. Especially when that experience is an awkward mandatory clap for Drake’s (truly the great everyman of our time) latest powerpoint presentation about our falling revenues.
I can only think of a few explanations for why leaders mandate cheerleading and use it profusely:
- You think your team is gullible and you want to pay them with pats on the back and mandatory applause from their peers.
- You think your team is emotionally needy.
For 1: You need to get real. An encouraging atmosphere is great, but performances like group applause and putting your name on a cake don’t last. What’s worse, employees usually know what you are doing and act to that effect. You run the risk of reinforcing externality and fame-seeking. A team focused on externality tries to predict and satisfy leader whims, not goals.
For 2: Even if your team is needy, their desire for cheerleading doesn’t make it any less demeaning when you comply. I’d wager they are a lot more capable of maturing than you are giving them credit. While you can’t take personal responsibility for their maturity, you can craft a culture that reinforces or challenges their dependence on cheering.
At it’s heart, corporate cheerleading arrives from a belief in the inferiority of the masses. Belief in superiority is a consequence of the ego that subtly develops with many leaders’ careers. It can manifest itself cynically (see 1.), pseudo-empathetically (see 2.), or finally in complicit ignorance where one carries on the traditions of the past.