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The seven deadly sins: lessons in demotivating the project team

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The seven deadly sins, according to Wikipedia, are also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins. They have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct. However let us step back from the religious aspect. 

As programme managers and project managers we are constantly being watched by our respective teams.

Unknowingly our actions, or those of our colleagues, could be demotivating the team, draining the energy out of the workplace, creating an environment that is non-productive.

In reading the list below, consider if you have come across (or indeed yourself behaved in such as way) and what type of culture it creates?

  • Avarice: I will argue with the contractors about every last penny calculating their day rate into an hourly rate and by the minute rate. They will need to clock in and clock out, not just morning and evening but also during lunchtime. Who needs to pay a bus fare when you can walk? The project bonus is my bonus.
  • Sloth: It is important you put in 15 hour days to get the project delivered, working in the office. For family, person, health and many other reasons I can only work from 10:00am to 4:00pm and may need to work from home for extended periods.
  • Pride: Clearly it was my superior productivity that brought the project in on time and within budget. Your laziness and lack of contribution held us back.
  • Gluttony: The project team must make their own arrangements for subsistence. I will use part of the project budget to have food delivered to my desk, each day seeking to eat more than the previous.
  • Anger: Motivation techniques huh. They are lazy, indolent, bone-idle and need to be shouted at. I will show them who is boss. Shout long and loud that is my motto.
  • Lust: I am all powerful, the supreme person. My desire for power knows no ends. No-one but no-one is allowed to take any decisions or discuss issues without reference to me first. Only I know all there is to know and can take the relevant decisions.
  • Envy: I like my office, comfortable in an open space. Who am I kidding? I want a bigger office on my own, with a large chair, great big desk, shag pile carpet and a secretary.

Avarice, sloth, pride, gluttony, anger, lust, envy, are seven ways to dispirit and demotivate your team.

A closing thought. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel said:

"Be an example to your men, in your duty and in private life. Never spare yourself, and let the troops see that you don't in your endurance of fatigue and privation. Always be tactful and well-mannered and teach your subordinates to do the same. Avoid excessive sharpness or harshness of voice, which usually indicates the man who has shortcomings of his own to hide." 


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  1. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 03 January 2015, 02:23 PM

    Another great contribution from John. Yet more evidence that in the end it is people who make projects succeed.....or fail. We used to People stuff the "soft" stuff. In fact its the hardest part of project management to get right.

  2. Regine BEWS
    Regine BEWS 27 January 2017, 03:58 PM

    Can a leader/a team member of a group be accused of being too proud because he is expecting of the people under his management/ from his team to complete their task on time or to make a significant contribution. How as a leader/team member can you address/coach those of your team whose work ethic and commitment are unacceptable and below the standards, without sounding superior and patronising?