Using the 7 deadly sins to motivate your workforce

So your organisation is going ”agile” and talking about ”collaborations” between teams? You, as the big boss, are starting to feel powerless and not in control of the efficiency of YOUR teams? Let me give some tips on how to turn that around so all progress can be traced back to you. I mean, as their mighty leader, you do deserve all the credit for their work.

Some leaders attempt to align and motivate their teams, but a proper boss makes a habit of actively managing the resources. Here is a strategy for staying in control, based on a model used for many centuries worldwide. There has been some that says that actually being in control of your workforce is an illusion, but those people have obviously never worked for a real boss. The secret to control is to use the 7 deadly sins as ways of motivating YOUR workforce. They are what drives people after all. So, let’s get started.



Be generous with compliments to your developers for a short while. Make them addicted to your praise. Ensure they feel proud over their achievements and in their knowledge of all things related to their work. Then stop. This is very important! They will start to doubt themselves and work twice as hard just to get a single kind word from you. They will be eating out of your hand in no time.



Money is a classic driver for people. (I know there are people who say it only works as an effective motivation for predictable, non-complex work, but I have chosen to ignore such research and dismissed it as propaganda left from the hippie days.) Give a monetary bonus to the teams that finish all the stories they take into a sprint by the end of it. To make it really interesting, put in an extra bonus if they finish even more than they promised. Keep in mind – this works exceptionally well if you pay your developers poorly to start with. If they can live a decent life on their base salary, this won’t be as effective.

Why not consider outsourcing while you’re at it as well? Select a country with cheap labour, set a low base salary and ignore the idea of pull, not push for putting things into a sprint. YOU are in control after all. YOU should select what they should work on. Cheaper developers who work hard (but never finish everything in a sprint – that would make them too expensive) will look great in your spreadsheets and you can become the hero in the company coming up with the outsourcing scheme. You can even become the “Head of outsourcing” and advance your career. It will be a great success – I promise!



Have a prize of some sort for the team that completes the most work each sprint. The price should be visible and last for the entire sprint for the others to see. This creates healthy competition between teams, but might have a side effect in slightly less collaboration between them and in some cases even sabotage of other team’s work. However, this should be seen as a calculated risk – you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.



All developers live on Jolt Cola and pizza, right? Make sure that your teams have free access to these pillars in a healthy diet. (You might also want to give them some vitamin pills every now and then if their teeth starts falling out or some fluoride mouthwash if they rot, but you get the idea.) If you provide them with food and drink, they won’t have to go out for lunch. An added bonus is that if you make narrow doors and keep this up for a while, they won’t be able to leave at all which means you will have REALLY dedicated workers.



Oh, how I love wrath! There is no emotion with so much power in it. An angry developer can code for days without tiring. Encourage conflicts in the teams and between team members. If they review each other’s code, ensure they write really snide comments and reward the funniest of them publicly at each demo. Also point out who made the worst mistake in order to use public shame to trigger both anger and desire for revenge in the developer subjected to it.



This is a slightly trickier driver to exploit, but not impossible. A good motto for a developer is that “a lazy developer is a good developer”. If something can be done easier and quicker, it should. Don’t spend time on things customers don’t pay for, e.g., personal hygiene or good quality control in the software development process. (An extra benefit if the developers starts to smell and look unkempt is that they will stay single. Then they won’t have to spend time on a family or a loved one which means they could work even longer hours.) Waste reduction workshops should be held monthly!



Also a bit tricky in the quite heterogeneous workplaces where dev teams usually reside. However, there are usually some people around that they run into almost daily. In short, hire only really friendly, good looking staff in support roles such as HR, support, the reception, economy etc. Pretty project leaders or stakeholders is also a good idea. Just remember to have people of all sexes and preferences in order to cover all the bases.

For this to work as a driver for the developers, you need to invite these people to the demos where they will give cheers and positive feedback to whichever demo they liked the best. The positive feedback must be given to the individual developers in the teams so they get the illusion that they have a chance with these people who in reality are out of their league.


With you in control of all the bonuses and rewards, you will be able to steer your developers as the puppets or resources they really are. Forget about them as people. They are there to be manipulated in order for you to get your bonus. A workplace is not a place to be happy in – it is a place where things should get done.

Good luck!

One response on “Using the 7 deadly sins to motivate your workforce

  1. I really like your article, one little comment, If you give bonus to a team that finishes all the stories in the sprint then the team will always take less stories into sprint then they can actually delivery. Side effect of the money and Greed is that team will start to cut concerns and cheat.
    Better way might be to give bonus to the team that has the most happiest customer.

    This will give every team motivation to help the customer and work on building a better customer experience.

    Happy customers lead to more revenue for the company. win, win for everyone

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