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15 ways to (un)motivate your employees

Radio stations, at least when I first started in this business, were always upbeat happy places.  Even in the worst of times and conditions, there were enough characters around to keep things lite, even if it was sometimes gallows humor.  Back then, radio was an entertainment business, and who better to practice on then each other.  Working late at night on a crappy transmitter, there was usually plenty of company and pizza.  Even though the pay was low, the perks normally made up for it; diner or a movie trade for overtime, etc.  In short, it was a fun place.

That was then, this is now:  There is no fun in radio anymore, anyone who attempts to have fun will be disciplined or fired.  Here are fifteen ways to ruin your staff’s moral if you think they are having too much fun:

  1. Give the general impression that you don’t care about them, or better yet, don’t care about them.
  2. Slowly erode whatever benefits are left.  Start with vacation time, reduce it by 1/3 or more.  Force give backs on sick days and personal days.
  3. Stop 401k matching contributions.
  4. Make them pay a greater and greater share of health and dental “benefits.”  Make sure the benefits have very high co-pays and yearly deductables.
  5. Place the blame squarely on other shadowy exterior forces such as “The Banks.”
  6. If the employees really have you up against the wall, fire the general manager then blame him/her for every bad thing that has happened in the last ten years.
  7. Don’t give raises.  Make an announcement at the Christmas Party that there will be no raises this year.
  8. Micro-manage.  Make sure that every decision to do anything, no matter how small or insignificant, is run by you first.  No one is capable of independent thought or action.  Delay everything for no purpose whatsoever, just to show them who is boss.
  9. Fire all senior staff members because they are making too much money.
  10. Don’t replace terminated employees, rather spread the work around to those left.
  11. Continually ask the staff why it is taking so long to get their work done, hang around and offer meaningless suggestions on how to be more efficient.
  12. To motivate sales people, attend sales meetings.  Make each sales person stand up and state what their budget is, whether they are meeting it and what steps they plan to take if they are not.  Have the spread sheet in front of you in case they lie.
  13. Do not to any building maintenance:  Roof leaks?  Wear a rain coat.  Furnace doesn’t work? Keep your coat on.  Don’t have a coat?  Here’s the address for the Salvation Army.  Floor rotting out in the production room?  Watch your step, else you may have to crawl through the spider webs under the building to get out.
  14. Strongly “suggest” that all employees should work two Saturdays per month.  If you think they are not meeting that “obligation” harass them every opportunity you get, e.g. the men’s room, staff meetings, the hall way, call them on Saturday at home and ask when they might be coming to work, etc.
  15. If anyone complains, tell them the are lucky to have a job and if they don’t like it, they know where the door is.

Those are the best fifteen, there are many more.  These are tried and true methods that have worked wonders for my former employer’s moral.  Not so much, however, the staff.  Those poor bastards.

You know, when your job interview seems a little off, perhaps it would be better to seek employment elsewhere:

A little story about my local newspaper

So, the other day I was in the convenience store near my house.  I had not picked up a copy of the local newspaper in quite some time, so I looked around for one.  I couldn’t find it anywhere so I asked the checkout clerk, who looked at me rather dead pan and said “they went under about a year ago.”

What? I hadn’t even noticed my own local paper was gone, for a year?

A quick Google search and I found a notice on their website saying that the newspaper was no longer published and a blog entry from a former reporter summing up the end of the newspaper.

Sadly, the Millbrook Round Table was just one of scores of local newspapers forced to close down, because the holding company of many of them, Journal Register Co., defaulted on loans and was de-listed from the New York Stock Exchange. However, despite the sympathy I feel for all of those reporters, editors, photographers, graphic designers, proofreaders, ad salespeople and delivery people, no one can say we didn’t see this coming. The truth is, newspapers have been an antiquated technology, and try as they might, they haven’t been able to find a new business model that would enable them to be profitable in the post-paper world of instant, online publishing.

Sound even vaguely familiar?  All of the small local newspapers bought up by a big consolidator, who then defaults and cuts costs.  Caught behind the technology curve, unable to make up the lost ground, local institutions that have been in place for more than a century fold and disappear in the wink of an eye, sometimes completely un-noticed.

Sadly, I will say that the radio business seems to be on the same trajectory.

And so it begins

Citadel is prepping for chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, according to this inside radio article.  The jem that I most like is this:

Lenders have until Tuesday to sign the deal, which would cut its $2 billion debt to $760 million. Shareholders would see their ownership stake wiped out.

So lets see, if you kept your Citadel Broadcasting stock (CTDB: trading at $0.041 per share) because you though it might go above a $1.00 per share again, you are screwed.  Notice, 60% of the debt is just going away.  Amazing!  How do they do that?  If I decided that I didn’t want to pay my mortage, would the bank entice me to start paying again by reducing it by 60%?  No they would not.  They would simply send me a foreclosure notice and eventually some guy would stand on the county courthouse steps and read my foreclosure warrant out loud to the passers by.  If I am lucky, it will be lunch time and somebody might actually hear it.

No, what happens when a lender writes down $1.24 billion in debt is it gets passed on to all the other bank customers in higher interest rates, larger fees, etc.  After all, the CEO needs to make his margins to earn that end of year bonus.

To recap, shareholders are loosing everything and we all are going to pay more because Citadel Broadcasting Corporation over paid for a group of radio stations, then ran them into the ground.  Fuck us all.

Fifteen signs you work for a dysfunctional company

Posted without further comment:

Sign No. 1: Conspicuously posted vision or value statements are filled with vague but important-sounding words like “excellence” and “quality”

These words are seldom defined and the concepts they allude to are never measured.

Sign No. 2: Bringing up a problem is considered more as evidence of a personality defect rather than as an actual observation of reality

In a dysfunctional company, what it looks like is not only more important than what it is, it is what it is. If you don’t believe that, you are the problem. A surprising amount of information is classified. Dysfunctional companies have more state secrets than the CIA. Anything that might embarrass the boss turns out to be a national security issue.

Sign No. 3: If by chance there are problems, the usual solution is a motivational seminar

Attitude is everything, especially in places where facts are embarrassing or inconvenient. In a dysfunctional family, there’s an elephant — usually a drunken abusive parent — in the parlor, but no one ever mentions him. To appear sane, you have to pretend that the elephant is invisible, and that drives you crazy. Businesses are full of invisible elephants, too. Usually they are things that might cause difficulties for people with enough clout to prevent their discussion. The emperor may be naked, but if you have a good attitude, you won’t mention it.

Sign No. 4: Double messages are delivered with a straight face

Quality and quantity are both job one. You can do it both cheaper and better, just don’t ask how. If you’re motivated enough you should know already.

Sign No. 5: History is regularly edited to make executive decisions more correct, and correct decisions more executive than they actually were

Those huge salaries require some justification.

Sign No. 6: People are discouraged from putting things in writing

What is written, especially financial records, is purposely confusing. You can never tell when you might need a little deniability.

Sign No. 7: Directions are ambiguous and often vaguely threatening

Before you respond to a vague threat, remember this: Virtually every corporate scandal begins with someone saying, “Do it; I don’t care how.” That person is seldom the one who gets indicted.

Sign No. 8: Internal competition is encouraged and rewarded

The word “teamwork” may be batted around like a softball at a company picnic, but in a dysfunctional company the star players are the only ones who get recognition and big bucks.

Sign No. 9: Decisions are made at the highest level possible

Regardless of what it is, you have to check with your boss before doing it. She also has to check with her boss.

Sign No. 10: Delegating means telling somebody to do something, not giving them the power to do it

According to Webster’s Dictionary, you delegate authority, not tasks. In dysfunctional companies you may have responsibility, but the authority lives in the office upstairs.

Sign No. 11: Management approaches from the latest bestseller are regularly misunderstood to mean what we’re doing already is right on the mark

“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Good to Great” and “Who Moved My Cheese?” all seem to boil down to, “quit griping and do more with less.”

Sign No. 12: Resources are tightly controlled

Your department may need upgraded software, but there’s been a spending freeze since 2006. Cost control is entry-level management, but in a dysfunctional company anything more sophisticated is considered too touchy-feely. Whatever you propose, the first question you will be asked is if it can be done cheaper.

Sign No. 13: You are expected to feel lucky to have a job and know you could lose it if you don’t toe the line

Dysfunctional companies maintain control using the threat of punishment. Most will maintain that they also use positive rewards … like your paycheck. A few people are actually fired, but most of those who go are driven to quit.

Sign No. 14: Rules are enforced based on who you are rather than what you do

In a dysfunctional company, there are clearly insiders and outsiders and everyone knows who belongs in each group. Accountability has different meanings depending on which group you’re in.

Sign No. 15: The company fails the Dilbert Test

Dysfunctional organizations have no sense of humor. People who post unflattering cartoons risk joining the ranks of the disappeared. When an organization loses the ability to laugh at itself, it is headed for big trouble. If you’d get in trouble for printing this article and posting it on the bulletin board at work, maybe it’s time to look for another job before this one drives you crazy.

About community radio

Because of this post, I have received some e-mail asking why I am against community radio.  I am not.  In fact, I support community radio.  I think that community radio done well is a wonderful tool in our democracy, giving a voice to those that are watching government.  It also promotes other locals interests, events, music, etc.    I would like to see more failing stations bought by community broadcasters and turned into something that is a public trust and responsive to the local population.

What I was trying to get at in the previous post was that over crowding the FM band with more and more small signals will degrade it.  There is no ifs, ands or buts, removing third adjacent protections on the FM band will increase the noise floor.  This will lead to more interference on the average FM radio, which will lead to more people getting fed up and tuning out.

Here is why:  You cannot change the laws of physics.  FM transmitters have output filters that attenuate side band energy, that is to say, energy transmitted on 1st, 2nd and 3rd adjacent channels.  A 50,000 watt FM station on 100.3 MHz will have side band energy on 100.1, 99.9 and 99.7 MHz as well as 100.5, 100.7 and 100.9 MHz.  Due to the limitations on the components used to construct those filters, they can only be designed with the accuracy of the components used.  In other words, most electrical components have a tolerance given in percent, example +/- 10%.  That means that the value of the component will change, usually because of heating.  Therefore, output filters cannot be constructed to limit emissions to only the main channel and say one adjacent channel, they would drift off frequency.

Also, creating a brick wall filter that cuts everything off at the second adjacent channel will cause distortion of the RF signal on the main channel.  With analog AM and FM transmitters it cannot be done.  Digital transmissions are another story, but that is not what we are talking about here.

That is an engineer’s point of view.

One other thing about adding hundreds more LP FM signals.  There should be something that stipulates most (say >50%) of the programming be locally originated.  Recorded for later playback is fine.  Having thousands of LP stations broadcasting the same syndicated shows or running voice tracked automation 24/7 would be a recreation of the AM band as it currently exists.  If you want to listen to that, then it already exists, help your self.  I, on the other hand, would like to avoid the AMization of the FM band.

That is all.

Book Review: Fighting for Air

fighting for airI just finished reading Fighting for Air by Eric Klinenberg.  It is a good book and a great discription of what has happened to radio since the major consolidations occured in 1999 and 2000.  Depressing.  Just damn depressing is what it is.

The book chronicles the evolution of the Prophet System and how that system was used to replace entire radio station air staffs.  It discusses the various failures that radio has produced as a result of automated programming, the complete lack of originality, public safety issues and how major media companies have stripped the heart and soul out of radio.

Something that the book points out that I never really considered, every one of these unoriginal canned music stations diminishes all radio by some increment.  For those that think the Clear Channels, Cumulus and Citadels are only harming themselves, think again.  People who get fed up with radio and buy an I-pod are excluding all radio stations from then on.  That is another degree of audience lost to a competing medium.

Having worked for one of the smaller group owners since 1999, one that rarely if ever appears on anyone’s radar, I can say I have seen some minor shades of what has happened with Clear Channel in the company I work for.  I think everyone who works in radio has seen some of this in one form or another no matter who they work for.

Radio has never been the most stable of employers.  Even in the early days, people moved in and out of radio stations, sometimes taking a job with the competitor across town and sometimes moving across country.  It was understood that sometimes changes needed to be made, sometimes people had to be let go.  It was a part of the landscape.  The difference is in the post consolidation radio environment, people are leaving radio altogether, replaced by a mindless computer programmed from afar.

During my time as a radio engineer, I have installed a few of these computer automation systems.  I think the first one was in 1993 on an AM station doing all news.  We used it for the overnight hours, replacing some minimum wage board operators.  The general manager was shocked and a little bit in awe of how well the system worked.

This trend continued in 1994, when I installed a BE Audiovault system at an AM/FM combo.  There again, the system replaced an overnight board operator on the AM station.  Later, the FM station did a sort of mini-mation where the overnight news guy checked on it every 45-50 minutes.  Those stations are now completely voice tracked and or satellite syndicated.

Through the 90’s, I installed first generation computer based automation systems mostly on AM stations.  Things like Digilink, DCS, ENCO, etc.

In other markets, an automation system was used to resurrect a couple of FM stations, starting out voice tracked, then adding live bodies to fill in day parts, usually having the 6 pm to 6 am time slot voice tracked.  Having three day parts live is better than none I suppose.

The AM stations in my market cluster now are running some awful syndicated satellite news/talk programming.  Why are these stations even on the air?  They should be sold to someone who will operate them locally, or turn their licenses in.

For whatever roll I have played in ruining radio, I am sorry for it.

It is a good book, I recommend anybody that works in the radio business read it.

Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147/S 592)

I sent off a letter to my Senators and Congressman this morning regarding HR 1147/S 592 AKA Local Community Radio Act.  Basically I am against this.  Not that I don’t appreciate what it is trying to accomplish.  I believe the technical degradation of the FM band is a higher concern.  After all, if we turn the FM band into what the AM band has become, nobody will listen to radio.

Radio is too important to ruin.  Here is what I wrote:

I strongly urge you NOT to support the bipartisan Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147/ S. 592) sponsored by Reps. Mike Doyle and Lee Terry and Sens. Maria Cantwell and John McCain.

In spite of what many have said, Low Power FM (LPFM) contributes to the technical degradation of the FM service.  By adding more and more signals covering every possible spot in the FM spectrum, the noise floor is raised causing many FM receivers to “picket fence” which is annoying to most listeners.

Radio has suffered enough degradation over the last few decades.  AM radio is now so fraught with interference, especially at night, most people do not even consider listening to it.  Packing the FM dial with thousands of low power operators will create the same problems and cause most people to abandon radio altogether.

I am a strong proponent of 1st amendment rights.  I believe the sponsors of this bill are well intentioned, however misinformed. I believe that the deregulation of commercial radio allowing one company to own 1,200 radio licenses has created most of the problems we see today.

Clear Channel, in particular, has removed almost all localism from radio, creating bland canned music channels.  Their modus operandi was to buy a group of radio stations in a market, combine the stations under one roof, get rid of most of the staff, and drop the advertising rates so other local stations could not compete.  Non-Clear Channel stations were then forced to make cuts in there advertising rates and or expenses to stay in business.

The answer is not to create a bigger mess.  Instead:

1.  Push the FCC to tighten ownership rules.  In some ways the horse is already out of the barn, but it would prevent another Clear Channel from forming in the future.
2.  If major radio groups go bankrupt and are broken up, allow it to happen, do not intervene.  This will allow real radio broadcasters to pick up the pieces and put something together.  Perhaps investigate supporting small radio owners by waiving FCC fees and limited tax breaks for a period of time.
3.  Push the FCC to continue with the localism hearings they were conducting.
4.  Push the FCC to update the EAS and make a workable Emergency Alert System in the US.

Radio is too important a resource to have it ruined.  Of all the media outlets, radio is the most robust.  During an emergency often times the utility grid is down.  Many radio stations have backup power generators and can provide vital information when the internet, phone system, cable TV network, cellphone system, e-mail, etc are down.

Radio can provide local government important mass access to their constituents during elections and at other important times.  Radio is free, there are no subscription fees, no service providers, etc.  Almost everyone owns a radio, most people own several.

Small savvy radio owners can make a go of it, provided the deck is not stacked against them.

Please DO NOT support the Local Community Radio Act. Thank you.

If you want to get involved, you can go the the Free Press website, there you will find a link to a “Take Action” page (not sure that link will work).  Again, I am not opposed to Free Press, or even Free Radio.  Packing the FM spectrum with LPFM, translators and the like will only create reception problems.  This is just become another reason for people not to listen to radio.

More failure, please…

Sounds kind of silly, but in some cases, failure is good.  Companies that are inefficient, poorly run, poorly conceived, have substandard products, do not serve their clients, and so on should be able to fail.  This allows good companies, that do thing right, to thrive.

Too big to fail is too big and those companies should be broken up.  This holds true in the radio business as well as the banking industry, the auto industry and so on.  What is truly unfortunate is that the people most responsible for the failure, the upper management and CEOs, often get away with millions while the people who had their back into it get to go to the unemployment office.

That being said, radio is in for some drastic changes soon.

NO BAILOUTS FOR RADIO

Enough already with the bailouts.  Radio is not some precious national resource, it does not funtion for the betterment of society, nor does it provide vital information in the time of emergency.  It stopped doing those things years ago when deregulation kicked in, deregulation which was lobbied for extensively by the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) at the behest of radio and tv stations owners, by the way.

Once deregulation took effect, station management went on a hunt for pennies, often tripping over dollars to get them.  By staff reductions and cost cutting, the product was deluded and the medium was marginalized and that is where we are today.

Not everyone followed the above narative, there are some operators who stuck to the frame work of public/customer service and kept good programming on the air.  Those stations are few and far between but they are out there.  Why should they not reap the benefits of there forward thinking?

Is internet radio really radio?

Technically speaking, no.  Here is how radio is defined in the dictionary:

ra⋅di⋅o

[rey-dee-oh]
-noun
1. wireless telegraphy or telephony: speeches broadcast by radio.
2. an apparatus for receiving or transmitting radio broadcasts.
3. a message transmitted by radio.

Therefore, the internet, something relying on wired connections for the transmission of data for the most part, is not radio.  A radio station that is streaming audio, is a different matter.

Aside from that technicality, there is something else that is important to note.  Internet broadcasters (AKA webcaster) lack some other key components that make a radio station a radio station;  A specific set of rules that govern their behavior.  Things like profanity, copyright infringement, slander, payola, plugola, syndication rights, advertising rules (things tobacco, alcohol) emergency information, public issues and so on.

A radio station license is granted in the public interest.  Time was that radio station were required to do a certain amount of public service broadcasting, things like the news, religious programs, community interest programs.  Many station still do this.  An internet broadcaster is under so such constraints.   Some would say that is better and it just might be.  However, when Tim Westergren says “don’t call it internet radio, just call it radio,” sir, you are wrong.

The FCC is studying the state of Journalism

The FCC has drafted a Notification of Inquiry (NOI) examining the state of media journalism in America. Why?  No harm can come from this, right?  Let us read a little further:

A major issue the report details is the possibility of “behavioral rules” for broadcasters, according to the official. Behavioral rules might include guidelines that broadcasts serve the public interest.

Bringing back Cold War-era guidelines mandating that broadcasters do “non-entertainment” programming is another idea being examined, according to the official.

From CNSNews.com

Doh! Now that most radio stations have fired their news departments, the government wants news.  Frankly, I think it is a dumb idea.  The hands of time can’t be turned back so there is no use trying.

There are radio stations out there that provide good local and national news, most NPR stations for example.  There are also a few commercial stations still doing it.  Those that can make money on it will and that is the way it should be.

I listen to the local NPR station’s (WAMC) program called “The Media Project.”  It is an interesting show where a Television news anchor, a local newspaper editor and the radio station president talk about media issues.  Often, it turns into a lament about how the internet news sources are cutting into their own audience because the internet is “free.”  The news paper editor in particular often feels that he is shouldering the burden (by paying the reporter’s salaries) of gathering the news and the free loading internet people who write blogs, like this one, merely leach off of the newspaper’s hard work.  And he has a point.

So charge for it.  I’d pay a $3-5 per month fee to have full on line access to a good local paper.  I think many other people would too.  When they started giving away their content is when they got into trouble and that is their own fault.  This would be a good formula:

  1. Media outlets (newspapers, TV stations, Radio stations, Cable companies, etc) get together come up with a policy for online content.
  2. A good example would be, limited free access to national stories and front page items and advertisements.  Charge a nominal subscription fee for locally generated content and full access.  Charge a higher fee for content without advertising (except classifieds).
  3. Create a website that is laid out like a newspaper.  Keep all the sections the same and make it very easy to navigate around in.

Some newspapers, like the New York Times, are already doing things like this.  The reality is that online media is here to stay.  Those legacy media outlets that want to survive are going to have to figure out a way to compete and make money online.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

Free counters!