Globoforce CEO On Why Grumpy Bosses Are Culture Killers

Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley has grown the company over the course of 20 years, with one simple mantra in mind: WorkHuman

“The WorkHuman movement basically recognizes that if we treat our employees as human beings and we make work more human and recognize the needs of human beings, then we will get more productivity, more energy out of those employees,” says Mosley.

It isn’t just the mantra for the cloud-based software firm out of Framingham, Mass, it’s an ideology. There are WorkHuman conferences, social media communities, and much more. It’s helped the company, whose software helps companies recognize employee performance, take advantage of a changing paradigm in corporate culture.

Mosley talked to Chief Executive about this changing culture, the end of the “grumpy boss,” and more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.

Talk to me about the changing culture in business.

There is basically an awakening in corporate America where [CEOs and executives] have realized that the old paradigm of managers being little dictators doesn’t work anymore. You have to inspire people and you have to figure out what makes a person tick… there’s a hierarchy of human needs. If you want to get to the intrinsic motivation of people, you have to satisfy these needs. And these needs revolve around things like social connections, having relationships in work. And then also positive reinforcement, feeling that the work that you do is appreciated. And it’s only when those kind of human needs are met can we really express ourselves and be creative.

“The old grumpy manager just doesn’t have the capacity to change culture in the way that an energized workforce can.”

When those needs are not met, it’s like a weight on top of people because they feel like they don’t have a social connection in the workplace, they don’t feel that if they do work will be noticed or appreciated. And when employees are in that position say, you’re basically…it’s like you put a big weight on their shoulders and they can’t get energized, they can’t get motivated, they can’t be creative. When you fulfill them in that way, so when you get to make sure they have social connections in work, when you make sure that they are recognized when they do good work, suddenly you take that weight off her shoulders and they, suddenly then you unleash creativity and energy from them.

WorkHuman is about making the workplace a more human environment. We’re basically recognizing that people have core needs and anything that strips them of those core needs is a negative for a company’s performance. Anything that basically caters to those needs is a positive. It’s really resonated, it’s taken off.

What would you say are the biggest challenges you’re facing as CEO of Globoforce?

When you’re building a company and you have a big marketplace with lots of potential customers, they’re all at different stages in their journey in the development of culture. For us, if you go back a couple of years, the concept I’m talking about like making work more human, was kind of unheard of and it was something that we have had to introduce and evangelize. As the years have gone by…that’s changed. The majority of companies we talk to, they are coming to us because they want to make work more human for their employees. But there’s still pockets of companies that are a little bit more old fashioned and afraid to give up power to their employees. That’s always a challenge, how to help those companies see that they have this dormant energy source in the company. And by letting go a little, that’s when they get the most dramatic change.

One example of that concept is crowdsourced pay. And crowdsourced pay is where basically you take a percentage of your bonus budget. In every compensation strategy, there is base pay, benefits, and bonuses. But if you take a percentage of that compensation budget and give it out to the people to give to each other, you’ve democratized pay. And that’s a very powerful concept. The more old-fashioned the company the harder it is for them to get their heads around that idea. No longer is all of their compensation and employee received dictated by our direct manager on the company.

There is a percentage of it coming from the people and therefore, the wisdom of crowds kicks in and, you know, maybe you’re taking 1% of payroll, giving it out to the people to say, “Hey, when you feel you’ve seen great work, nominate your colleagues for an award with a certain value.” You can do that as many times as you want throughout the year. What happens is leaders can follow the money to see where that 1% of payroll landed. That’s how CEOs can use data to find out who your top performers are, who are the most influential people in company, who are the people who have kind of an informal power in an organization. It’s basically, you know, if you give them ammunition to your employees, they will basically vote with their feet and nominate the colleagues who do the best work for those awards.

You said that the era of the grumpy boss is over. Why do you think that’s the case?

It gets back to this old vision of what a manager is…a manager is this person who will dictate your every move and command and control. They will shout at you if you don’t do it right. You know, this whole kind of almost patriarchal view of management is just over. People just don’t respond to that anymore because… and companies shouldn’t want that style of management to work. Because that style of management, it basically oppresses people’s brains, their thoughts, their intelligence, it oppresses and tries to force it into a certain track to do the work that they’re being commanded and controlled to do.

The old grumpy manager just doesn’t have the capacity to change culture in the way that an energized workforce can. An energized workforce is so much more powerful than one grumpy manager. And if you want to compete [in the marketplace], you want to have the energized culture inspiring each other because you will be a much more productive company, a much more innovative company rather than relying on one person and that command and control style.

What advice do you have to your fellow CEOs as they’re looking to improve their engagement, get more out of their employees, and really amp up productivity?

I think my number one advice would be to enlist help. Don’t start from the place of I have to deliver all of those things on my own. Start from the place of I’m going to enlist the help of all of the people and together we’re going to get more productivity, more energy, more creativity. And then you want to strip away the friction that stops people from doing that. And the friction is things like formality and bureaucracy. And so, you start by enlisting help and saying, “We’re all going to do this together.” And then you continue with stripping away friction that stops them from doing it easily such as bureaucracy and formality.

Read more: How CEOs Can Help Retain Millennial Employees

Gabriel Perna :Gabriel Perna is the digital editor at Chief Executive Group, overseeing content on and Previously, he was at Physicians Practice and Healthcare Informatics. You can reach him via email or on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna