Human Resources News & Insights

Peer-pressure and karate: Not the best ways to motivate employees

The latest case from the “Strange Company Events” file:

Barbara Reese attended a training seminar organized by her employer. A motivational speaker was hired to conduct the session.

During the event, the speaker invited employees to karate chop wooden boards. He chose Reese, who failed to break the board with her bare hands. Apparently to demonstrate the power of persistence, he told her to try again.

The wood remained intact, so the speaker asked her for another try, which she refused to do. He then led the group of 300 or so co-workers in a chant of Reese’s name until she gave in and hit the board again.

The board didn’t break the third time either, but the attempt resulted in severe injuries and permanent nerve damage to Reese’s hand.

Reese sued, after the speaker’s insurance company refused to cover her medical expenses. The court sided with the insurance carrier because of fine print in the insurance plan.

No legal action was taken against her employer — but the event didn’t do the company a lot of good.

It’s a good idea for HR to know about what managers and outside speakers have planned for motivational events, so you can stop stupid ideas from being implemented.

Cite: Reese v. Alea London Limited

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