Here is some advice to anyone who takes offense to any of these de-motivating posters in this hysterical countdown of the most de-motivating posters of all time: Go drink an energy drink, and then go sit and watch some grass grow. If you know someone SO uptight that they can’t find the humor in this, then the P.C. Police already have them detained. Good luck with a rescue mission! For everyone else, before you get to the list itself, enjoy the video of 2015’s most epic fails thus far to date. The epic fail video compilation is filled with interesting, exciting and funny events, fails, faults, and of course cats. the video should have you belly laughing hysterically at the misfortune of others before you even get tot the list! ENJOY!
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A recent post at Entrepreneur.com considers the Top 10 Successories Motivational Posters of All Time. While we’d quibble with some of their choices and omissions, I think we all can agree that the inclusion of designs that liken employees to slobbering dogs and flightless waterfowl is ALWAYS a surefire prescription for motivating workers to work even harder. And it’s a lot cheaper than paying them more!
Meanwhile, back on Earth, dysfunction, nepotism and sometimes even outright exploitation remain the order of the day in most workplaces. It is for those of you earthbound realists and demoralized cynics that we created Despair.com and Demotivators® demotivational posters in the first place.
After we finished our perusal of the Top 10 Iconic Motivational Posters (and we put away our sick bags), we decided it deserved a reply, and who better than us to write it? And so, after much deliberation and debate, we’ve created our own list- The Top 13 Demotivators® Posters of All Time, using sales data, social sharing, frequency of inclusion in Build-Your-Own-Calendars, and other semi-scientific analytic tools to compile it. Let us know if you agree.
And now, to the Countdown…
#13 – Idiocy – Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
Skydivers. If you have any doubts about the resilience of skydiving iconography in motivational propaganda, you haven’t been paying much attention. After all, nothing says, “Teamwork” like images of large groups of people holding hands together as they plummet in screaming unison towards the inevitable. Better left unstated is the fact that dozens of people die each year in skydiving accidents. Why harsh the mellow, right?
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: Together we can achieve great things. Like forming circles.
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: Together we fall. And sometimes, we die.
#12 – Government – If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.
Speaking of the power of stupid people in large groups… Our Government design remains a top-selling entry, many years after its introduction, for reasons not entirely clear to us… I mean, our elected leaders may seem inefficient and feckless occasionally, but your representatives in Washington just want what’s best for you. Assuming you’re a major corporation. Otherwise, you’re pretty much screwed.
Despite the mess America has made of itself under the steady hands of professional bribe takers and sexual deviants, the popularity of Patriotic (and, let’s be honest, sometimes jingoistic) motivational posters endures, even as they often inadvertently remind us just how far short of our aspirational values our leaders fall.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: USA! USA! USA!
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: The fate of America is in the hands of bald, self-interested predators.
#11 – Meetings – None of us is as dumb as all of us.
Rounding out our celebration of Teamwork-related themes is Meetings. Our poster itself was inspired by a quote by a now phenomenally-wealthy motivational guru (i.e. idiot) whose very career is owed largely to an early, inspired bit of plagiarism. Ken Blanchard’s original quote on Teamwork, “None of us is as smart as all of us” defiantly laughs in the face of the known phenomenon of groupthink, yet you can’t help assume he genuinely believes it. And perhaps he should. After all, his idea of teamwork is stealing a colleague’s idea, dumbing it down, and putting his name on it, then claiming, after being confronted with profiteering from plagiarism, “It was legal. It was moral. I feel good about myself.”
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: Together Everyone Achieves More! Go T.E.A.M.! / What’s gonna work, TEAM-WORK!
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: We hope you’re inspired to work together by enlarged photos of hairy knuckles.
#10 – Achievement – You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.
Achievement is another time-honored theme of motivational posters. And, for reasons not clear to us, they frequent sport pictures of The Great Wall of China, The Great Pyramids, and other architectural wonders that were created thousands of years ago under incredible duress by slave labor. These days, the equivalent poster would show a Foxconn Factory with armies of underpaid, miserable Chinese people hunched over the iPhone assembly line. But that’s not especially motivational- and THEY’RE COMMUNISTS! (And besides, it won’t be too long before THEY’RE out of a job.)
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: You can achieve great things…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …if by great things, you mean building the world’s biggest magnet for cavorting druids.
#9 – Potential – Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when he grows up.
As a bright-eyed kid, you once harbored dreams of a future in space. Hence the popularity of rocketry and space exploration as a motivational poster theme. But let’s be honest. The only moon you’ll ever step foot on will belong to passed-out, drunken, former bright-eyed aspiring astronaut losers who are, unfortunately for you, your peers. Nice going, Buzz!
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: You have the potential to do wondrous things…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: … like file TPS reports, pretend to be busy when you’re actually just surfing the web, and if you’re not careful, being damned to ask “Would you like fries with that?” 200 times a day.
#8 – Ambition – The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.
The wisdom of Confucius is a treasure trove to the motivational poster industry, and a fair argument might be made that he is one of the earliest and best-known motivational speakers of all time. His quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is perhaps his most enduring, which is rather ironic in an era when most Americans get winded after The Journey of a Thousand Feet. But let’s not act like the guy was a genius or anything. After all, he also said, “He who stand on toilet get high on pot” and “Man who throw cat out of window make kitty litter”, which makes him about on par with your average LOLcat author.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, life’s a cinch.
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …Your job is a thousand-mile death march walked through a wonderland of beige lighting and cheap carpets. If you make it, your reward is forced retirement without benefits. And if you don’t, well… There’s always someone younger and cheaper eager to take your place. Have fun!
#7 – Mistakes – It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.
Ever hear the quote that, “A ship in the harbor is safe… But that’s not what ships are for?” The quote- and its corresponding motivational poster, “Risk”- are as enduring as the cockroach and a certain social disease we’d rather not type here because who needs the SEO on THAT? (Rhymes with Slurpees, apparently not as refreshing.) Of course, the quote isn’t even TRUE, as Captain Dumbass (a.k.a. Captain Francesco Schettino) heroically proved last year. And that notwithstanding, not every life can be a success, just like not every vessel can be seaworthy. But there’s no shame in being one spectacular shipwreck. (Actually, there is. But we’re not going to kick you while you’re down, Edmund Fitzgerald.)
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: The greatest rewards await those taking the greatest risks…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …but do NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, take risks here. Your JOB IS AT STAKE.
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#6 – Procrastination – Hard work often pays off after time. But laziness always pays off now.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: (Remember to write a joke here later about how CARPE DIEM type stupidity is everywhere in motivational posters…)
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …(Then have a payoff about how the same letters in CARPE DIEM can also spell “I DEEM CRAP”. Har.)
#5 – Shoot for the Moon – Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Of course, then your eyeballs will boil and your lungs explode from decompression. But that’s what you get for being a damn showoff.
Our recent “Shoot for the Moon” Demotivator® instantly joined the Top 5 for good reason. 1) EVERYBODY hates that stupid “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land amongst the stars” lunacy. 2) It’s pretty funny and an awesome rebuke against the sort of rah-rah aspirational sentiments of the source quote.
Motivational posters about shooting for the moon might as well be called “Shoot Yourself In The Head”, because that’s what your employees will want to do if they see they’re working in the kind of place that would try to inspire you to greatness by giving you an impossible goal, and then telling you, once you fail, you’ll still end up in the presence of stars. They know it’s a lot more likely they’ll end up in the unemployment line.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: We want you to aim high!
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: Don’t aim high, really. That’s for management to do, particularly when we’re shopping for luxury vehicles.
#4 – Get to Work – You’re not being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.
Scenic photography of rowers rowing in unison may be one of the most persistent motivational images of all time- and we’ll be the first to admit, it makes a lovely image! Yet the observant eye drifts to the coxswain, who is the perfect proxy for management. He or she gets to sit there at the front, tanning and barking out orders, enjoying the scenic view and generally annoying those on the boat doing the actual work (i.e., you).
A more honest motivational poster would feature galley slaves, chained like Charlton Heston below decks in Ben Hur. Or these guys. Enough already.
Adding insult to injury, however, is the caption that follows the image in the Teamwork Successories poster. “Teamwork… is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results.” Now THAT’S demotivational!
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results!
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: Buck up, all you commoners! We expect great things from you, in spite of your utter unremarkability.
#3 – Wishes – When you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it’s really a meteor hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you’re pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it’s death by meteorite.
Wishing on a falling star may have helped impregnate Betty Rubble (6:30 seconds into the episode, if you’re curious), but for those of us NOT living in a cartoon, it’s about as effective as shooting for the moon.
The reality is, motivational posters meant to encourage creativity and imagination tend to stand in stark opposition to the inherently uninspiring nature of most jobs. Do you really want to hang posters on the walls encouraging your employees to wish, dream, and imagine? Because most of them are just going to wish they had a better job, dream they weren’t trapped in a thankless rat race, and imagine how their dreary cubicle might be improved with their manager’s head hanging on a trophy mount.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: Imagine the possibilities…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …on your own damn time, Billy Dreamer.
#2 – Tradition – Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.
Some customs have been handed down generation by generation, all the way back to our forefathers. But remember: our forefathers were actually pretty stupid. They wore those dumb powdered wigs and everything.
Tradition and values are both extremely popular motivational themes. Yet let’s be serious. Not all traditions are good, and not all values are valuable. And honestly, nothing says “We value employees” like a cheaply printed motivational poster made in China, because hey, you can save like $.50 per print when you cut those greedy American printers out of the loop! (Yes, most motivational posters are printed overseas. Even the ones with American flags on it. Sorry to shatter your dreams.)
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: We have a firm tradition of celebrating values…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …which is why we’re SO EXCITED about our tradition of replacing employees like you with even cheaper ones!
#1 – Motivation – If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.
This is it. The single greatest Demotivator® poster of all time. The one that manages to perfectly comment on the very absurdity of the very notion of motivational posters– while still getting in a pretty good joke in the process.
The enduring popularity of this particular design is perhaps not hard at all to understand. It serves as a rebuke to any and all motivational posters- whether they’re about Teamwork, Success, Risk, or even Breathing. Any job which can be improved by cheap propaganda is a tenuous one- and any employee who takes comfort in thoughtless proxies of inspiration needs to instead wake up and smell what the bosses are shoveling. If not, it won’t be long before they’re buried in it.
INTENDED MOTIVATIONAL MESSAGE OF SUCH POSTERS: You are so valuable to us…
ACTUAL MESSAGE SENT: …that we’re going to try to squeeze a little more productivity out of you with cliches, bromides and stock photography. It works, right? It must! Otherwise, why would these guys even exist?
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