Economics for Dummies: Firewalk with YOU? No, thanks!


On the surface of things, this is just another story of a motivational management gimmick gone wrong:

Alessandro Di Priamo, a former athlete now turned motivational trainer for companies, said the nine salespeople from the Tecnocasa agency had suffered light burns and none were seriously hurt.

“Firewalking helps people overcome their fears, seek new challenges and understand that most of what they see as their limits are self-inflicted,” Di Priamo told Reuters.

He said the hotel near Rome where the exercise was held used the wrong kind of wood and some artificial coal without him knowing.

“I have done this job for 12 years with thousands of people and never had a problem. I myself walked first on that bed of burning coals and didn’t feel anything — in fact that same evening I went for a 16 km run,” he said.

But actually, this is much bigger than just the hotel using the “wrong” fire materials. Where was the guru who was supposed to be overseeing this bullshit, anyway? Wasn’t it HIS job to make sure the coals were properly prepared? Why did he leave it to “the hotel” instead? How could they use the “wrong” materials without him knowing when he himself walked on those coals first and claimed to be unhurt?

There’s so much that’s stinky about this tale, but one of the commenters on the site pretty much nails it:

These exercises are just another way to avoid real motivators e.g., increased pay, getting rid of crappy managers, improving safety issues, or expanding benefits.

Bingo. Why deal with the blindingly obvious real problems of the work environment when you can dress up your crapitalism in all kinds of “motivational” gimmicks, thus creating more business for charlatans whose job it is to make employees think they’re in control when in fact Big Boss Man is still (very badly) calling the shots? I mean, who needs to make enough to live decently on, be free of bad managers, have more workplace safety, job security, environmental awareness, personal autonomy, etc.? No, it’s much cheaper for the boss more fun to believe you can walk on hot coals without burning yourself.

Even when it’s manifestly obvious that you can’t.

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