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Teaching Employees a Lesson

Posted by: Emily Thornton on February 23, 2009

Here’s a novel approach to motivating employees:

Chairman of European-based private equity firm Permira Advisers Damon Buffini recently gave his partners a dressing down and ordered them to eat burgers while reflecting on how fortunate they all were to still have jobs.

Britain’s Daily Mail reported that Buffini served his people two-day-old burgers as he informed the gathering he was tired of their poor attitude and wanted to remind them of how lucky they had been in life. Another account of the same meeting that appeared in Britain’s Telegraph said Buffini was reacting in part to overhearing colleagues complain about the food at a five-star hotel during a retreat.

For its part, the 24-year-old prestigious firm which boasts on its web site that its 100 professionals with 425 years of collective private equity experience are “the key asset” of its business is not commenting on the unusual lunch meeting.

Permira’s name is Latin for “very surprising, very different.” This approach to mobilizing employees is certainly that.

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Reader Comments

Jacob Webb

February 23, 2009 04:49 PM

I've got to admit it. I can appreciate where Buffini is coming from, especially when so many high-priced and ungrateful executives are being paid exorbitant salaries.

I'd be interested to read a follow-up story about the employees' response.

David Esrati

February 23, 2009 05:11 PM

Maybe they were two day old Burger King Burgers- checkout
where they point out the bonuses paid out to BK owners Goldman Sachs were enough to more than double every BK employee's annual salary.

Norbert Mayer-Wittmann

February 24, 2009 03:58 AM

Just the other day I was chatting with a colleague about how little sensitivity there seems to be to the VAST difference between EXCESS and PLIGHT.

If any "motivation" / "motivational" experts read this, please consider contact me @ (to discuss potential projects to help people understand this difference, bridge the gap, be supportive of their colleagues/community, etc. :) nmw


February 24, 2009 11:52 PM

for more information please visit me here

yevette ford

February 25, 2009 09:53 PM

Regardless,of the complaints,those employees should not have been punished in such a manner,but maybe they will be more appreciative.

Gregory Deming

February 26, 2009 06:10 PM

I was wondering what happened to my burger.

Taylor Housley

February 27, 2009 01:59 PM

That is a pretty good idea. I bet that was humbling for those employees. I can understand him really focusing on them still having their jobs. But I guess my question is how does he know that those are the best employees for their company?

Diane Gooslin

April 13, 2009 12:54 PM

I think Gregory Deming hits home the point...or at least what I took from it. Brilliant.

Not an approach I would take but I love the message. Maybe that was the only way to do it.

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How can you manage smarter? BusinessWeek writers Nanette Byrnes, Patricia O’Connell, Emily Thornton, Matthew Boyle, Michelle Conlin and Diane Brady synthesize insights from the brightest business thinkers, critique the latest management trends, and comment on leaders in the news.

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