8 Motivational Posters Inspired By A 1921 Treatise On Human Engineering

iStock / iStock

Spare a thought for the manager's motivational maxim. Now considered the epitome of lame and ineffectual sincerity, these buzz words of encouragement had humble beginnings.

Long before audio affirmations or SkyMall-sold "Successories," motivating workers was a fairly new idea. 1921's Human Engineering: A Study of the Management of Human Forces in Industry was an early attempt to lay ground rules for the art of managing workers in an industrial society. Written by Eugene Wera, the book is full of motivational tricks and advice, many of which wouldn't sound too peculiar in a modern M.B.A. textbook. It also was written largely in response to the rise of socialism, so there's plenty of passion in there, too.

When not assailing Marxism, Wera illustrates some motivational techniques that would eventually bloom into those oft-lampooned posters found in SkyMall. “Sentimental incentives are very powerful and can succeed occasionally without the accompaniment of financial reward," writes Wera about motivational posters, or "bulletins," he recommended displaying on factory floors.

"Concrete words suggest powerful mental images, but figurative language is still more powerful." Can't you imagine someone saying that about this poster?

In honor of the prescient Mr. Wera and his motivational advice, here are eight posters—each in the style of "Successories"—that use his words of encouragement for the modern worker. All quotes are taken directly from Human Engineering: A Study of the Management of Human Forces in Industry, and the encouragement you feel after reading them will be 100% authentic.

1. Instruction

"Men must be instructed, drilled, and trained in their respective performances until their activity becomes automatic."

2. Happiness

"The emotion of struggle and victory is the essence of happiness."

3. Luxury

"The sight of luxury can incite jealousy, anger, and revenge."

4. Pleasure

"The way to stimulate men in terms of sensuous pleasure is to provide pleasant working conditions."

5. Bolshevism

"Bolshevism is a system…How shall we guard against it? By incessantly proclaiming what is our idea of democracy, fair and equal opportunity for all, no abuse of the weak by the strong, and no unjust crippling of the strong by the weak."

6. Optimism

"Social parties, festivities, dances, club meetings, moving pictures, uplifting lectures, inspiring readings, chorus singing, bands of music, etc., are all suggestive means of attaining an optimistic attitude."

7. Machines

"A light, clear machine-room will suggest a careful maintenance of the machines."

8. Assimilation

"The proper assimilation of workers is more important that the selection of qualified workers."

All photos via iStock, except the portrait of Lenin, which is from Wikimedia Commons.