How Do Demotivational Posters Work?

How Do Demotivational Posters Work?

Look, not everyone was cut out for the executive job. Some people weren’t cut out for the associate job. Some people are barely qualified to be the incompetent nephew of the boss. 

We’re all just punching the clock, working for the weekend. We’re all just counting down the days until either retirement blesses us or dementia takes us away into sweet bliss. The question is how you’re going to spend your time while you wait for those things to happen. Are you going to sit through a lot of motivational speeches where people tell you to never give up and to believe in yourself (while they get paid $25 grand a pop to spew this nonsense at you)? 

What you need is not a picture of a cuddly kitten telling you to “hang in there”. What you need is a picture of a sinking ship, telling you that not everyone is meant to be a winner—some of us are just meant to be bad examples for others to avoid. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed, We Never Expected You To

Demotivational posters add something special to the office, and that something special is that we all have a purpose in life, and maybe your purpose is to lower the curve for the rest of us. There’s no shame in being pathetic. We all are. We’re a culture of underachievers. We all follow the March Madness scores in the corner of our screen while we’re supposed to be watching the sales presentation, and we all stretch out lunch breaks as long as we can possibly do it before we know we’ll be caught. And don’t even get us started on the number of snacks we’re “supposed” to take from the break room. Those suggestions are for other people, and if you want to take four granola bars and a box of fruit snacks back to your desk, who are we to tell you no? We never expected that much from you to begin with.

Try and Fail. Try Again, Fail Harder.

The point is that demotivational posters are designed to shine a light on all of our worst natures and say “yes, we see that this is how we really feel deep down”, but there’s a catharsis in that, and by illuminating the petty, lazy, demotivated feelings that we all get when we’re loafing around the office, it can actually have a little bit of reverse psychology. (Are we about to get motivational for a minute? Can we stand that? Here it comes…)

Demotivational posters serve an important purpose in the office—no, we really mean it! Have you ever heard the phrase that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”? The truth is that a spoonful of motivation can go down better with a little bit of self-deprecating humor. Why do you think The Office or Office Space succeed so well, and are so well beloved (and frequently quoted) by people in the business world? It’s because they show the true natures of what it’s like to work in an office—what it’s like for regular people and how the average Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly can cope with the Michael Scotts of this world. They don’t do it by listening to motivational podcasts, they do it by commiserating together and, ultimately drawing together as a group.

This is what demotivational posters can do for your office: they can be a sign from management that they get it, they really get that life isn’t always what they taught you it would be in business school. They tell you that they understand how hard it is to slog through a day of meetings and phone calls and emails and nonsense, just counting down until you can go home, get under the covers, binge Netflix and eat a pint of Haagen Dazs. 

Buy a Devotivational Poster Now—Or Are You Just Going to Screw that Up Too?

So if you’re looking for something for that struggling new colleague who maybe just got yelled at by his first customer, or you know a woman who got her very first office with a doors—and it’s in the basement by the boiler room—then you owe it to them to get them a demotivational poster. 

Having a sign on your desk that says “You Probably Can’t Do This” is not really as demotivational as you think it is: it builds team spirit, because it’s all of the coworkers rallying around each other to commiserate; it gets your hackles up and makes you think “oh yeah? I most certainly can do this!” And it gives you something to look at and laugh on the very worst days, when all you need is a kind word and all you have is a demotivational poster telling you how lousy you are. 


Catharsis. It’s what’s for dinner. 


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