The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Wolf by Dennis Matheson
Wolf by Dennis Matheson

How often have we received brief’s marked ‘urgent’ with tight deadlines? I recently received a brief marked ‘urgent.” As there were errors and omissions in the brief (which needed correction and clarification by the client) I advised my client that the tight deadline could not be met. After a few days the client informed me ‘not to worry’ as it wasn’t urgent anyway – the artwork wasn’t really needed until May next year!

Further investigation revealed that marking brief’s as ‘urgent’ is a response to a belief held by the client that designers need to be coerced to do any work. This is classic Theory X management style at work.

The problem with coercion is that it is a form of work place bullying. Bullying (or harassment) and tight deadlines are contributors to Australia’s growing cost of workplace stress. In 2008 a report by Medibank Private revealed that workplace stress costs the Australian economy $14.81 billion per year(1).

Stress in turn triggers a physiological response known as the “fight-or-flight” response(2) in which the amygdala shuts off the prefrontal cortex responsible for planning complex cognitive function and decision making.

So the best way for a client to get the worst performance out of a designer is to repeatedly issue ‘urgent’ briefs with tight deadlines.


(1) The Cost of Workplace Stress in Australia

(2) Understanding the Stress Response

(3) The antithesis of Theory X is Theory Y management style which assumes that workers are intrinsically motivated and can be trusted to complete work of their own accord.