An Employee Award With a Twist

A Darth Vader action figure swinging a light saber rests on a table in Patrick Wise's office at Landstar System Inc., a transportation company in Jacksonville, Fla. Wise, vice president of advanced technology at Landstar, bestows the figure -- known as the Root of All Evil Award -- on a luckless manager whenever something gets seriously screwed up.

"It's quite a ceremony," Wise says. "We take a picture, and the award has to stay on the person's desk until someone else earns it. It's an anti-motivator."

For more than two years, Wise has awarded the figure for various mistakes, such as a network outage or a buggy Web application. Three out of four directors in Wise's 65-person department have earned the dubious distinction, some of them several times.

"We've passed it around quite a bit," he says. "The purpose was to raise awareness of how small problems can impact our end users."

So how did the award wind up back in Wise's office?

Last year, the company launched a Web portal for the independent contractors who haul loads for Landstar. But the technology wasn't well aligned with the needs of drivers.

"Our end users weren't terribly sophisticated," Wise says. "The portal was way beyond them." So in the spirit of the award, Wise says, "I gave it to myself."

Michael Ybarra is a contributing writer for To comment on this story, email

This was first published in December 2005

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