->'''Intendant:''' Execute them! I think you'll find that random and unprovoked executions will keep your entire workforce alert and motivated.\\
'''Garak:''' I bow to your brilliance. Though I do hope your mood improves before we run out of workers.
-->-- ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'', "Through the Looking Glass"

Bad guys have a lot of problems keeping a NebulousEvilOrganisation running. There's [[{{Mooks}} high turnover]] due to heroic raids, [[SurroundedByIdiots lack of professionalism]] in the EvilMinions, and motivating the surviving personnel. This last one is especially difficult because just as EvilCannotComprehendGood, it also can't understand positive reinforcement.

When a minion or even their NumberTwo (TheDragon) performs well, they won't so much praise their effort or reward their good results as warn them "do not [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlive your usefulness]]". Kind of hard to go to work with a smile with ''[[VillainOverride that]]'' [[CyanidePill hanging over your head]].

Another demotivator is the BigBad's reaction when their minion(s) lose to the hero. Assuming they don't shoot the fellow then and there (which is, again, not exactly good for morale no matter ''what'' [[MachiavelliWasWrong Machiavelli said]]) they will likely yell ''"YouHaveFailedMe!"'' and use their AgonyBeam on the poor sap. After the poor minion is done screaming his guts out (hopefully not literally) their boss will say ''"Do not fail me again! For I shall not show you such mercy a second time."'' Whether they actually follow through depends on how dark the show is. In animation, even TeamRocket or the QuirkyMinibossSquad will get off with minimal verbal abuse, but others... not so much.

The Villainous Demotivator can be any threat that a BigBad or TheDragon makes towards a lower ranking minion that they will be hurt or killed if they fail to perform their job. Assuming their skills will always be needed in his plots (and thus he would need to take the trouble of finding a replacement if he kills the [[EvilMinions Evil Minion]]), this [[IControlMyMinionsThrough makes sense as a negative motivational tool]], and a nice little KickTheDog that can fuel a MistreatmentInducedBetrayal, a MookFaceTurn, or (horrors!) a HighHeelFaceTurn. Other instances of this trope can happen without the villain ever meaning to demotivate their minions. He might [[EvenEvilHasStandards do something so vile it reminds them of their ethics]], or [[EvenEvilHasLovedOnes admit his plan will kill one of their loved ones]].

May come back to haunt him as [[IronicEcho an explanation]] why a minion won't GiveMeASword. Often results in ScrewThisImOuttaHere or TheDogBitesBack.



* Deconstructed in ''Manga/AttackOnTitan''. Threatening to execute deserters for cowardice ''doesn't work'' if they're more [[BetterToDieThanBeKilled afraid of getting eaten than getting shot]]. It's also heavily implied that any attempt to carry this out on the demoralized troops prior to the Trost counterattack (who are all on the verge of ScrewThisImOutOfHere) would have started a chaotic bloodbath, which was the ''last'' thing humanity needed. Pixis instead opts for a more positive motivation: everyone is free to go if they want to, but only if they [[ShamingTheMob can stand the thought of their loved ones getting eaten and sharing their fear]]. All of them stay.
* In ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'', Lordgenome treats his QuirkyMinibossSquad in this manner. Most blatantly, when Adiane withdraws from a battle with the heroes to avoid harming Lordgenome's [[RebelliousPrincess own daughter]], he scolds her because said daughter had been abandoned - and when Adiane remarks that she was never TOLD that, he responds with even more threats. In fact, the only one of the Miniboss Squad who doesn't seem to be affected by this is Guame, who is assumed to be Lordgenome's NonhumanSidekick from [[spoiler:his time as a Spiral Warrior. Guame was Lordgenome's Boota!]]
* We don't ''see'' him threaten them, but [[MadBomber Kimblee]] of ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' seems to have taken this approach with his [[EliteMooks chimeras]]. In fact, one of them claims there's no point in the heroes showing them mercy because of this. [[spoiler:Doing so anyway works out rather well, since another of these chimeras is eventually responsible for Kimblee's death.]]
* in ''Anime/{{Gate}}'', when [[spoiler: the Yellow Rose Knightly order, have to fight their comrades]], the Imperial soldiers rightly question why they are fighting loyal knights, obeying the last few orders of the Emperor. They only go through because they fear their families would be killed if they didn't fight them. Because of this, the Knights of around 300 fend off over a thousand soldiers for presumably days. In the end, [[WhatMeasureIsAMook you feel particularly sad for the Imperial Soldiers who got caught up in it all.]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In ''ComicBook/{{Bone}}'', the Lord of Locusts says this to the Hooded One.
* In ''ComicBook/BlackPanther: the Man Without Fear'', BigBad Vlad the Impaler tries to avert this, treating his minions fairly and giving even the ones that betray him a second chance (just the one, mind -- if they betray him again, their ass is toast). It works pretty well for a while, but after Black Panther's interference with his business starts getting on his nerves, his patience for [[YouHaveFailedMe failure]] grows markedly shorter, hinting at his eventual VillainousBreakdown.
* ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'': When the [[EvilCounterpart Dark Judges]] took over Deadworld and [[OmnicidalManiac declared all life illegal]], their idea of building morale among the mortal Judges was to incinerate, rip apart, or melt anyone who didn't assist in executing the population, only to kill their more agreeable minions when they had no more use for them.
* In ''ComicBook/{{Supergirl}}'' story ''Adventure Comics'' issue #423, alien conqueror Gur executes his Communications Officer for one small error and tells his crewmen to "take heed".
-->'''Gur:''' A task I shall never hesitate to perform upon a crewman... who is negligent in his duties! So take heed, all of you witless, blundering fools...

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/ACrownOfStars'': [[BigBad Jinnai]] constantly threatens his subordinates with getting them or their families executed if they underperform or act in a way that is less than perfectly loyal to him. After learning that [[BrokenAce Asuka]] -whom he had used like a toy for two years- [[BattleCouple and]] [[TheHero Shinji]] [[RelationshipUpgrade got together]] he warned her that he had shot a traitor, raised a still smoking gun as citing "[[AltumVidetur 'Ultima ratio regnum']], mm, Sohryu?", and shortly after he exploded and declared he would sell her into slavery for not pleasing him.
* ''Fanfic/NeonGenesisEvangelionGenocide'': [[SmugSnake Kluge]] mistreats, threatens, blackmails and manipulates his henchmen, subordinates and pawns the whole time. Ergo, they’re not loyal at all and several of them turn against him.
* In ''Fanfic/GuardiansWizardsAndKungFuFighters'', [[TheCaligula Phobos']] insanity and cruelty eventually reach the point where ''his entire inner circle'' are either plotting against him or have outright abandoned him.

* ''Franchise/StarWars''
** In ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'', Vader tells a subordinate, "I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am." This from a guy prone to crushing windpipes for minor irritation.
** In ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'', Darth Vader says, "[[ILied I am altering the deal.]] Pray I don't alter it any further." According to the DVD commentary, it's implied it'll just keeping getting worse and worse if Lando continues working under him.
** In ''Film/ANewHope'', we get the aforementioned windpipe-crushing.
-->'''Motti:''' [[FlatEarthAtheist Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader.]] Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebels' hidden fortress- ''(Vader [[PsychicStrangle curls his fingers and Motti abruptly stops talking]])''
-->'''Vader:''' I find your lack of faith disturbing.
** While Snoke mostly avoids this in ''Film/TheForceAwakens'', he starts berating both Kylo Ren and General Hux for their failures in ''Film/TheLastJedi''. Averted with Ren, though: Kylo prefers to take out his anger issues on inanimate objects by, for example, tearing up a room with his lightsaber. [[spoiler:When Snoke pushes his luck a little too far and Kylo [[KlingonPromotion kills him and takes his stuff]], Kylo starts his own demotivational approach, ensuring Hux's obedience by applying a Force-based beating whenever the General starts back-sassing him.]]

* ''Franchise/StarWarsLegends'':
** We find out exactly ''what'' the Emperor does to people who displease him, and it's no idle threat. He had [[Literature/TheCallistaTrilogy Bevel Lemelisk]], one of the original designers of the Death Star, killed horribly, resurrected in a clone body, and killed again each time he screwed up after that (for a total of '''6'''), always ensuring that each clone remembers the experience of the last death. Horribly as in:
## Eaten by piranha beetles, and then the clone was shown the remains.
## Blown out an airlock
## Lowered inch by inch into a vat of molten copper ("It was what the smelter used that day.")
## Chained in a drive tube while the engine was slowly powered up
## Among others. When the New Republic finally got a hold of him and sentenced him to death, his request to the firing squad was that they "do it right this time."
** Beautifully subverted in the third ''Franchise/StarWarsLegends'' novel, ''[[Literature/TheThrawnTrilogy The Last Command]]''. Grand Admiral Thrawn confronts the officer who failed to stop Luke Skywalker from escaping, and the poor sap expects a Vader-style execution like the ones quoted above. Indeed, an officer who'd failed in the same thing and then tried to pass the blame had been killed, so everyone believes this one is out of luck. Instead, Thrawn ''promotes'' him, praising his creative attempt even though it failed.
--->''[Pellaeon] stood there beside the newly minted lieutenant, feeling the stunned awe pervading the bridge as he watched Thrawn leave. Yesterday, the ''Chimaera'''s crew had trusted and respected the Grand Admiral. After today, they would be ready to die for him.''
** Darth Vader shows up several times in the novel ''Literature/DeathStar''; partly for this trope, partly to help ferret out actual saboteurs and discourage potential ones.
* Despite his pop-cultural portrayal, Creator/NiccoloMachiavelli was aware of this trope. In his ''Literature/DiscoursesOnLivy'' he cites examples of rulers who punished their military leaders for failures with death or exile. He concludes that such measures drastically decreased the army's ethusiasm and willingness to risk, so he severely discouraged use of YouHaveFailedMe tactic.
* Even though [[Literature/TheBookOfLordShang Shang Yang]] was cynical and ruthless enogh to make Machiavelli look like a hippie, he understood in [[DiscussedTrope discussed]] this problem. Shang explained that unreasonably cruel and chaotic use of punishments and executions by a ruler can ruin a kingdom just as easily as him being excessively merciful, so he describes in great details how and when you must punish your minions. Yang also [[InvertedTrope inverted]] this trope, stressing the importance of reward and promotion for efficient and loyal subordinates.
* In ''[[Literature/NineteenEightyFour 1984]]'', anyone who spoke out against or betrayed The Party and Big Brother had a tendency to disappear without a trace, [[{{Unperson}} along with all evidence that they ever existed in the first place]]. One of the reasons for Winston Smith's rebellion is that he's one of the Party employees responsible for deleting the records, so he doesn't have the same ability to turn a blind eye as an average member of the population.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'': Voldemort is about as much fun to work for as Darth Vader or [[Literature/{{Animorphs}} Visser Three]]. He [[EvilCannotComprehendGood has no understanding]] [[LackOfEmpathy of compassion]] and makes it no secret that most of his followers are expendable (PsychoSupporter Bellatrix is a rare exception). [[EvilWillFail It's because of this]] that [[spoiler:the Malfoys give him misinformation that Harry is dead, which leads to his downfall.]]
* Played for laughs in ''Literature/GoodOmens'', when Crowley decides to keep a number of potted plants. Every so often, he would go over to the group of potted plants, notice that one was not as big or as green as its fellows, and deliberately pick up that one specimen, leave the room with it, and return with an empty pot, which he would then display for the other plants as an example. Needless to say, his indoor garden boasted the largest and greenest plants around.
* ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'':
** [[BadBoss Visser Three]] has this as his predominant character trait - his reputation for cruelty, megalomania, and ambition are dwarfed among his own kind by his reputation for being [[BadBoss absolutely ruthless to his subordinates.]] The penalty for failure, incompetence, or low morale is instant [[OffWithHisHead decapitation.]]
** During one operation, [[GuileHero Marco]] is interrogated undercover by a patrol squad, asking where a set of dispatched Controllers have gone. Marco stumbles through a lie, saying the Visser had executed them on the spot for incompetence. As he's mentally kicking himself for telling such a bad lie, the Yeerks accept this as not only completely plausible but a more likely explanation than anything else.
* Literature/MartinFierro: When the conscripted soldiers arrived at the Frontier, none of the old recruits are relieved. One of them complains, [[MakeAnExampleOfThem and he is promptly tortured]]. Then an official told the new recruits that anyone who tries to desert will get five hundred strokes, and so he could count himself as dead. And from then on, things will only get worse.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Monroe. He keeps losing good commanding officers. His habit of killing anyone (including families) who might have possibly betrayed him tends to leave people... uncomfortable. And dead. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E8TiesThatBind Episode 8]] had him getting rid of Colonel John Faber. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E13TheSongRemainsTheSame Episode 13]] had Tom and Julia Neville packing up and running for it to avoid being killed off by Monroe. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E14TheNightTheLightsWentOutInGeorgia Episode 14]] had Monroe kill off a captain who worked for Tom Neville out of paranoia. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E17TheLongestDay Episode 17]] had Monroe kill off Captain Jeremy Baker because he thought the guy tried to assassinate him... [[spoiler: only to find out later that he killed the wrong person]]. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E19ChildrenOfMen Episode 19]] and the [[Recap/RevolutionS1E20TheDarkTower first season finale]] results in [[spoiler:Tom Neville successfully becoming the new head of the Monroe Republic because he made an ExploitedTrope out of this]].
* ''Franchise/StarTrek'': Pretty much every single officer in the MirrorUniverse.
** In the main universe, the Dominion have a fine line in this. While it at least makes a kind of twisted sense with the Vorta and Jem'hadar, who are pretty much programmed on a genetic level to view the Founders as gods, the Vorta and Founders then go on to apply this to Damar and the Cardassians, who are well aware the Founders are just shape-shifting aliens. Weyoun, in particular, manages to [[MistreatmentInducedBetrayal shoot himself in the foot]] quite impressively by sacrificing half a million Cardassians to tie up the Klingons, then berating and threatening Damar when he isn't particularly happy about this.
* A RunningGag with [[ThoseWackyNazis Major Neuheim]] in ''Series/PrivateSchulz''.
** "You should look upon yourselves as sewerage being recycled in the national interest. Naturally I want you to put your hearts and souls into this work for your country."
** "I am most concerned for the welfare of your men...out of the way you swine!"
** After Schultz returns from his spy mission to England. "How dare you come back alive!"

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* The company in ''ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}}''. The strip has gone so far as to at times portray Catbert actually trying to lower morale on purpose, apparently just ForTheEvulz.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'': Commissars have a very Voltairian way of motivating their men. But surprisingly, in gameplay terms it tends to work. And there's never any shortage of troops, since one thing the Imperium has in abundance is manpower. It also helps that you can selectively choose when you want to use his ability to reroll failed tests, especially with the new random chance that you lose your only anti tank soldier, when a tank is about to run you over.
** Unless said men are from Catachan. The old Catachan list actually had a rule where Commissars had a chance of getting inconveniently shanked before the battle.
** Literature/CiaphasCain, '''[[FakeUltimateHero HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!]]''' refrains from this manner of motivation, citing a number of suspicious Commissarial demises. He prefers to lead his men by making them think he leads by example, and let the old human instinct for showing off take over. It has proven very effective. Of course, a large chunk of the readership (and a few characters in on the secret) think it's a big lie and he's a genuine hero. He ''does'' seem to "retreat" screaming, straight at the biggest and nastiest thing in the battle, a ''lot''.
** [[OurOrcsAreDifferent Ork]] [[AsskickingEqualsAuthority Nobz]] are fond of this kind of approach as well. If a squad fails a morale check, a Nob with a Bosspole can "break a few heads" to restore order.
** Chaos Lords can also get in on this, particularly Abaddon the Despoiler, whose ship ''fires on'' any ally to fail a command check. They mostly get away with it, for the simple reason that they are more sadistically violent than most of their minions.
* In ''TabletopGame/TheDarkEye'', Borbarad told the inmates of a prison "All of you will follow me. [[BadassBoast I merely asked, who wants to do so alive.]]"

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Over the course of ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamAsylum'', SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker will send orders over the loudspeakers to his minions, telling them not to screw up or he'll have them (and sometimes, their loved ones) killed. Of course, The Joker says most of these while the mooks are trapped in a room with [[BadassNormal Batman]], [[MortonsFork so there's not much hope for them in the first place]].
** Not to mention, as Batman takes them down one after the other, taunting his mooks that Batman is making mincemeat out of them and wondering how long the remainder will last.
** Harley Quinn picks up the habit in ''VideoGame/BatmanGothamKnight''.
* Late in ''VideoGame/{{Iji}}'', [[AuthorityEqualsAsskicking high ranking aliens]] are threatening their men into killing (or better, capturing) the titular "[[OneManArmy human anomaly]]", with lines such as:
-->"If you're more afraid of her than of ME, you're a traitor."
* Used humorously in the game ''The Operative: VideoGame/NoOneLivesForever''. TheDragon has put a notice to the henchmen outside a minefield, asking them to please avoid crossing it, as finding suitable replacement henchmen is hard and annoying. He then mentions that he will personally execute any henchman that crosses the minefield and somehow survives as an example to the others on not disobeying orders.
* Ishida Mitsunari in ''VideoGame/SengokuBasara'' [[SycophanticServant is so used to blind loyalty]] that he assumes the same from everyone else, and is rather poor at employee relations as a result. One of his attempts at reaffirming his stance with an ally (Saika Magoichi) involves baring a blade in her face and threatening her with a hundred curses should she betray him. And he ''likes'' her.
* In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'', [[spoiler:during his ritual to release Demise from his seal 999 years early, Ghirahim summons a horde of Bokoblins and sends them screaming after Link, making it painfully obvious that he doesn't care if they bleed on the Master Sword so long as they slow him down. And then he caps it off with this line:]]
--> ''"Don't fear him... fear my wrath if you fail me!!"''
* During ''VideoGame/TheCurseOfMonkeyIsland'', one of the Zombie Pirate [=LeChuck=]'s minions describes the series of motivational tools provided to the crew. The highlights include "Get back to work, or I'll beat you with your own legs!" and "Flogging the inner child". Or the provided audio-books, which can be "returned as often as desired; keep them all and live!"
* The fate of Joshua Graham in VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas. He was the co-founder and [[TheDragon legate]] of Caesar's Legion, but after his humiliating defeat at the battle of Boulder City Caesar had him covered in pitch, [[KillItWithFire set on fire]] and thrown into the Grand Canyon as an example that even high-ranked members were [[YouHaveFailedMe not safe]] from the consequences of failure.
** As for the rest of the Legion, they are infamous for their utter devotion to Caesar; not just because of mental conditioning and slavery but also because the punishment for failure is steep. Being crucified and displayed is one of the most common methods, along with being hacked to death or torn apart by legion hounds. This is why it's very rare to capture a legion soldier alive; they would rather [[BetterToDieThanBeKilled kill themselves]] than retreat and face Caesar's wrath.
* "You mean nothing to us" is a pretty standard message in the CannedOrdersOverLoudspeaker played on Hyperion bases in ''VideoGame/{{Borderlands 2}}''. They'll even play such messages directed to [[MechaMooks Loaders]], which are explicitly prohibited from developing self-awareness. Of course, the head of Hyperion is the BigBad, and upper corporate culture has come to idolise his, sometimes literally, cut-throat approach to business.
-->''Be careful when unloading slag barrels. The life you save may be more monetarily valuable than your own.''

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', Azula has this problem with keeping Ty Lee and Mai loyal. She initially pressures Ty Lee into leaving the circus by setting loose all the animals and ''setting her trapeze net on fire!'' Later on, when Mai betrays her out of love for Zuko, it's explicitly because [[spoiler:Mai loves Zuko more than she fears her.]] Of course, at this point [[spoiler: Ty Lee ''also'' betrays her upon seeing Azula threaten Mai with lifelong imprisonment, winding up to put a bolt of lightning into Mai for it. What gets worse is that this is how Azula treats people she ''likes''.]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Stormhawks}}'', this happened pretty much every episode one of Master Cyclonis' minions failed in their missions. She did eventually fire one of them, and does have ample {{Agony Beam}}s to use on the rest though.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Burns puts a ''literal'' VillainousDemotivator ("Don't Forget, You're Here Forever") in front of Homer's workstation. Homer selectively covers it with pictures of Maggie until what's left is "Do_i_t For___ Her".
* In the ''WesternAnimation/ThunderCats2011'' episode "Ratilla's Curse," Ratar-O abuses his minions as badly as they in turn abuse the cats they've enslaved. This backfires spectacularly when [[MistreatmentInducedBetrayal his right-hand rat finally questions why he was treated better at Lion-O's hands than his own master's]] and not only deserts him in his time of need, but ''tosses Lion-O the Sword of Omens'' so he can take Ratar-O down.
* ''WesternAnimation/WanderOverYonder'' explores this trope in "The Gift" in which Lord Hater becomes absolutely frustrated with the stupidity of the Watchdogs. Meanwhile, Wander gives each Watchdog a gift (It's the equivalent of Christmas or the holiday season) and for the first time ever, they experience what it's like to be happy. Their competence skyyrockets and they create an organized team to "Rescue " Hater (Who had been trying to avoid getting a gift from Wander and Sylvia.). After they secure Hater, he congratulates them on a job well done. The Watchdogs respond by thanking him for all the gifts he bought them, causing him to realize that Wander signed Hater's name to the gift tags instead of his own. This trope is really driven home in "The Gift 2: The Giftening" as well because in it we learn that the watchdogs have never been happy and that their boss quite literally treats happiness like a disease as well as frequently zaps anything that angers him with loads of green lightning.