The CEO may have thought of these people as rats working in a maze, and therefore seen no reason to motivate or help them make the most out of their canceled project. But if he had understood the importance of meaning in the workplace he might have taken some of these steps, spent some money in the process, and ended up with more motivated employees. Sadly, this was not the case. I recently heard that the main people in that particular group left the company, and that the whole group was dissolved. Maybe this is the kind of expensive lesson that this CEO needed. However, most likely, he will be able to tell himself a story about why he was correct and they were all petty and wrong.
Dan Ariely is the best-selling author of The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home and Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.