Demotivating Employees – Who is Guilty?

Jun 12, 2013

According to an article by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the Harvard Management Update claims that in 85% of companies, a new employee’s enthusiasm drops off significantly after the first six months on the job. Your company culture and work environment can be key factors in determining the enthusiasm of your employees, thus resulting in good productivity and quality. So how do you retain that enthusiasm?

The first thing to consider is not to do anything to undermine the employee in the first place. If there are issues, there are appropriate and private ways to deal with them. Often, however, things crop up, and it’s easy to slip into a mode of undermining the enthusiasm and/or causing public embarrassment. It’s good to take a look at your management style. Are you a motivator or demotivator? (Come on now, be honest!)

Following are eight actions that are guaranteed to demotivate and even demoralize your employees:

1. Public criticism
If you point out someone’s mistakes in front of others, it rarely goes over well and can even have a backlash. Though some managers think public reproach keeps everyone else from making the same mistake, it usually just makes everyone feel bad and creates a toxic environment.

2. Failing to provide praise
It’s easy to get into the day-to-day routine of expecting certain performance and only talking to the person if the work is deficient, but mostly employees feel like their hard work goes unnoticed. Worse yet, they start to wonder why they’re working so hard in the first place. Be sure to offer praise, both privately and publicly. Even small things, like a thank-you card or a ‘good job’ email work. These little things go a long way and don’t cost anything – just the mindset to do it! (You might even put reminder notes on your calendar!)

3. Not following up
Have you had employees come to you or someone in the company and register a complaint? If so, be sure to relay the results, even if the complaint has no merit. Asking employees for input or having employees approach you with an issue without acknowledging it shows a lack of respect. Be sure to tell the person when you will get back to him or her. The person will feel comfortable knowing you are approachable, and you may be able to catch issues in the bud by following up. (If the complaint is serious, it might even involve legal issues, so it needs to be addressed.)

4. Give unachievable goals or deadlines
In the sign business, deadlines are critical. It’s best to get a consensus on what is a realistic deadline and give the person the time and tools to accomplish it. But if a deadline or project results are impossible to begin with, employees realize they won’t be able to get something done, they’ll think, and ‘What’s the point? I’m going to fail.’ Provide goals and deadlines that are challenging, but not impossible and get buy-in through negotiation, if possible.

5. Not explaining your actions or sharing company data
This might be a touchy subject to some, but the premise is that you will have more teamwork if your employees understand your rationale. Just because you hold the cards doesn’t mean you should hide them. Explaining the big management decisions will help employees understand your perspective—and they’ll respect you for it. Likewise, sharing key company data such as revenue and profits validates staff contributions. This isn’t to say you should relay detailed financial information, but providing an overview of the company and the challenges or successes you face, helps make employees feel as if they are valued.

6. Implied threats
If an employee is producing sub-par work, it’s okay to let him or her know your expectations. But it’s not okay to threaten their job, especially if you’re threatening the person or entire team in a public setting. A ‘do this or else’ attitude often has the opposite effect when it comes to motivation. It might seem like the easiest and most natural response, but it’s sure to backfire and create animosity even if it’s deserved. Using the adage, ‘it’s not what you say, but how you say it,’ might be appropriate as well. If the person is a ‘repeat offender,’ there are more professional (and legal) ways to deal with him or her.

7. Not honoring creative thinking and problem solving
When employees take initiative to improve something—a company process or an individual task, for instance, don’t blow it off. Instead, take a good, hard look at the suggestion. Don’t ignore it, or you risk losing that employee’s creativity in the future. Encouraging suggestions can really help your business; and even if you don’t take the suggestion, it may create opportunities for objective thinking and other ways to make improvements. Acknowledging employees who make suggestions helps morale.

8. Micromanagement
Perhaps the worst demotivator is micromanaging. Employees need to feel trusted and valued to succeed, and micromanaging communicates the opposite. Most everyone is guilty of this one. It’s justified by thinking something won’t get done or won’t get done right, but usually it’s a control factor. If you have the right person doing the job or task, let him or her do it.

Finally, if you take a few minutes and do a self-audit of your management style and practices, it might be that you can improve results, improve your bottom line, and prove the statistics wrong. Who wouldn’t love all employees to be ‘happy campers?’ It can have big rewards and you won’t have trouble filling positions as well as retaining employees. You will probably help your blood pressure and morale too!