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5 ways to ruin employee morale

4 min read


You have a job to do, and you’re focused on getting it done. You rightly expect your employees to be useful and on board with the tasks. But in your focus on the job at hand, do you speak before you’ve thought it out and destroy the morale of your employees?

Check out these five ways to create resentful, unappreciated workers. Then turn it around so you can build a strong team who will follow you to the top.

“That’s a stupid idea!” Strong negativity crushes future good ideas. It stops risk-taking and leaves you with too much of the burden to carry. Workers will shut up rather than face criticism. Recognize you need to wade through the bad ideas to find the gems. Perhaps your employee hasn’t explained the idea clearly enough to see its merits. Be open to off-the-wall ideas that may revolutionize.

Ask follow-up questions: How will this work? My first concern is XX. How will your idea address that?

“That’s what I’m paying you for.” This kind of statement broadcasts the boss/employee relationship. No one likes to feel inferior. It creates resentment and ruins morale.

Instead, focus on team building. Recognize the value your employees bring to the table. When staff members are acknowledged for the good things they are doing or for the strengths they add, you have more willing workers.

“If you can’t get this done on time, maybe you don’t belong here.” Don’t expect stellar performances to occur under threats or duress. This ineffective motivational tool creates insecurity in your workers. They worry about discipline or getting fired instead of the project at hand.

Better motivation comes from trusting your employees. Might they be overworked? Consider asking: What would it take to get this done when I need it? How can we all pull this together? I know you’re doing your best. When is the earliest I can expect this?

“Don’t bother. Your work probably won’t make any difference.” Don’t invalidate your employees. Morale tanks when employees feel useless or unappreciated.

Take the time to express appreciation. A genuine “thank you” takes two seconds of your time, and the rewards are well worth it when your staff feels valuable. You’ll want to look them in the eye, smile, and sincerely express your appreciation.

“I haven’t gotten around to reading it.” Do you act like you’re indifferent to things that are important to your staff? If you don’t care about them, they are not likely to care about you.

Recognize those things that are important to your employees. Their task may be a small part of your responsibilities, but it’s a large part of theirs. Respect and value both them and their work. While you don’t have to get deeply involved in the lives of your employees, a sense of caring will go a long way.

Eliminate these five disasters that ruin employee morale, cause lower productivity, higher turnover, and greater headaches for you. Criticism, condescension, threats, invalidating, and indifference lead to unproductive workers.

Instead, use appreciation, trust, respect, and praise to build a strong, effective work force that will showcase your dynamic leadership.

Joel Garfinkle is the author of seven books, including “Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.” More than 10,000 people receive his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. Subscribe and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” If you are looking for practical advice for advancing up the executive career ladder, view his Career Advancement Blog.