Common ways bad managers kill employee motivation (and what to do about it!)


Managing people should be easy, right? How hard can it really be to hire the right people, give them tasks, and expect high-quality output? Well, as the old saying goes, if it were easy, everybody would do it. The truth is, managing people is a tough job, and if you’re not careful, bad managers can demotivate your team without even realizing they’re doing it. Sometimes, it’s all about style. Other times, personality comes into play.

Here are a few of the top ways bad managers kill employee motivation, along with some ways to remedy unmotivated situations:

1. Assuming What Motivates the Manager Also Motivates Their Staff

People are different. They learn at different paces, grasp concepts in different ways, and are motivated by different driving forces. For some employees, pay is the ultimate motivator. For others, praise and recognition beat out the bottom dollar. While everyone should be working toward common goals, it is essential that managers learn what makes each employee tick. In doing so, managers can tap into the true motivating factors for each individual, thereby creating a stronger, more cohesive team that pulls on each person’s strengths.

One motivating take-away: when employees feel valued, they’re less likely to look elsewhere.

2. Not Leading by Example

It can be hard to lead an 8-to-5 life. People need to make doctors’ appointments, have their oil changed, and tend to house repairs from time to time. It’s hard to juggle these tasks when many businesses operate on bankers’ hours. If managers are taking all the time they need to take care of life, while employees are discouraged from requesting infrequent windows of time for life’s matters, they can easily become unmotivated.

The key here: do as you say. If you want your employees to feel valued, provide a mirror by which they can abide. If you want them to stick to stringent hours, keep a strict schedule yourself. If you understand that life happens, grant reasonable requests for employees who have shown you no reason to do otherwise.

3. Stealing Praise and Giving Blame

Do you speak in “we” or do you speak in “I”? The difference can be exponential in the eyes of your employees.

At the heart of every business, employees are the front-line staffers who get things done. While managers and executives are often the people who relay the messages, it’s the people underneath them who often deserve the credit. At the same time, some managers only see fit to speak to employees when they’ve done something wrong — or when wrongdoing is perceived to have happened. This is a double whammy for great employees.

Lesson learned: always give credit where credit is due, and take the time to acknowledge employees’ strengths as much as — if not more than — you recognize their shortfalls.

4. Micromanaging

Because everybody learns differently, each individual has different processes that help them achieve their goals. Standing over someone’s shoulder, constantly asking for status updates is a sure-fire way to make employees want to run away.

You have to trust your people if you want them to be at their best. Micromanaging may make you feel in control, but it’s going to drive some of your best employees straight out of your business. Even the most productive of employees will easily lose enthusiasm for their work if their managers are constantly asking for status updates.

Long story short: micromanaging is a form of distrust, and awesome employees will rebel.

Looking for a little motivational guidance? We’ve got you covered! At MidAtlantic Employers’ Association, we help growing businesses develop their people so they can achieve better results. This starts by ensuring you have the right people in the right roles, gauging the temperature of your team members’ engagement levels, and developing your managers through training.