10 ways to crush a communicator’s spirit

Here’s how to ensure your creative staffers feel stifled, deflated, frustrated and defeated.


You can have the most talented staff in the world and still fail miserably at business.

The trick lies in getting each person to realize his or her potential—and creating an environment that uplifts, encourages and edifies workers in ways that generate genuine employee engagement.

Unfortunately, communicators are often the most unloved, underappreciated members of the corporate family. These stoics frequently get the dregs in terms of resources, support, investment and executive attention. That lack of backing results in irksome workplace obstacles and irritations that stifle creativity and prevent communicators from doing their best work.

Here are 10 easy ways to crush a communicator’s spirit and morale, thus bringing ruin upon your corporate messaging:

1. Too much input and/or oversight. Like a great mountain of sedimentary rock, approval processes accumulate and harden over time. Excessive layers of bureaucracy and executive meddling are perhaps the fastest way to crush your best communicators into submission.

Who wants to go to the trouble of crafting an erudite, sleek piece, only to see it ripped to shreds by a gaggle of egoistic execs with red pens and agendas? Editorial integrity aside, glacial turnaround times can also be a deal breaker for deadline-driven professionals.

2. Not enough input and/or oversight. Of course, no executive input, direction or feedback can be a bummer. Many leaders (often with good intentions) leave messaging entirely in the hands of communicators and take no role in the crafting of campaigns. This lack of involvement can feel an awful lot like disrespect—or at least disinterest—which can drain excitement out of any communications pro.

This hands-off approach leaves communicators on an island, with very little outside support for initiatives or appreciation for how much work is getting done. Being left alone can be just as bad for engagement as micro-managing.

3. Lack of investment. Who wants to wear a bunch of ancillary hats and work on a skeleton crew forever? Persistent resistance to investment communicates, “What you do is expendable.”

Constantly fighting for a bigger budget, more staff, upgraded technology or a new site can be an exhausting battle, one that can corrode any communicator’s verve for the job.

4. Never-ending last-minute requests. Communicators are often treated like short-order chefs. Instead of Denver omelets, we’re tasked with whipping up slideshows for CEOs and writing speeches for leaders who have a major presentation on Friday.

These sorts of last-minute requests, which of course are all massively “urgent” and needed “yesterday,” will burn out your best workers.

5. Criticism without praise. Communicators crave feedback and direction. No one craves humiliation or verbal abuse, though.

Leaders with a habit of criticizing without providing an undergirding of praise and support will probably see a communicator conga line shuffling toward the exits.

6. Wantonly tacking on tasks. “Why don’t you just do the social media stuff?” “Can’t you just run the blog?” “We’re gonna pass the newsletter design over to you.” “Your team will now handle the logistics for this event.”

Hey, why don’t you just start managing the finances and the IT “stuff,” pal?

7. Adding arbitrary goals or targets. To enforce accountability, some misled leaders become obsessed with meaningless vanity metrics.

Communicators should be ROI-driven and held accountable for each initiative and expenditure, but being measured by page views, traffic, “likes,” impressions and other hollow metrics applies artificial pressure that only stresses people out. Set targets and goals, but make sure they’re directly tied to meaningful business outcomes.

8. Disrespecting the craft. Is your culture supportive of the notion that compelling, correct communication is integral for business success, or is it viewed as a necessary evil?

Many company cultures suffer from lack of appreciation for attention to detail. This can manifest in naked aggression toward quality control, or it can be more of a companywide ennui in messaging efforts.

Organizational antipathy (or apathy) toward communication excellence is a surefire way to force staffers to seek the embrace of more caring corporate arms.

9. Skimping on complementary assets. Writers can do only so much.

Great communication is also about sleek design, stunning graphics, functional technology and the means to disseminate messages strategically. All that takes investment—and recognition that communicators need plenty of complementary help to succeed.

10. Constantly blocking new projects and ideas. People who regularly have their ideas or suggestions shot down tend to tune out and stop trying.

If your goal is to have unhappy, disengaged, apathetic staffers, be sure to swiftly reject ideas that fall outside the status quo. Remember this key phrase: “But we’ve always done it this way.”

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