12 most lethal ways to kill employee morale

Certain habits, like tolerating bad attitudes or turning meetings into complaint sessions, could send your staff running for the door.

Recent research in organizational behavior suggests there is a point at which salary stops mattering so much to workers and intrinsic things like workplace culture begin to matter more.

Even in minimum wage jobs high turnover is rarely due to dissatisfaction in pay. Most people who leave minimum wage jobs are people seeking different minimum wage jobs. Why? Because the work environment is unbearable.

It doesn’t matter what kind of workforce you are trying to manage, whether it is a Fortune 500 sales force or a team of fry cooks at a local diner. The atmosphere you create for your team will likely determine whether they are a healthy, productive family, or a bitterly resentful bunch just biding their time while they concoct an exit strategy.

Leaders and managers of businesses large and small do many things without realizing it may adversely impact their workplace cultures. Here are some things to avoid:

1. Offer poor training.

No one really knows what they’re supposed to do. You hire people and expect them to jump right in. Then, when they inevitably make mistakes, you yell at them for doing it wrong.

2. Have unclear expectations.

No one knows what you expect them to do, so the less ambitious appear lazy and the more ambitious rush into things and mess them up. Even though you never properly expressed your expectations, you criticize your team for not meeting them.

3. Ignore office politics.

So what if Joe has a crush on Janice and George is jealous? That’s not your problem.

Well, it actually is.

The resentment building in your employees will come out in their work. Be involved in the social politics of your employees to the extent that you will recognize problems before they get out of hand.

4. Tolerate bad attitudes.

Some of your employees are complaining about a certain person’s attitude, but you say you can’t do anything because that person hasn’t technically done anything wrong.

Actually, yes, that person has done something wrong. She upset her colleagues. And if you don’t address the issue, everyone with a good attitude will leave.

5. Turn meetings into complaint sessions.

Why do you have employee meetings? Do you spend all your time yelling at them and listening to them complain about how unfair their work is? Is it all just a big gripe session?

Try to make your meetings more about recognizing people for the good work they do and discussing strategy going forward. Keep meetings constructive. If problems need addressing, address the individuals that have the problems.

6. Make extracurricular work mandatory.

If you force your employees to volunteer at a bake sale, put together an educational group presentation, or join a book club, they will see it as a chore. It won’t be fun or build camaraderie. It will just make workers more stressed and cranky.

Make any extracurricular activity you offer completely voluntary. Not only will people participate, but they will enjoy it.

7. Have no tangible ties to the company’s mission.

If you want your people to actually believe your mission statement, bake it into their everyday tasks. For most companies a mission statement is some abstract concept that never translates to reality. When you establish rules with your employees, explain how they help fulfill your mission. It will make them feel like they’re working for a better reason than “the boss said so.”

8. Using threats to alter behavior.

“If ______ doesn’t change, you’re fired!” “I’ll write up the next person that does ______! No exceptions!”

Do you know what your employees think when they hear you say things like this? You believe they think, “Wow, I guess I better straighten up.” In reality they think, “Well, I guess it’s time to look for a new job.”

Your employees aren’t your slaves; they can leave at any time. If you want them to stay, offer incentives to alter their undesirable behaviors. Don’t make threats.

9. Have a confusing managerial structure.

Do your employees know who their bosses are? Do they know who they’re supposed to report to? In some companies, employees don’t know who has authority. It can be confusing to not know whether someone is a colleague, boss, or even an underling.

Make sure your employees know who leads them, or there won’t be any leadership at all.

10. Incentivize rivalry.

While there are exceptions, most contests that pit individuals against other individuals are divisive. Employees will either not take it seriously and it won’t work, or they will take it too seriously, which will cause resentment among the staff.

Instead of giving out individual incentives, try group incentives. That way whether or not they reach their goal, they did it together.

11. Put customers above employees.

There will be times when an employee says or does something to a customer that is out of line, but you shouldn’t defend the customer all the time. The customer isn’t always right. In fact, your employees should be your No. 1 customers.

Take care of your employees, and your employees will take care of your customers. Never yell at an employee just to make a nasty customer feel better.

12. Build a culture of blame.

Never focus on blame. Focus on contribution. When there’s a problem, don’t put employees on the defensive. It only backs them into a corner and forces them to blame others on the staff. Chances are multiple people contributed to the problem.

Focus on solving the problem together instead of finding out where to point fingers.

As a manager or team leader, the easiest question to ask yourself is, “Would I want to work here?” If you would be among the first to leave, don’t be surprised by the revolving door in your hiring process. If you want good people to stay, create an environment where they can function and thrive. Don’t kill their morale; feed it.

Doug Rice is a freelance professional copywriter. This article is republished with permission, courtesy of 12 Most.

(Image via)

COMMENT

Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.