5 ways your boss is killing morale

Nothing sucks morale faster than a boss who schedules mandatory “fun” events, or throws disapproving glances as you leave for a Starbucks run.

Happy employees are the cornerstone of a successful business. Most businesses that are faltering have people problems, not product problems. Good morale comes from an environment where bosses are interested in building relationships with the people they manage.

Whenever we speak, we send two messages: content messages and relational messages. (Watch this video for more information). Relational messages are messages that broadcast how we feel about others. At work, they are the messages that inspire or destroy morale. If the relational message is one of respect, trust and appreciation, morale soars. If it’s the opposite, you’ll find employee morale circling the drain.

Here are five surefire ways a boss can kill morale on any team:

1. Scheduling mandatory fun.

From required parties to top-down enforcement of dressing up for Halloween to impress the big boss—mandatory fun is not fun. It’s like living in a fascist regime. It doesn’t bring the team together; it’s just another less pleasant form of work.

Fun events that promote team cohesion come from the team. When employees have the freedom to plan fun events, cohesion grows. If you’re the boss, stay out of the merry making!

2. Requiring employees to punch the clock.

Your butt is in a chair eight hours a day. You get a dirty look when you make a Starbucks run. No one likes punching a clock.


Because it screams, “I don’t trust you to get your work done!” Employees want their bosses to trust and value them. Requiring them to punch the clock is a surefire way to undermine both.

3. Not showing gratitude.

Have you ever done something awesome at work? Maybe you saved the day, or went above and beyond for a client. However, your boss barely mentioned it. No “good job” or “way to go.” It stinks, and makes you less likely to go the extra mile the next time.

Sometimes a simple “thank you” is all you need to make morale soar.

4. Making a big deal out of a small mistake.

I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Leaders and bosses make mistakes. We all do. It’s part of being human. The boss who makes a big deal out of that typo you missed on slide 147 of your 200 slide PowerPoint deck is a nit-picky jerk.

I once had a manager who reviewed my work with a red pen. It was like being in grade school all over again.

When this happens, the relational message being sent is, “I have the power and I am right.” Lording your correctness over employees instead of building morale results in unhappy people who leave.

5. Not listening.

Say you are trying to tell your boss about a problem, but you can tell he is not listening. Do you ever want to yell, “Get out of your head and listen!”?

Everyone wants to be heard. Even if your boss doesn’t go with your idea, it makes you feel valued if he or she listens.

What other tactics do you see at work that cause morale to falter?

Dr. Michelle Mazur, an award-winning speaker and public speaking coach, is the founder of Relationally Speaking. A version of this article originally appeared on Business 2 Community.

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