Here's how your boss kills employee motivation

10 Ways Your Boss Kills Employee Motivation

It’s so hard to have engaged employees. It’s such a delicate thing to try and get right, because employees can be so fragile. As a manager, you have to do everything in your power to make sure employees are happy and engaged at all times.


Usually, the problem is the boss, and not things like the company, mission statement, or co-workers.

Knowing that the boss is the biggest problem, here are 10 things to watch out for. If you’re a manager and you’re reading this, make sure you avoid these mistakes to ensure that your employees are as engaged as they can be.

The secret to good leadership is to be authentic. Really be honest with your staff.

1. You Micromanage

This one never ceases to amaze me.

You hire an incredibly talented employee to take care of a task that you either have no more time for, or aren’t smart enough to do, and yet you micromanage them to the point where it’s not even them doing the work.

You need to remember why you hired this person in the first place, and learn to let go of that control. What you’re doing is making the employee feel useless, and this is obviously a sure way to demotivate them.

Even if you are 30% better at a task than someone who works for you, the time it takes for you to check on them every few hours, and demand approvals over trivial decisions, costs more in lost morale, passion for work, and destruction of self-respect among your staff than the 30% you think you’re adding.
– Scott Berkun

2. You Focus On Mistakes

Nobody likes to be surrounded by negativity.

Try your best to always have a positive attitude and to always create a positive environment in the office. Humans make mistakes, it’s natural, you need to learn to be more forgiving.

Instead of focusing on mistakes, try and focus on the wins (no matter how small) your team accomplished, this will ensure that they always stay motivated.

Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.
– Denis Waitley

3. You Dismiss Ideas

I’ll admit that not every idea is a good one, and not every idea that an employee has should be implemented, but it’s important to at least hear them out.

Make your employees feel like they have a voice, and some sort of say in the decision making process of the company. This will naturally make them feel more like they’re part of the company, and lead to higher engagement.

You should use some sort of tool (Uservoice, GetSatisfaction) to collect ideas from employees, you’d be surprised at how smart some of them are.

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.
― Albert Einstein

4. You Don’t Keep Your Word

This one is just plain rude and it can easily kill all employee motivation.

If you say you’re going to do something, or even worse, not do something, you have to keep your word. One of the biggest keys to successful employee engagement is building trust between the company and its employees.

Like any relationship, if there’s no trust, it won’t work out. The lesson here is simple — keep your word.

Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life — all areas of life.
– Zig Ziglar

5. You Make Empty Promises

This one is pretty similar to #4, but it bothers me even more.

There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up, only to have them destroyed. A promise is sacred. If you promise to do something for an employee, you better be able to keep it.

Again, this goes back to ensuring that there is trust, and that there is a solid relationship. Employees will be able to forgive one or two empty promises, because it’s not worth risking their job over, but don’t make it a habit.

Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.
– Denis Waitley

6. You Tell Inappropriate Jokes

I’m all for having a “cool” boss that jokes around with us, and is somewhat easy going, but it’s important to maintain that employer-employee relationship.

employee motivation can be killed by a bad boss

As much as employees would love to let loose, and be their true self, this is a professional relationship. The lesson here is think before you speak. If your joke is sexist, racist, or offensive in any way, you probably shouldn’t tell it. Save it for when you’re with your friends, not your employees.

Your reputation is more important than your paycheck, and your integrity is worth more than your career.
– Ryan Freitas

7. You Hold Useless Meetings

There’s nothing more annoying than finally getting into a good groove of working, knowing that you have a deadline to meet, and a manager will call an unannounced meeting.

Most of the time (based on my experience), the meeting is spent with the manager who organized it talking. If you really need to hear yourself speak just for the sake of speaking, don’t disturb everyone else’s day.

Record a video of yourself on your phone, you’ll have more fun watching it later, and you won’t piss off your employees.

Meetings are toxic
– Jason Fried

8. You Measure Employee Success Wrong

I’ll give a personal example for this one to explain my point. I once had a manager that measured the productivity of software developers by the number of commits pushed to Github.

For those reading this that have no idea what that means, it’s like measuring the quality of an essay by the number of words, it’s flawed.

This totally ruined employee motivation, because they knew they were being judged on things that they shouldn’t be judged on. It’s important to understand how you’re measuring for success, and what metrics you’re using. Always look to improve the way you measure success.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail
– Abraham Maslow

9. You Set Unrealistic Deadlines

In order to properly motivate employees, they need to feel like they’re accomplishing something, or at least that their goal is attainable.

If you set unrealistic deadlines, you’re most probably going to demotivate your employees , because it will feel like they’ll never cross that finish line.

It’s important to keep this in mind. You can potentially break it down to smaller, more attainable goals so that at least there is an illusion of completion.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
– Douglas Adams

10. You Pick Favorites

This will definitely motivate the employee that you’re picking as a favorite, but obviously it will demotivate the ones that are being left out.

It’s obvious if you choose a favorite, other employees will be able to tell right away, so watch out for this one. Remember that you guys are a team, and are all on the same team, working towards the same goal.

With that said, there should be no favorites, everyone should be your favorite.

There are no favorites in my office. I treat them all with the same general inconsideration.
– Lyndon B. Johnson

A lot of these mistakes that managers make are so easy to avoid. It’s really just about treating your employees with respect.

Think about how you’d like to be treated if the roles were reversed. You would want to be trusted, you want to be asked for feedback and ideas, you would want to be left alone to do your work properly.

You would want an environment that encourages experimentation, testing, and failure (within reason). Worst comes to worst, you can always try some team building activities that will boost the morale at your office.

What ways have you seen employee motivation destroyed?

Let me know your thoughts on twitter @JacobShriar or @Officevibe. Also, let me know what type of employee motivation tactics have worked for you.