How many times have we seen a horror movie where we thought a character was dead and buried only to see him claw his way out of his grave and start all over as a disheveled, stumbling zombie shedding body parts as he goes about his merry way? Unfortunately employee morale doesn’t have an afterlife. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and there’s very little a manager can do to bring it back to life. Employee morale goes hand-in-hand with discretionary effort, that elusive quality that separates run-of-the-mill companies from great ones. If you kill employee morale you can say good-bye to discretionary effort and hello to mediocrity! Below are the Seven Deadly Sins that can send employee morale fleeing faster than the last teenager standing at a spooky summer camp by the lake.
- Micromanagement… OK, show of hands. Who likes to be micromanaged? Nothing says “I don’t trust you and have no confidence in you” quicker than standing over employees’ shoulders scrutinizing their every movement. Anyone who likes being micromanaged is not going to grow in the position, take initiative or learn to work independently.
- Being Condescending… Even in the year 2017 there are still managers who believe being condescending and intimidating are effective management techniques. Telling employees they’re “lucky to have a job” and “who would put up with you besides me” are sure fire ways to kill employee morale. In any other sort of relationship, comments like this would be considered abusive.
- Poor Communication… Employees want feedback on their performances, your opinion on their ideas and news about the company and where it’s headed. Too many managers subscribe to the idea that “no news is good news.” Keeping your employees in the dark leaves them susceptible to buying in to gossip and innuendo. Clear and open lines of communication are key to good employee morale.
- Lack of Recognition… Do you know what the most common reason employees give for leaving a job? Surprisingly it’s not compensation, benefits, training or promotion opportunities. It’s lack of recognition for their hard work and accomplishments. I keep a box of blank “Thank You” cards in my desk. Whenever one of my team members (or anyone in the company for that matter) does a particularly good job or helps me out of a jam, I hand write a personalized card and leave it on his or her desk. It may seem like a small gesture, but it has meaning. Months later I’ll see these cards still sitting on a desk or pinned to a bulletin board.
- Finger Pointing… President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read, “The buck stops here.” While I’m quick to recognize one of my staff members for an accomplishment, I treat mistakes or problems as a group issue for all of us to correct and solve as a team. Finger pointing and playing the blame game are counterproductive and do little to actually solve the problem and keep it from happening again. As a manager, I treat each problem and mistake – regardless of who is responsible – as a teaching moment for everyone in the group to learn from.
- Unnecessary Drama… Recently I had a job applicant ask me what I was looking for in my new employee. Before I really had a chance to think about the answer the words “no drama” came flying from my lips. One would think that grown adults would have left high school behind years ago, but often times in the workplace that is not the case. There is no place in a positive working environment for gossip and cliques. Managers should never engage in these types of behaviors nor tolerate them from their team members.
- Holding Employees Back… It is a natural tendency for a manager to try and hold on to a productive and valuable employee. Morale suffers, though, when an employee is passed over again and again for advancement opportunities. As a manager, you should never put your own needs and desires ahead of those of your employees. If you groom your team members for advancement and help them climb the corporate ladder, you have done right by them and the organization. You have also made room for new employees to grow and advance.
So there you have it. If you avoid these seven morale busters you’re well on your way to having a productive, positive, engaged and zombie-proof team!
Jean-Robert Lafont, PHR, SHRM-CP
National Director of Human Resources