How not to manage in an engaging and motivating way
We all define motivation differently. What does a motivated workplace look like to you?
For some, it’s about the commitment to the results and that employees taking responsibility for their actions.
For others it’s about open communication and collaboration. Some organisations define a motivated work environment around problem solving, creativity and ingenuity while others focus on low employee turnover and excellent levels of customer service.
And what about a demotivated workplace? What does that look like to you? Does it include a lack of collaboration and creativity, high staff turnover, bored employees, high levels of mistakes, and poor customer service?
What motivates us can vary massively. However, if you want to demotivate your workforce, then there’s plenty of common ground. Here’s how you do it (although we strongly recommend you don't try!):
1. Compare employees to each other
Comparisons between employees are unfair, and will often create unhealthy competition among colleagues, hard feelings and bitterness. Telling your employees how brilliant their co-workers are or how their sales are the lowest in the team will only ever demotivate your employee and force them towards the exit.
Everyone's different, everyone works differently, and success can be defined for different people in different ways. It's the classic "judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree" analogy - make sure you're judging people fairly, and on their own merits.
2. Play favourites
Asking the same team members to meetings, to provide feedback on an idea, or giving recognition and praise regularly to the same individual creates frustration among others who don’t feel they are one of their manager’s favourites. Not only that, you’ll also create disengaged employees who don’t care about their work.
Obviously, you'll want to reward consistently achieving employees, and make sure the best people have the most opportunities to progress in their career. But there is a balance - making other people feel left out, and like they can't win no matter how well they do, is unfair, as is being too blatant in your preferences.
3. Drown employees in paperwork
The harder it is to get things done or approved, the more you can demotivate your employees. Making tasks complicated and time-consuming by requiring reports and updates at every stage will kill any momentum and enthusiasm your employees have.
Again, there's a balance - this time between quality control and bureaucracy. And if the paperwork is essentially just busywork - meaningless work to keep people occupied out of lack of anything else to do - then it's even worse.
4. Keep employees in the dark
Who has time to share information with employees? Well, you should make time! Keeping information to yourself means that employees will make up their own version of events, or start believing the office grapevine - and that can result in suspicion, mistrust and fear.
Openness and transparency is very important to a workplace culture - and when people know what's really going on, they'll be more likely to get involved to fix problems, hit targets, or be part of the team.
5. Play the blame game
Playing the blame game is one of the most destructive human traits, and blaming employees when things go wrong stifles risk-taking, creativity and problem solving. Besides, it can create a disrespectful, negative working environment and contribute to high staff turnover.
Encourage people to own their mistakes and share responsibility, rather than pointing fingers, and let people know that trying something adventurous that doesn't necessarily work isn't always a bad thing.
6. Require everything to be approved
Micro-managing your employees and requiring your approval for every task they undertake is a sign that you don’t trust the people you’ve hired to do their job properly. It’s an instant motivation killer and morale destroyer - give people a bit more freedom and they might surprise you. It's yet another balancing act - keeping your distance, while also giving people the support they need.
7. Tell employees they’re doing OK (but not great)
Telling your employees that they're doing only OK is a great way to put the brakes on motivated employees and make them stop caring about the quality of their work.
If you're going to praise people, go all out - and do your best to highlight areas where people are really smashing it. If people need to improve, be honest - but above all, be constructive.
8. Change plans for no reason
Employees need some time to understand goals and what's needed to achieve those goals. By changing tack for no good reason, you can create an unsettled, uncaring workforce. Remember that, even if you're in charge, there are a lot of people that make an organisation work, and that it can't run solely on the whims of one person.
9. Talk about your team members behind their backs
Talking about your employees behind their back, and sharing information about them to your peers and their co-workers is a great way to drive employees away. It also creates mistrust and suspicion, as employees wonder what you say about them behind their back. Always take the high road and be diplomatic.
10. Set the bar too high
To really demoralise and demotivate your team, make sure that you set unreachable goals and targets. It won’t make your employees work harder - instead, once they realise the target can’t be met it will ensure that your employees give up trying to achieve it and productivity will nosedive.
However, if you give people clear, achievable targets and valuable incentives for reaching them, they'll know what's expected of them, and they'll feel like they're being treated fairly.
Hopefully these aren't too much of a challenge! Mostly it comes down to recognising that everyone in an organisation is an individual, with their own needs and feelings. Accommodating these will make everyone happier!