Demotivating Employees

5 ways you’re actually demotivating employees

4 min read
Jared Hecht

Being a manager is a difficult balancing act. You have your own role and responsibilities, plus you’re held accountable for the successes or failures of your team. So, obviously, demotivating employees is pretty self defeating.

Even managers who have the best of intentions can fall into patterns of behavior that inadvertently demotivate their team.

Below we’ll look at some of the top demotivating behaviors and what you can do to change the tides to create a happier, driven team.

1. Instituting too many rules

Yes, you are the boss, and every work environment needs some type of structure and order. But even so, as a manager you don’t want to get caught up in creating arbitrary rules and regulations.

This is largely a matter of picking your battles — creating a strict attendance policy or establishing an unnecessarily complex approval process for vacation time won’t really add much value to your business at the end of the day. It will, result in demotivating employees. Only create policies that are really necessary to get your work done and to keep the business on track.

2. Treating all team members the same

At face value, it seems like a good idea to treat all members of your team the same. You don’t want to cause jealousy or infighting among your team members by playing favorites, right?

While you certainly don’t want to give any members of your team an unfair advantage, in striving for equality you also don’t want to miss opportunities to praise high performers or reprimand those who aren’t pulling their weight.

If the best team members are treated exactly the same as the weakest link, the result is naturally demotivating employees who perform exceptionally. You start to run the risk of accidentally encouraging your top performers to do the bare minimum. Instead, focus on creating an environment where everyone strives for the highest level of success, not one where it’s a race to the bottom.

3. Not addressing poor performance

A team is only as strong as its weakest member, and when one person is underperforming without consequences, know that it’s demotivating employees. Regardless of whether the underperformer is intentionally coasting or genuinely struggling to succeed, address the issues with them directly. Then provide a roadmap of actionable steps they can take to get on par with the rest of the team.

Continue to check in and offer guidance until they meet your expectations. And if they’re unwilling or unable to keep pace with the rest of the team, it might be time to consider parting ways.

4. Making promises you can’t (or won’t) keep

As a manager, it’s important to exhibit the qualities you’d like to see from your team members. If you expect your team to be honest and trustworthy, then you should strive to be the same. Sometimes it seems like making big promises might motivate your team (“If we meet sales targets for this quarter, we’ll take a trip to Vegas!”).

But if the target is met and the trip never comes to fruition, you’ve done more harm than good. You’re demotivating employees.

Be sure that when you make a promise, you’re willing and able to follow through on it. Even if that means promising a pizza party rather than a vacation, your team will be more motivated by the snack that materializes than the Vegas trip that doesn’t.

5. Playing the drill sergeant

When someone on your team makes a mistake, you might be tempted to lose your temper and really lay down the law. You might think this behavior will scare your employee into being more careful and avoiding errors in the future, but in reality, it might have the opposite effect.

As the Harvard Business Review asserts, toughness undermines your relationship with your colleagues, whereas showing compassion builds loyalty and trust. Creating an atmosphere of compassion also makes your team more likely to take risks, which increases creativity and productivity in the future.

What did we learn about demotivating employees?

Being a leader can be difficult, and sometimes it’s not always clear what the best tactics are to motivate your team. If you’re struggling with your role as a manager, consider taking a course in leadership.

Check out Coursera for programs offered online by top universities. Learning how to manage the people on your team will not only make work a more enjoyable experience for your and your colleagues, it will also allow you to achieve new levels of success for your business.