From chronic absenteeism to high employee turnover, poor office morale can be devastating to a company’s bottom line and lead to a downward spiral of disciplinary actions, terminations, and lost productivity. While negative employees can clearly contribute to a bad office environment, bad management is often the root cause of the problem. If employee incentives and team building exercises are no longer making an impact, consider whether the following 10 management mistakes are ruining morale in your office.
While managers always have a few key employees they count on to complete difficult assignments, repeatedly choosing favorites for desirable assignments and promotions will definitely sour office morale. Employees expect managers to be fair and transparent in their decision making. There’s nothing worse for office morale than the belief that the only way to get ahead is to kiss up to the boss. Management should not realistically expect employees to remain loyal to the company if their hard work and dedication is not properly rewarded with promotions that are based on merit instead of favoritism.
#2. Unpredictable Changes
While employees recognize that companies have to respond to changes in the marketplace in order to stay in business, they will begin to lose respect for managers who frequently make decisions without planning and preparation. Before setting off on a new path, managers should make sure changes align with long-term business objectives. Employees may feel unmotivated to do their assigned work if they feel like the assignments are unfocused and meaningless.
#3. Lack of Communication
There is a huge difference between speaking and communicating. While most employees give managers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to creating business strategy, they need to be consulted before that strategy can become a reality. Given the opportunity, employees often come up with innovative solutions that are far less expensive and easier to implement than traditional top-down or third party alternatives. Managers should be open and receptive to hearing any ideas their employees have instead of adopting an attitude of superiority and refusing to consider other ideas.
There is nothing that numbs the soul more than micromanagement. Encouraging employees to find creative solutions to problems is far more effective than dictating every move. Empowering employees with decision-making authority will go a long way in building morale. Managers can avoid being micro managers by making a conscious effort to give employees their assignments and then getting out of the way to let the employees complete their work. Corrective action should only be taken if the work is not done appropriately.
#5. Failing to Give Credit
A sure sign of a weak manager is one who takes credit for successes and blames employees for failures. This habit can quickly erode office morale and ensure that the best employees leave for more fulfilling jobs. Managers are rarely responsible for new innovation or success. A good manager, however, can help the best employees bloom. Giving credit where credit is due can really go a long way to increasing employee morale.
#6. Inconsistent Discipline
Choosing to overlook disciplinary infractions by favored employees will slowly build resentment in an office. The same can be said for managers who come down harder on some employees than others over various issues. While it is tempting to look the other way when a productive employee comes in late or breaks protocol, it can damage office morale.
Employees expect an even hand when it comes to discipline. While the best employees should be rewarded, it doesn’t mean they should be allowed to break the rules. If an employee feels like he is on the receiving end of more discipline than others receive, that person is probably not going to last long in the company.
#7. Misaligned Incentives
While employee incentive programs can lead to impressive results, poorly designed programs can lead to unhappy customers and poor office morale. To be successful, an incentive program must encourage ethical behavior, create satisfied customers, and increase profitability. Failure to meet any of those criteria will create more harm than good. This also includes negative incentives like threats to place an employee on correction action if unrealistic goals (like sales quotas) are not met.
Although quotas can be used successfully to motivate employees, many companies place overly-aggressive quota requirements on their employees. Many employees, when they are unable to meet these unrealistic quotas, become discouraged and often quit.
#8. Poor Choice of Metrics
Managers often choose metrics that are easy to measure rather than those that have the greatest impact. In a call center environment, for example, it is easy to record average length of call. While that information is certainly valuable, it may not be the best metric to choose if the object is to increase customer retention. If employees feel like they are being punished for providing good customer service, office morale will fall and service will suffer.
#9. Failing to Live up to Commitments
Unfulfilled promises of promotions, raises, or time off can have a profoundly negative effect on office morale. While some situations require changes in plan, managers should never promise what they can’t deliver. If a manager promises a promotion after an employee has been with the company for a certain amount of time and has satisfactory performance reviews, that manager should follow through and promote the employee if the employee meets her end of the bargain.
There’s nothing worse for office morale than a manager who freaks out under pressure. In any business environment, there is no cause for loud, abusive behavior or meltdowns. Any manager who resorts to temper tantrums to motivate their staff should be sent to counseling or demoted.
While there are many things that can destroy office morale, rebuilding a positive work environment is a long and arduous process. Office morale is not a gimmick, it’s an investment. For a company to succeed, managers must partner with employees to build a community of trust and respect that values the group more than the individual and ethics more than short term profits. With a strong foundation, a company can survive the ups and downs of the business cycle and drive value far into the future.
Images: “Manager presenting budget to marketing people/ Shutterstock.com“
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