Communication Rebel Blog

5 Ways Bosses Can Kill Morale

Happy employees are the cornerstone to a successful business. Most business that are faltering have people problems not product problems. Good morale comes from an environment where the bosses are interested in building relationships with those they manage Are you making these leadership mistakes that undermine morale?and among their team.

Whenever we speak we send two messages – content and relational message (for more information watch my video). Relational messages are the ones that broadcast how we feel about others and in the workplace are the ones that inspire or destroy morale. If the relational message being sent is one of respect, trust and appreciation morale soars. If it is the opposite, you can find employee moral is circling the drain. Here are 5 surefire ways a boss can kill morale on any team:

1. Mandatory fun

Required parties. Top down enforcement of dressing up for Halloween to impress the big boss. Mandatory fun is not fun. It's a fascist regime. It doesn't bring the team together. It's just another less pleasant form of work. Fun events that promote team cohesion come from the team. When employees are giving the freedom to plan fun events, cohesion grow. As the boss, stay out of the merry making!

2. Punch the clock

Butts in the seat 8 hours a day. A dirty look when you make a Starbuck's run. No one likes punching a clock. Why? It screams “I don't trust you to get your work done.” Employees want to be trusted and valued. Punching the clock is a surefire way to undermine both.

3. No gratitude

Ever do something awesome at work? Save the day. Went above and beyond for a client so much so they were singing your praise. However, your boss barely mentioned it to you. No good job or way to go. It super sucks and makes you less likely to go the extra mile the next time. A simple thank is sometimes all you really need to make morale soar.

4. Make a big deal out of a small mistake

I make mistakes. You make mistakes. Leaders and bosses make mistaks. We all do it. It's part of being human. The boss who makes a big deal because you missed the typo on slide 147 of your 200 slide PowerPoint deck is being a nit-picky jerk. I had a manger once who reviewed my work using a red pen. It was like being in grade school all over. When this happens, the relational message being sent is “I have the power and I am right.” Lording being right over growing an employee and building morale results in unhappy people who leave.

5. Don't listen

You are tying to tell your boss about a problem. The whole time you can tell he is in his head and not listening.  Every want to yell “Get out of your head and listen!” Everyone just wants to be heard . Even if your boss doesn't go with your idea, if you feel like he or she listened, it makes you feel valued.

What did I miss? What other tactics do you see in the workplace that cause morale to falter? Leave a comment below.

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  • Excellent points! Every action communicates, and you have nailed what really gets communicated by common practices (sadly).

    • Michelle

      I know it is really sad, isn’t it? I wish there was more trust in work relationships!

  • Angie

    This is so true and these bosses are the #1 reason that 70% employees changed their jobs.

    • Michelle

      Yes! I agree bosses who do things like these make employees flee. Unfortunately with the great recession, employees felt stuck like they couldn’t leave. Now things are turning around and people will thankfully start leaving bad situations.

  • Heather

    You did a great job of covering this. The best boss I ever had trusted, appreciated and supported new ideas. Wish she had not retired!

    Worst boss I ever had did not trust anyone and slammed the door on every idea. Every meeting was the staff listening to him. He actually told us that he didn’t want to hear what we had to say. When we did well, he never told us, even when others told him. Worst of all, he encouraged the one employee who was undermining everyone else. This employee wanted to be the only one who considered to be capable on the whole staff. In addition to trying to set up everyone else to make them look bad, she spent several hours a week complaining about everyone to the boss. Behind the boss’s back, she would talk about how incompetent he was and how much she hated him. Even though everyone else tried to tell the boss what was going on, he wouldn’t listen. He was convinced that this employee was the only one he could trust. Lastly, this boss had been my friend for 35 years. He wouldn’t even listen to me. I guess all of this falls under trust? Or maybe just idiocy?

    • Wow – sounds your boss (I’m hoping former) had a fear of being found out. It’s the classic low self-esteem meets controlling behavior. What a tough situation, Heather!

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