10 Ways Leaders Destroy Employee Motivation

If you are honest, you are probably thinking right now about how to motivate some or many of your employees. Maybe you’ve tried the common quick fixes such as motivational speakers, group outings, training, team-building exercises, changing compensation programs, adjusting organization structure, adjusting the office space, and other such low-impact maneuvers. You may see some mediocre results but they will be short-term and unsustainable. I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that continuing to throw the same old solutions at motivation problems will not suddenly yield better results. I suggest that you first define your problem correctly and then decide if you are willing to do what it takes to solve it.

Motivation Starts with Leadership

The reality is that the research and facts have long been right in front of you. Lack of motivation begins within leadership and management ranks. Basically, if people are not motivated it is because leadership and management have not created an environment that is conducive to motivation. The real issue is is how to stop destroying motivation.

Employees are Motivated When First Hired

Most people come to a new position motivated. They do not find a job and say to themselves “let’s go screw up.” Think about the normal energy and vigor someone starts their new job with. It is great new world! They cannot wait to make their mark, have an impact, make good impressions, and do a good job. They already know their pay plan, have accepted it, were motivated to come to work for you based on it, and were ready to do that job. So if they are no longer motivated, leadership and management screwed up.

Are You Destroying Your Employee’s Motivation?

While pay, benefits and working conditions are important, research shows that they have no long-term effects on motivation. The things that do have an effect are recognition, sense of achievement, growth, participation, challenge and identification with the company’s goals and vision. When working with leadership teams I find the real problem is that leadership is destroying motivation. Here are some examples:

  1. Employees do not have a clear vision of what their employer wants to accomplish, and quite frankly they do not feel there is anything special about the company they work for. In many cases they feel they are working for the weaker team.
  2. Company and department goals and objectives are not posted anywhere. When they are, many of the employees do not understand what their part is in helping to achieve those goals. They feel excluded.
  3. The negative feedback-to-compliment ratio is 0 to 1 in favor of negative feedback. Actually, some employees feel like it would take an act of God to receive a compliment once in a while.
  4. Employee development and retention only becomes a priority once an employee is considering leaving or someone is on the verge of being let go. Evidence of this is the percentage of time management commits to these activities and the amount of the company budget allotted as a percentage of revenue.
  5. Leaders exhibit an attitude that their people are there to serve the leader/owner rather than to serve customers and the company mission.
  6. Everyone is not treated with the same dignity and respect.
  7. Employees do not feel their bosses will back the decisions they were given the authority to make.
  8. Employees do not feel able to learn from their mistakes.
  9. Leadership does not actively listen to employee interests, opinions, concerns, and goals.
  10. Delegation is used as a means for getting rid of less-interesting and mundane tasks rather than showing confidence in an employee’s ability to take on more responsibility

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