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What makes you stay at your current job? Is it having great colleagues; an awesome boss who mentors you while giving you the freedom to accomplish your tasks; or senior leadership that supports a workplace that encourages further learning and career development?

Maybe you’re currently feeling stuck in a rut, wishing you have at least one of these; and rather than trying to change the entire work culture, you’re thinking of simply leaving to look for another company with a better work environment.

While 76% of employees understand that having a strong work culture influences their productivity and efficiency to help them do their best work, only 9% of them believe that their senior leadership is committed to improving company culture and employee experience. Yet, managers remain baffled as to why they can’t keep their best and brightest employees to stay with them.

Indeed, turnovers are costly and can cause expenses to pile up, from the costs of finding and hiring the right candidates to onboarding and retraining new employees. On top of that, regularly losing employees can be disruptive to the business.

As much as turnovers can hurt a company, senior managers typically blame it on numerous trivial factors—overlooking the root of the problem, which is employee morale. More often than not, employees leave not because of the job itself, but how their superiors and company treat them—in essence, bad management.

When assessing an organization’s work culture and the state of employee morale, you must look into how managers connect, communicate, and collaborate with their team, as well as how they train and value their employees. Also, watch out for red flags—here are the top management practices that kill morale in the workplace:

1) Micromanaging

Have you ever had someone always breathing down your neck, causing you to mess up due to the unnecessary pressure and tension? Despite autonomy and trust being some of the top must-haves when it comes to boosting employee morale, surprisingly, some managers continue to control every little detail, watch every step, and keep sweating the small things.

In a recent study of those who have been micromanaged in the past, 68% reported that it decreased their morale, while nearly 60% said it negatively affected their productivity and engagement at work. Aside from influencing team productivity, employee engagement enhances company culture.  

This unhealthy practice hampers creativity, especially in today’s current business landscape, where employees are encouraged to think outside the box and step outside their comfort zone. Look for an effective manager who mentors, guides, and encourages you through your work instead of dictating how you should do things.

2) Overworking employees

Generally, the acceptable working hours are not more than 8 hours per day; as exceeding this often results in decreased productivity and creativity—not to mention, long work hours are exhausting.

However, it is not unusual for people to pull overtime or all-nighters from time to time to catch up on urgent work—which is okay, as long as it does not occur daily. Although, if you are constantly required by senior management to work after-hours while putting an unreasonable amount of tasks on your plate and taking on bigger responsibilities, then that’s a red flag.

In fact, according to a study made by John Pencavel of Stanford University, output falls sharply after working 50 hours in one week. While it may be tempting to overwork top-performing employees, it is counterproductive.

In letting employees take on a heavier workload without proper compensation or promotion, it may feel like you are being punished rather than being rewarded for excelling and going the extra mile.

3) Hindering personnel growth and learning

Managers sometimes hold their employees back and unintentionally sacrifice their upward mobility by neglecting to provide opportunities that expand knowledge, teach new skills, and improve current capabilities.

People have an innate need to continue improving to move up the corporate ladder, or just to expand their knowledge. In providing continuous training and enabling them to further their careers, management will have the confidence to promote from within the company—instead of going through the laborious process of hiring externally.

Understandably, as an employee working with a senior who is unwilling to support in reaching greater heights, your morale is undoubtedly bound to drop dramatically.

4) Finger-pointing and avoiding accountability

Everyone makes mistakes; it is a known fact of life. No matter how smart or experienced you are, somewhere along the line, you’ve had a few missteps at work. Sometimes it only affects your tasks, but there may come a time when it becomes your team’s mess.

Great managers treat such mishaps as a learning experience because as a leader, they know it’s their responsibility to monitor the team and ensure everything is running smoothly. Not to mention, they see mistakes more as a learning moment.

Unfortunately, not all bosses react accordingly. Some seniors choose to be carried away by their anger when things go south—calling out employee mistakes and shaming them in front of their colleagues. A few even go around passing the blame to a specific subordinate or team despite knowing that they made mistakes as they are too proud to accept accountability.

Finger-pointing creates a harsh culture filled with fear and anxiety, which, in turn, kills morale.

5) Aggressively threatening staff

Employees are the backbone of every company. Therefore, it is essential to treat them with the respect they deserve despite their shortcomings. Repeatedly threatening your employees with termination as a scare tactic to improve their performance is simply unjust.

In truth, it is an ill-advised approach to increase performance and motivation in the workplace. Aside from that, this age-old method is proven to no longer work today—explore what works instead. In making employees feel disposable, senior management is deliberately shooting down morale.

There are other ways of motivating and keeping people in check, such as giving them room to grow, offering rewards, and providing them snacks. Letting your employees feel valued can go a long way in boosting morale. According to a study by Psychology Today, one of the best ways to motivate employees is to recognize their efforts.

6) One-upping

Have you ever experienced presenting a new measure, strategy, or idea to upper management? Your boss then offers suggestions to improve your work further.

It may seem like proper management at first until you realize your proposals are frequently subjected to refinement, however unreasonable, also known as one-upping. This can be devastating to employee morale as it can make them feel undermined by senior leadership.

As an alternative, managers can work together with their employees in implementing their plans rather than dictating steps outright to improve some weaknesses. In creating a collaborative work environment, employees are involved in further developing their idea—empowering them to take ownership and involving them in propelling the company towards success.

7) Keeping employees in the dark

When management keeps employees in the dark about information that directly affects them, such as their performance and output, it can hurt morale. Open communication is vital in any organization; By building walls that shut out employees from senior management, you are tearing down trust and allowing employee engagement to suffer.

8) Hoarding decisions

In neglecting the importance of employee involvement and making the decision-making process exclusive to senior management, primarily when certain decisions directly affect the team, employee morale will inevitably plummet as they lose any sense of ownership.

For leadership to ensure their employees are invested in working towards the achievement of the company’s goals, it is essential to avoid making decisions behind closed doors. Instead, bring together the entire team, hear them out, and brainstorm to come up with the best solutions and decisions that will benefit the organization as a whole.

9) Playing favorites

Have you had that colleague who always seemed to get special treatment? Maybe they got better assignments, bigger bonuses, or more free passes than everyone else, even if they didn’t deserve it? In the process of playing favorites and treating direct reports differently, managers create a toxic, dysfunctional environment.

High-performing employees who aren’t considered the favorites are demotivated, as their hard work goes unnoticed, while the favorites receive extra attention. Leaders should be able to treat everyone equally, even when they’re handling employees of different roles and responsibilities.

10) Sitting on feedback and praise

As learning is a continuous process, employees want to regularly hear constructive feedback from senior management to help them work on their weaknesses and improve their overall performance. Otherwise, they’ll grow complacent and will no longer make an effort to reach their full potential.

Also, although relatively easy, senior management often forgets to show how much they value their employees’ hard work. To retain top talents, it is necessary to leverage the power of recognition. Other than making them feel appreciated, it helps in affirming that they are doing well.

Before signing a contract with a company and getting stuck in a rut with a micromanaging superior or unsupportive management, it’s always a good idea to evaluate your future workplace. As these old-fashioned employee management techniques no longer cut it, find a modern, nurturing work environment where you can grow and thrive should be a top priority.

Written By
Jomel Alos is a Content Strategist at Guthrie-Jensen Training Consultant. He’s obsessed with TV shows about designing like Tiny House Nation, Forged in Fire, and Ellen’s Design Challenge and eating burnt bacon

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