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Keeping your employees motivated can be a constant struggle if you have a boss with a difficult personality. Perhaps you never realized that the boss was the issue before, maybe you are the boss yourself or maybe you have yet to identify the cause of low motivation among your teams.

In any case, the corporate culture gurus here at Corporate Essentials have taken a little time to gather some of the worst behaviors bosses can have in terms of their impact on the workplace atmosphere. On the surface, many of these might just seem like good practice, but when misapplied, the consequences can be devastating to employee motivation and overall morale. It’s important in hectic work settings, like what is typically found in NYC or NJ, for your boss to have all operations under control. He or she should be constantly thinking of employees’ best interests in order to move forward and incite growth for the whole company.

1. The know it all

A boss who already “knows everything” does little to interact meaningfully with others during a meeting. They talk…and talk…and talk but do very little listening because they have come to the resolute belief that their way is the best way, their knowledge is the right knowledge and no one else can make a valid contribution.

2. The number lover

When the boss gets so mired in keeping track of performance stats that they forget those numbers are attached to humans, there will always be trouble. Staff feels valued when they’re involved, included, considered and respected. By eliminating their “humanity” from the equation, this boss is also removing employee motivation from the picture.

3. The disengaged boss

Failing to foster meaningful relationships with staff can be the death knell of a team, project or in extreme circumstances, an entire company. In order to maintain a good level of employee motivation, bosses need to make themselves available to staff at all levels. Bonus points for serving as a conduit for information both up and down the pipeline.

4. The one who is “too busy”

We get it – the bosses have huge responsibilities that the rest of the team simply cannot understand. The trouble is when the boss is too busy to discuss a problem or consider a proposal, employee motivation plummets. Being unavailable can create bottlenecks in reporting, limit forward momentum and lead to missed deadlines. This is an area that proves delegation, collaborative thinking and solid communication are the best solutions for handling the rigors of management.

5. Micromanages employees

Employees need autonomy to feel successful. They need to feel successful to stay motivated. And, perhaps most importantly, workers need to be motivated to be productive. Constantly standing over someone’s shoulder, demanding numerous checks and rechecks of common processes and general micromanagement are likely to breed nothing but discord among your teams – avoid these managerial pitfalls to keep your teams motivated.

6. Will not embrace change

The boss who perpetually responds, “…but we have always done it this way” every time someone makes a suggestion for improving deliverables is a real drag. More than this, someone who is stuck in their ways can suck the life out of a project being worked on by new team members. Whether the change is a new operating standard, a corporate rebranding, a procedural shift or some other change, the key to keeping employee motivation during the transitional periods is welcoming the change. It is going to happen anyway, so you may as well make the most of it.

7. Kills creativity and learning

Bosses who swan in and take over the controls when people are trying to fathom out how to best resolve a situation can seem heroic. However, eventually, people need to develop the skills and problem-solving abilities to tackle these problems for themselves. Motivated employees crave the ability to hone their existing skills and add new ones.

8. Encourages resentful competition

A little friendly competition now and then is a great thing for keeping employees motivated. However, establishing competition that is mean-spirited or drives people apart more than it brings them together is not an appropriate employee motivation tool.

9. Sets muddy goals

Great bosses set great goals. As many a grand training course will tell you, a good goal should be SMART – simple, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. If the boss is setting goals that are too broad or too narrow, or more importantly, goals with no real benchmark, someone needs to intervene for the good of the team.

10. Fails to establish a strong company culture

A weak company culture can be worse than having no company culture at all in terms of employee motivation. Knowing that the company values and invests in them is something that keeps employees focused on the long game during difficult times while simultaneously attracting new talent to your teams.

11. Puts themselves first

A good leader understands that people who have their needs met are better at meeting the needs of others – particularly when “others” are the company. Focusing resources on meeting the personal, developmental, professional and social needs of the team is a great way to keep people motivated to meet the needs of the team, and ultimately the firm.

However, managers who focus only on what they need (and particularly on how they get what they need from others) bring down the atmosphere and contribute to lower employee motivation across the board.

12. Fails to consider the opinions of employees and management

A boss who asks for input and does not take it into account cannot foster the sort of reciprocal communication that companies need to truly thrive. Employees and management need to have equal voices at the table during project planning and review cycles – failure to involve both sides leads to a communication breakdown which will slowly eat away at the culture your firm has established.

13. Does not encourage proper work-life balance

Establishing a good work/life balance is one of the keys to having happy employees. Failing to give staff a chance to balance their work and home lives creates a dissonance that many people can never really reconcile. A boss who simply does not accept that people in the office have their own lives outside of work will not be able to motivate employees successfully.

14. Discourages continual learning and self-awareness

Another key to keeping staff motivated and engaged at work is giving them ample opportunities to develop their other skill sets. Employee motivation is boosted when staff members are given the time and headspace free to learn new skills, whether they are related to the job they do or not.

15. Fails to deliver on their word

A boss who is all talk and no follow-through can be difficult to deal with – a boss who offers hollow promises over and over is worse. The trust team members put in their boss should be rewarded with dedication and honesty on the boss’s part. Employee motivation suffers when the boss is just full of hot air.

16. Publicly chastises or insults employees

There is a time and place for criticism – that place is never over lunch at the café down the street. While friendly banter can be motivational for employees, hazing or verbal abuse (even if the boss thinks it is funny) has no place at work.

This sort of behavior can make people feel uncomfortable and will gradually erode employee motivation. Instead, bosses should focus on providing constructive criticisms, helpful insight and suggestions at appropriate intervals.

17. Quick to judge, slow to praise

On a similar note, the boss who is full of criticism and offers few compliments does little to motivate teams. While we are not recommending your office become an all-you-can muster buffet of compliments, having a solid criticism-to-praise ratio for your team will do more to improve employee motivation.

18. Does not provide insightful feedback on employee actions

Taking this one step further, bosses need to provide useful feedback to employees in terms of performance review and project milestones, as well as less formalized things such as how a worker handles a meeting or other professional interaction.

In general, workers need to have clear feedback that can be distilled into four areas: what was observed, how it was good, how it was bad and how to improve it. That last point is crucial – providing employees criticism without any suggested improvement is de-motivation at its absolute worst.

19. Listens to respond, not to understand

As Steven R. Covey teaches in The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

To be a great boss, one who succeeds at the art of motivating staff, you have to break yourself out of this management rut and try to understand first. In doing so, you give the those with which you are speaking value, power and respect that makes reciprocal communication more possible – and productive.

20. Manages discipline poorly

Things go wrong and employee discipline is sometimes necessary for a host of reasons. The bosses who can undertake disciplinary measures – at any level – without sacrificing employee motivation for the wider team, are true success stories. While company policies may dictate the scope of disciplinary measures, avoiding punitive actions and focusing on making things better is always preferable to dwell on what went wrong along the way.

21. Has unrealistic expectations of employees

Great managers know their people, what their skills are and what they are capable of in a given set of circumstances. Bosses who can assess the skills needed for a given project, discuss the requirements with their team and make appropriate staffing choices for a project on that basis are great motivators.

Bosses who make assumptions with no real basis, or choose to commit resources to a project without understanding the skills required, have a de-motivational influence over the team.

22. Steals credit for outside help

There is no ‘ I ‘ in team – and a boss who tries to take all the credit for a collaborative project sucks the joy out of the room like a not-quite-empty coffee pot left on the burner in the break room.

When a great boss receives accolades for completing a project well, they will appropriately share the credit for what went well with their team. The best bosses offer public praise for people who have contributed to the team’s success.

23. Encourages individuality over collaboration

Similar to the point above, a boss who encourages an “all-star” atmosphere allows only a few members of any given team to feel the real glory of succeeding at their job. This leads to resentment among others on the team who may have made equally important contributions that simply were not as interesting to others.

It also can cause friction in future projects, or lead to general disillusionment among team members, causing morale to plummet and motivation to sink.

24. Embraces favoritism among staff

A knock-on effect of favoring individual efforts over collaboration is the notion of office “all-stars” – those people who appear to do no wrong in the eyes of the bosses, regardless of their actual talents or skills. This is divisive behavior at its worst – nipping away at the office culture that should bring people together bit by bit.

While some people may be more naturally or technically talented than others, it is vital that bosses highlight the good that comes from all members of the team in order to help keep everyone engaged in the ongoing success of the company.

25. Lack of coaching and development for staff

Most people need a track to progress through their career with a company. This helps them feel valued, allows them to plan for the future and enhances their sense of value to the company – after all, a company that invests in the career development of staff obviously values its workers. Being NJ is in close proximity to New York City, it’s only right for your boss to offer ways for his or her employees to better themselves professionally. These offerings could be through conferences, seminars or workshops.

However, a boss that does not provide coaching or development opportunities for team members will seem short-sighted, and the unfortunate side effect of that shortsightedness is a lack of employee motivation.

26. Offers no strategic vision for the company

A further step to the career progression bosses should offer is a clear vision for the company’s future. An employee with a well-defined career path at a company with no plans beyond this year will be less likely to remain motivated and engaged in their role for the long haul.

A clear vision for future projects, ongoing product development or even long-range expansion goals helps workers see how their contribution makes a difference to the firm’s future. Knowing your company has a future is a huge part of workplace motivation for most people.

27. Frequently acts hot-headed and arrogant

A moody boss can be hard for people to take seriously. Add a dab of arrogance and/or entitlement to the mood swings, and it is easy to understand why teams may lose motivation due to their boss’s antics. Fortunately, for many people the “mood swings” they feel during the work day are simply physical triggers due to blood sugar fluctuations and dehydration.

This is one area where having a well-stocked break room can truly improve employee relations. Encouraging teams to take regular breaks together, even if just for a quick drink of coffee or a nutrient-dense bite to eat, can make it easier for the office “hothead” to balance their mood.

28. Never acknowledges the success of their employees

Whether someone on your team just finished a new project management certification or finally hit their black belt in Tae Kwon Do, acknowledging staff achievements is a huge part of employee motivation.

Taking an interest in their accomplishments – both inside and outside the workplace – shows people that you value them as, well, people! Being valued is one of the leading motivational factors people cite when asked their reasons for staying at a job.

29. Embraces politics and inequality in the workplace

Sometimes people will say something is “too political,” and walk away from a given situation at work. While it is unlikely you actually work on the Senate floor, politics are still common in the workplace. Politics at work have negative consequences for morale and performance.

Encouraging contributions from all employees, opening the door to a flat operational structure and keeping people at all levels informed about what is going on with projects is a great way to level the playing field and eliminate politics in the workplace.

30. Does not communicate effectively

So many of the points in this list circle back to one key fact: a failure to communicate effectively with all team members. Creating an atmosphere that fosters employee motivation takes effort, and the first step on that road is encouraging people at all levels to communicate well together.

Giving as much floor time to the bosses as you do to the junior design team can be hard for people to wrap their heads around – but ultimately, that sort of open culture pays dividends in terms of overall productivity, team value and employee motivation.

If you are looking for ways to combat this list of demotivating boss behaviors, our team at Corporate Essentials would be happy to help. We have nearly two decades of experience providing the coffee that opens doors for NJ businesses hoping to enhance employee motivation. Creating an atmosphere where ideas flow freely, communication is relaxed and everyone feels like part of the team can be as easy as organizing fresh stock for the break room. We can help your company find new ways to satisfy employees, whether it be introducing local coffee or an office tea service into your NJ office.

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Joe Simonovich

Joe has a strong background in marketing and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). The start to his career as a customer service representative has given him a unique foundation and different perspective on almost all business-related situations. Joe is now the Chief Growth Officer (and Director of Creating Awesomeness) at Corporate Essentials. He brings a unique skill set and a hands-on approach to any leadership role and believes that hustle is simply a way of life.