As a manager, you want to keep morale up. As a result, you do what you can at the level and with the materials you’re given. Still, you may be doing more harm than good. These seven common practices are incredibly demoralizing to employees, and if you use them, well, don’t be surprised when your staff starts to job hunt on the clock. If you have a demoralizing workplace, you earned it.
1. Moving the goal posts. If you tell Jackie that she has to do A, B, and C by her next review in order to get a promotion or a raise, and she does A, B, C, D, E, and F, you need to give Jackie a raise or a promotion. Don’t all of a sudden tell her that D, E, and F were required as a minimum the whole time, because that’s demoralizing and dishonest.
2. Bragging about your own raises, perks, and bonuses. You know what’s a pretty bad look? Telling the bulk of your staff that they’re not even getting cost of living increases, but then booking vacations, discussing real estate purchases, and giving yourself a promotion. The same week a former boss of mine told everyone our pay was stagnant, he was on the phone haggling about a Hamptons rental. Eat a dick, dude.
3. Giving uniform raises across the board. Sure, this seems nice on the surface — but it becomes demoralizing when Jess realizes that Bryan, who literally does nothing all day, shows up late daily, and leaves the office for hours at a time, is getting the same pay increase that she is. That’s demoralizing to Jess. That makes Jess want to commit arson.
4. Employing favoritism instead of rewarding genuine merit. Let’s be clear: Sometimes the boss’s favorite is actually also the best worker. But often, it’s a pal who referred them to get hired, or their college buddy they hired once they got promoted themselves. And if the boss’s pal is, say, Bryan, who is late daily, leaves early regularly, and takes hours to complete tasks that could and should be done within minutes yet still somehow gets promoted, that’s demoralizing to everyone else in Bryan’s department.
5. Calling out employee mistakes in public. Barring some extremely rare exceptions, you don’t need to call a meeting of an entire department or staff to point out the errors of one person or a specific few people. Address it privately. If it genuinely needs to be broadcast, leave names out of it.
6. Letting employees take the heat for your mistakes. Real talk: I once got called out in a staff meeting for an error my boss inserted into a headline after I’d submitted a story to her without any mistakes. My boss was happy to watch me get thrown under the bus for her screw up. After that extremely demoralizing incident, I never stayed late for another staff meeting again.
7. Threatening to fire your employees. If your employees are constantly walking on eggshells for fear of getting fired, guess what else they’re probably doing? Job hunting. You’re creating an extremely tense and demoralizing workplace if you’re constantly threatening to fire everyone under you, and you can be confident that those very employees will quit as soon as they find a better offer somewhere else.