7 Bad Management Habits That Kill Team Morale

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Building and maintaining team morale is critical to the success of you as a manager, the performance of your team and even the long term viability of your company or organization.

Despite what you may think, the salary or wage an employee earns is not a predictor of their happiness or otherwise within a particular role or organization. Of course, it can improve employee engagement and encourage them to do more work though. Many organizations look at increasing employee salary benefits to make their employees feel valued. Some companies actually allow employees to receive their wages earlier than usual by using the services offered by Flexearn. This is called earned wage access. To put it simply, earned wage access is where you can access your pay as you earn, making it easier for employees to deal with things like debt and other expenses. That can improve employee happiness and make them want to work harder for the company. However, pay doesn’t normally kill team morale. There are many things that can kill team morale and impact the performance of your team.

While some of these company culture elements need to be driven from the CEO down, mid-level managers and HR professionals can still have a huge impact on a team and the culture within your department. Successful HR professionals would always strive to keep their skills updated by attending online programs like the ones at Josh Bersin Academy.

In this article, we will, therefore, look at seven management habits that can kill team morale. Recognizing these and ensuring you avoid the pitfalls can lead to a happier, more productive team and even boost employee retention.

How To Kill Team Morale – Micromanaging

Micromanaging your employees is one easy way to kill team morale. As a manager, you should not be too controlling. Show your employees that you trust them by delegating some tasks. If you’re everywhere, you’ll put too much pressure on the employees, and they will end up resenting your presence and constant review of their work. Ultimately this leads to a poorer outcome.

If you find that you have a tendency to micromanage staff don’t try and let go all at once. Instead, get more comfortable delegating tasks and responsibilities over time. As your trust in your staff grows and they successfully complete tasks you will find that you no longer need to manage everything to such a nuanced level.

How To Kill Team Morale – Not Providing Enough Management Guidance

Conversely, you can also kill team morale by not managing your team enough. This is the opposite of micromanaging and as you can probably already tell there is a fine balance that needs to be found to ensure that you provide enough management oversight without overcrowding your employees.
Team morale suffers when managers are absent from their work as the team loses focus, are unsure of the progress of key tasks and projects and don’t know how well they are performing. Some teams perform better than others with a flatter more hands-off management structure but that still doesn’t translate to no management oversight.
Find the balance that works for you and your team and you will see team morale and productivity increase.

How To Kill Team Morale – Provide A Lack of Clear Goals & Objectives

Another key way Managers can kill team morale is to provide a lack of clear goals or objectives to their team. Not knowing how you are being evaluated as an employee makes it hard to know where to focus your time and effort.
In addition, some managers have unclear expectations and end up confusing their team as a result. For example, a manager may clearly define the task but not provide sufficient guidance on the expected result. Therefore the employee doesn’t know whether this is something they should spend a week working on or just a day.
If you’ve got too many employees (and some interns) to handle, you could feel like this can be way too much on your plate. Well, you can always take the help of tools such as viGlobal Work Allocation software that can help with assigning tasks, small or big. Further, tracking the progress of assignments and providing feedback/guidance also becomes easier.
As a Manager, you can’t expect the best performance from your team without a clearly articulated objective and metric against which the performance will be evaluated. For your employees that can also feel like they are being unfairly judged if you are displeased with the result provided given they didn’t have enough guidance to start with.

How To Kill Team Morale – Under Communicating

Closely linked with a failure to set clear goals or objectives is under communicating. Communication is essential in any organization that expects excellent performance. Under communication brings in a lot of confusion and at the results to poor performance. If you don’t give clear instructions and don’t explain points, your employees will feel demoralized.
In addition to providing clear instructions, the best managers also promote a collaborative environment where employees can seek clarification, share their own thoughts and ideas and contribute to the discussion around the task or objective of the team. Doing this makes the employee feel like they have “ownership” of the project or task, increasing the value they will see in completing the task to a high standard.
It is also important that there is a line of open communication between management and the employees. Making sure that employees are engaged and happy in their work can really aid productivity. By initiating monthly performance reviews or annual appraisals, you can let your employees know that you’re listening and invested in them which can go a long way. Companies such as Qualtrics can help you get started if this is something you want to try.

How To Kill Team Morale – Not Treating People Equally

How to Use Job Delegation to Improve Employee Morale

Nobody likes it when a manager plays favorites. As a Manager you have an obligation to treat everyone equally and to evaluate them on the performance of their work, not whether you get on with them as a friend, come from the same background or have some other trait in common.
If employees in a team see others getting ahead because they are friendly with a manager this only builds resentment and a sense that one person is getting ahead at the expense of others.
The best managers know how to navigate workplace friendships without letting it crowd their judgment or come across as playing favorites with promotions, work assignments or other functions you are responsible for overseeing.

How To Kill Team Morale – Not Providing Enough Recognition

manage early-stage startup with full-time work - communication

We are all human and we all like being congratulated for a job well done. While you don’t want to go overboard with your praise you want to ensure that you are aware of the tasks/projects your team are working on and provide praise when it is relevant and timely.
Depending on the type of project or level of effort they went to this praise doesn’t have to be a formal award. Simply letting an employee know that they did an awesome job can go along way. Where there has been a sustained effort or an employee has really gone above and beyond then having a more formal recognition of their performance can be beneficial. For example some companies have monthly or quarterly award nominations that also provide a gift voucher or something else of value to the employee to thank them for their effort.
Without a process like this in place employees may be less likely to go the extra mile because they feel that any extra effort they put in a) won’t be recognised or b) rewarded.

How To Kill Team Morale – Not keeping promises

We all make promises every day in our lives. Not keeping these promises not only hurts friends and family in our personal lives but can also have a negative impact in the workplace with your team.
If you make a promise to an individual team or employee then as a Manager you are responsible for ensuring that promise is fulfilled. For example, if you promise to help a hire prepare their resume for an internal promotion then you need to hold yourself accountable for providing that guidance.
Some managers feel that the onus should be on the employee to follow up with them to ensure the task is done,b but this ignores that some employees are naturally quieter and/or feel that following up multiple times may be perceived as being rude.
With an understanding of the above you should now have a good awareness of what can kill team morale in your organization. While no manager will be perfect 100% of the time being aware of these pitfalls and holding yourself to a higher standard can contribute to a solid workplace culture and team environment that is optimized for success.

About Author

Paul Towers - Founder @ Task Pigeon

Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon. Join me on my journey to build an open & transparent startup from day one. Paul is also the founder of Startup Soda, a newsletter curating the best content from the Australian startup ecosystem.