Six ways to sap staff morale

ANNELI KNIGHT
Last updated 13:26 09/04/2014

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Ever wonder why your staff are such a complaining, cynical, lethargic bunch? Chances are it's more to do with you than them.

Here are the top six things business leaders do that sap motivation.

1.     Break trust

Lani Morris, co-author of The Map of Meaning: a guide to sustaining our humanity in the workplace, says breaking trust with one staff member means breaking trust with everyone in the office.

"[Leaders] break trust by mistreating individuals, thinking that the rest of the team won't notice. Wrong. They will," says Morris, who has been researching meaningful work for more than a decade.

"It goes against our desire for justice, fair treatment and gets people wondering when they will be in the firing line. Result: they keep their head down and only give you what they feel is essential."

2.     Perpetually increase demands

"You can increase workload for a while and people find it challenging and inspiring, but at some point people just turn off and they don't want to play any longer," Morris says.

This occurs especially when people's hard work is not acknowledged by senior managers or business owners, Morris says.

"You just burn people out. People are left with no sense of progress, direction or feeling that what they do each day has value."

3.     Destroy any attempts at innovation

Business leaders will often encourage staff to offer new ideas but not dedicate the time or space to take these ideas seriously when they are put forward.

"Countless times in organisations when people come up with ideas they are killed at birth with comments like, 'Let's get real here', 'It will never work', 'We don't have the money (or time, or resources) to do anything like that'," Morris says.

"Even though people's initial idea may be unrealistic, it could have the seeds of genius and profit if you took the time to work with them to develop the idea," Morris says.

4.     Micromanage

Psychologist and managing director of consultancy Psylutions & Cut-e Australia, Prue Laurence, says micromanaging is an oldie but a goodie for killing motivation.

"Spending too much time looking over the shoulder of your staff is a great way to sap their investment in a task and ownership of their role. Micromanaging sends a clear message that 'I don't trust you' and nothing is more demotivating than that," she says.

"A good manager surrounds themselves with good people and empowers them to do their job. A good manager accepts that the strengths of their team complement their own," Laurence says.

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5.     Be unavailable

At the other end of the scale to micromanaging staff is being completely unavailable to them, Laurence says.

"An unavailable manager sends the message that spending time with their staff is not a priority and knowing you are low down on a priority list is pretty demotivating. Making staff development a key priority is a necessary way to keep your team motivated," she says.

"Part of a good manager's job is to make time for their staff and invest in their ongoing professional development."

6.     Don't celebrate success

A pat on the back goes along way in the workplace, Laurence says.

"Everyone likes to know their work and contribution is acknowledged no matter how small it may seem. Managers who tend to focus only on what went wrong miss opportunities to capitalise and build on the successes of a team," Laurence says.

"Sure it is easier to dissect an error and learn from mistakes, but this is only half the job. Taking time out each week to celebrate a win, to acknowledge a contribution or highlight a success story is a great way to build on the team's strengths."

Focusing on success is a key to boosting motivation and building success, Laurence says.

"Managers who believe they do not have time for this or only give feedback when something goes wrong are not understanding how to fundamentally motivate, inspire and enthuse their team for the long run. "

Sound like you?

Morris says business owners and senior managers are sometimes unaware of how much their behaviour impacts upon staff motivation.

"Often this stuff is unintentional, they're just under so much pressure," Morris says.

Business leaders should remember that fostering the motivation of individuals within the workplace not only improves people's enjoyment and appreciation of the work that they do, it also helps the business to flourish, Morris says.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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