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8 Surefire Ways to Demotivate Your Employees

Author: Christina Galoozis Date: January 06, 2011

Ever notice how a new employee’s enthusiasm eventually wears off? In 85% of companies, employees’ morale significantly drops off after their first six months on the job, according to a survey from Harvard Management Update.

For the most part, enthusiasm is determined by work environment, and it can be fostered or hindered by you—the boss. Employee motivation experts say the best way to keep employee enthusiasm moving forward is to “first, do no harm.” At a minimum, don’t do anything that demotivates your workers.

Check out eight demotivators below.

1. Public criticism.

Pointing out a worker’s mistake in front of others rarely yields a good response. Though some managers think public reproach keeps everyone else from making the same mistake—it usually just makes everyone feel bad. (Tweet this sentence)

2. Failing to provide praise.

If employees feel like their hard work goes unnoticed, they’ll start to wonder why they’re working so hard in the first place. Be sure to offer praise, both privately and publicly. Even small things, like a thank-you card or a “good job” email work.  (See also: How to Thank Employees When You Can’t Afford a Bonus.)

3. Not following up.

Have you ever solicited ideas, asked what employees think about a policy, or asked your team to draft a proposal? If so, be sure to relay the results, even if the ideas or proposals don’t go anywhere. Asking employees for input without acknowledging it shows a lack of respect.

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4. Give unachievable goals or deadlines.

Once employees realize they won’t be able to get something done, they’ll think, “What’s the point? I’m going to fail.” Provide goals and deadlines that are challenging, but not impossible. 

5. Not explaining your actions or sharing company data.

Just because you hold the cards doesn’t mean you should hide them. Explaining the big management decisions will help employees understand your perspective—and they’ll respect you for it. Likewise, sharing key company data such as revenue and profits validates staff contributions.

6. Implied threats.

If an employee is producing sub-par work, it’s OK to let them know your expectations. But it’s not OK to threaten their job—especially if you’re threatening the entire team in a public setting. A “do this or else” attitude often has the opposite effect when it comes to motivation.

7. Not honoring creative thinking and problem solving.

When employees take initiative to improve something—a company process or an individual task, for instance—don’t blow it off. Instead, take a good, hard look at their suggestion. Don’t ignore it, or you risk losing that employee’s creativity in the future.

8. Micromanagement

Perhaps the worst demotivator is micromanaging. Employees need to feel trusted and valued to succeed—and micromanaging communicates the opposite.


Next step: 6 Low-Cost Ways to Motivate Employees.

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