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How to Destroy Morale and Engagement

Ryan Piraneo

By: John Birch, CEO

Recently, we worked with a medium sized manufacturing organization where the founder created a mission statement for his company that included an ending phrase of, “…and we will have fun.” In fact, this statement insisted on managing his organization under the outdated “Command and Control” management style. Morning, afternoon and lunch breaks were highly discouraged, people would be scolded in public, personal initiative was never rewarded, time off for family issues were not allowed, and employee training and development was non-existent. Morale and engagement was pathetically low, even among his children and other family members who would eventually take over the company. Scrap turnaround and surplus compensation claims were exorbitantly high, productivity continued to decrease. When he asked us what was going on, he was told, “simply you are the only one in this company that is having fun.”


This gentleman began to defend himself and blame the organization’s issues on a long list of excuses and refused to take any ownership for his predicament. In short, he neglected to realize that people aren’t usually disengaged in their jobs but instead are disengaged by their managers. We have found that the engagement level of 90% of the American worker is a direct reflection of their relationship with their boss.


Bad management affects all levels of the organization, even the senior levels. Poor management can also manifest itself in exhaustion, poor sleep, anxiety, divorce, depression and a multitude of health issues. In today’s rapid paced and global economy, American firms are in a position where they must “get extraordinary results from ordinary people”.


If you properly maintain your equipment, you must also properly maintain your most valuable asset, your people.


If you want to engage and retain your best employees, the following practices must be abolished in your organization:


Overworking People

Overworking people is never a good idea as it can lead to “burnout”. When people become burnt out, they begin to make mistakes, serious mistakes, not only technical mistakes, but also mistakes in dealing with others. Recent research from Stanford University showed that per hour productivity significantly decreases when the workweek is over 50 hours. When the workweek exceeds 55 hours, productivity decreases and scrap increases so much that you are actually in a losing situation.


Holding People Back

Some leaders feel that their top employees do their job so well that they cannot be replaced, so those top employees don’t advance. In this instance you are damaging your employees’ best interests to satisfy your best interests. This selfish practice is a surefire way to destroy an individual’s morale and to lose your key employees to competitors.


The Blame Game

Instead of placing blame, strong leaders don’t point fingers; they work collaboratively with their team members on solutions. Discussing problems with an individual employee must take place in private, not in front of others, as it is extremely humiliating.


Frequent Threats of Firing

This practice is a lazy and shortsighted method to try to control people and typically disengages the entire organization. People who feel disposable will eventually leave the firm for one where they feel appreciated.


Discouraging Passion

Your most talented people are typically those that are most passionate about their jobs. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions in the workplace will ensure that they maintain or improve their production. Studies show that employees that are able to pursue their passions experience “flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm”.


Withholding Praise

All employees want to feel valued and appreciated, particularly those that are intrinsically motivated. Praise should always be earned and when communicated, it must be genuine and sincere. A leader who neglects to praise their employees will find a disengaged and non-committed team.


Leaders must always keep in mind the four basic keys to effective leadership:

1 – Always maintain or increase your team members’ self-esteem

2 – Focus on someone’s actual behavior and not your perception of their attitude

3 – Consistently encourage team member participation

4 – Actively listen to what team members are saying


Leadership can be a very rewarding experience while managing people can be drudgery, leading to a heightened level of frustration and stress for everyone involved. Your teams engagement and job satisfaction is a direct result on how you lead or not lead.