Demoralizing Management Practices

Shawnee Love   •   August 10, 2019

Even after more than 25 years in this field, I am still fascinated by the diversity of leadership styles and how effective very different styles can be for different people.

At the same time, I have also seen and heard of many actions which erode an organization’s culture, deplete morale and creates stress and unhappiness among its people.  In fact, I often hear candidates for management positions say they learned how not to be a manager from someone they worked for and it is primarily from these candidates that this list of common management misbehaviours comes from:

  • Micromanagement- This is destructive because it feels like you don’t trust the person.  If you hire good people, train them and then get out of their way.
  • Parachuting in and out- Somewhat similar to micromanaging when you are in, but more confusing to employees because they never know when to expect you.
  • Abdication- This is when you hand over a responsibility and wash your hands of it.  While at first it feels like trust, it can give a new hire so much rope they hang themselves.  As boss, its your job to clearly lay out the expectations and them be accountable to ensure the expectations are met.  Just stay out of how unless there are bona fide requirements associated with how.
  • Pitting people against each other- Tasking multiple people with the same task (unbeknownst to them) simply puts them at loggerheads.  Managers who practice this tactic like to see their employees compete. But in reality, the competition often becomes cutthroat, creates conflict among the employees (and colleagues forced to align or help) and wastes precious resources.
  • Blaming- This is a bad practice because people who feel blamed (particularly if they only bore some of the responsibility) will be less likely to take ownership of tasks going forward.  Similarly, observers of the blame won’t want to be the subject either, and thus, eventually you will cure your employees of their initiative and sense of responsibility.
  • Punishing innocent mistakes- Mistakes happen and are how people learn.  If you punish for mistakes which employees couldn’t have anticipated or recognized, you again erode their willingness to take initiative, responsibility and risks.
  • Threatening loss of job – It feels awful to be constantly fearful of your job, which is why this is a terrible management practice. It’s even worse if the threat is tied to something outside of your control such as another team’s level of productivity.  If job losses are possible, it’s okay to communicate the problem and what the plan is for resolving and/or handling the situation.  Just don’t threaten regularly or it wears people down.
  • Flavor of the month- Many bad managers rotate through their favorites and/or their scapegoats whether they are ideas, strategies, service providers and/or employees.  Like the boy who cried wolf, over time, employees become immune to the manager’s whims.  Unfortunately, at some point the manager will be serious and no one responds.
  • Expecting perfect – No one is perfect all the time.  Expecting perfection from any individual is too high of a standard, and is frankly the enemy of getting things done which is why this is a bad management practice.
  • Bullying – Mocking, isolating, shaming, etc. all reduce self confidence and morale of the subject of the bullying as well as those who witness the situation but feel impotent to help.
  • “Good as your last game”- This management mentality creates fear and leads to unhealthy competition as well as stress and burnout among employees.
  • Inconsistency- This set of behaviours upsets employees because they never know what to expect.  Will they be told to go up or down, left or right, start or stop?  Will the manager be Jekyll or Hyde? It is a mistake to think keeping employees on their toes all the time (which is often the excuse for this behaviour) makes them more productive. In fact, while stress can stimulate productivity in the short term, over time stress creates fatigue, disengagement, frustration and dissatisfaction with the work and workplace.

These 12 bad management practices all create the bad kind of stress and lead to increased conflict, higher absenteeism, and lower retention of employees.  In a time when the unemployment rate is low and it is a trial to find each new hire, no employer can afford to permit their leaders to manage these ways.

Fortunately, good management and leadership is learned and thus can and should change over time.  We hope you will come back to our blogs for how to improve in these areas.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”~Chinese Proverb