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4 Ways Bosses Demoralize Employees -- and How to Avoid Them

By Maurie Backman – Apr 15, 2018 at 8:18AM

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Are you becoming that manager you swore you would never be? Here's how to nip that morale-zapping behavior in the bud.

Are you a bad boss? You may not think so, especially if your team's performance is relatively strong and your employees aren't actively complaining about you. But just because things seem to be going well on the surface doesn't mean you're treating your team members the way they deserve to be treated.

In fact, there are certain behaviors managers are often guilty of that wind up demoralizing employees and causing their productivity to suffer as a result. Check out the following ways countless bosses inadvertently discourage their workers -- and pledge not to follow suit.

1. Shutting down new ideas

Maybe business is booming at your company and the processes you have in place are serving it well. Be that as it may, if an employee comes to you with a suggestion on how to do things differently, shutting it down is one of the worst things you can do as a manager. Not only might you be doing your company a disservice, but you're essentially sending your employee the message that he or she is irrelevant.

A better bet? Entertain new ideas, or at least give your workers the impression that you're open to suggestions. You may choose not to follow up on most of the ideas you hear, but at least give your workers the courtesy of hearing them out.

Man in suit pointing

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Criticizing employees without being constructive

There's nothing wrong with providing useful feedback to your employees so they can address their personal shortcomings and improve. In fact, as a manager, it's your job to provide constructive criticism so that your team members can grow professionally.

But if the feedback you tend to give is overwhelmingly negative in nature, that's a good way to make your employees feel just about as worthless as possible. The next time you provide criticism, make sure that your point in doing so isn't just to rag on your workers, but to share actionable ways they can learn from their mistakes so they can improve. Otherwise, they're likely to react poorly, even if they don't verbalize it.

3. Criticizing workers in public

It's one thing to sit an employee down in your office behind closed doors and express disappointment in his or her performance. But when you make that same statement in a public setting, you go from being a tough, but reasonable, boss to one who's downright mean. Think about it this way: How would you feel if your manager were to call you out in front of your peers? Pretty lousy, no doubt -- so don't do it to someone else.

4. Not responding when employees reach out

As a manager, your days are probably jampacked with meetings and a host of pressing tasks that fall solely on you. Nonetheless, you need to give your employees the courtesy of a response when they reach out asking for input or help.

When you ignore your team members or take too long to get back to them, you send the message that they're not important, and poof -- there goes their self-esteem. If you really don't have the time to reply to an important email or voicemail right away, shoot back a quick note acknowledging that message. A quick "Sorry Bob, got your note but I'm swamped today -- I'll get back to you as soon as I can" could really go a long way.

As a boss, your goal should be to motivate your workers -- not do the opposite. Therefore, no matter how hectic or stressful your days get, be sure to avoid the above mistakes. The last thing you want to do is alienate your employees and become that boss no one wants to work for.

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