10 Effective Ways to Kill Your Employees’ Enthusiasm

I frequently have conversations with managers/leaders about employee motivation and engagement, and how to make them “own the projects”, develop that flame, that desire to succeed. And as frequently I hear how difficult of a task that is.

Being in management for over 15 years, I can say that it might take a good strategy and quite a bit of effort to get to know your employees individually and lead them to be good and motivated performers, but it takes very little effort to kill their enthusiasm.

Here are some of the very frequent and easy ways that managers/leaders can kill their employees’ enthusiasm and make sure that they become mediocre average performers: 

1-   Tell them they are “too creative”: sounds surprising, but I experienced this myself. I worked for a  corporation once and from day one decided that I wanted to make a difference, that I wanted to give very relevant contribution in any way I could: I have always delivered all my projects on time, took some of the work home so I could do the visual piece of the project using my Mac (which I just feel more comfortable with and am more familiar with the tools), bought a cable which could connect my iPad to the large screen in the conference room and presented ideas that would not only improve the customer experience and loyalty and therefore increase revenue, but would save a significant amount of money for the company: the ideas were great, the data was solid. Seemed a good presentation. When I asked for feedback, I heard from one of the executives that I was “too creative” and my ideas too innovative. I had never thought of that as a bad thing, but it is needless to say that it was a very effective way to kill my enthusiasm.

2-   Steal their ideas: unfortunately, more usual than we think…you go to your boss with that fabulous idea, show her/him the details and feel that you even deserve a promotion for that! And when your boss takes the idea to the next level…he/she just forgets to mention the idea was yours…

3-   Do never reward them for going the extra mile: Maria does her job. She does it well. She gets an ok review. Gets her paycheck and enjoys her life out of work. Sounds like the average employee, right? But you want to be different, so you put a lot of effort in finding a way to wow your customer, to amaze your boss. You go the extra mile. What do you get? NOTHING! Not even a simple acknowledgement. Way to go, boss, on killing the enthusiasm again…

4-   Micromanage them: one of the traits of my personality that I am most proud of is responsibility. I am committed, responsible, I always do my best and deliver my projects on time. It is a personal thing – it feels good to be responsible, to know that other people trust me to do things well and on time. And even though my performance is pristine (according to my boss feedback), my manager decides to breath on my neck, to suffocate me and I cannot give a step forward without communicating it to her/him. Micromanaging is lack of trust, insecurity and need to use authority. Another great way to kill someone’s enthusiasm…

5-   Forget they have a personal life: huh? Personal life? But they work here, they work for ME, they must be available 24/7. Boo. Employees want and need to have a personal life. And you know what? They want their leaders, managers, bosses to know it.

6-   Manipulate reviews: many corporations will use monthly, quarterly and annual reviews to evaluate employees’ performances and rewards, such as bonuses and pay raises. Another really effective way to kill your employees’ enthusiasm is “manipulating these reviews”: I remember one of my jobs where I really didn’t care for the reviews because I had to “self evaluate” also. Turns out that I was much harder on myself than my boss was: I had outstanding monthly reviews. I was expecting to be rewarded for my efforts and great performance. Well, somehow my annual review was “meets expectations”…after all outstanding and above expectations monthly reviews…hmmm…could it be more effective to kill my enthusiasm? Who to blame? I don’t know…it is really confidential, isn’t it?

7-   Never smile. I believe in a positive, happy work environment. Mainly when you have to work facing customers (internal or external – that would not apply if you work alone in a cavern, I guess…). To me it is very natural to greet people when you see them (many times even if I don’t really know them), to smile, to lead by example – how can we expect our associates to smile to the customers if we never smile to them? Well, guess what – once I saw myself in a pretty hostile environment and that bothered me a lot. I spoke to the director of the division defending my point that I thought it was really odd to expect our associates to have a type of behavior with our customers that we did not have with them. And I heard: “you do not expect me to say good morning every day, do you?”. Heck yes!

8-   Make it boring! Do not promote any fun in your workplace. Never laugh, never let people talk, never allow them to take a social break. And kill their enthusiasm once for all!

9-   Be impersonal: do you know anything about your employees’ lives? (some managers would surprise me by only knowing their names…). It is important to – people want to know they matter. They want you to ask about their son’s graduation, or the sick dog, or even their vacation trip.

10-   Always assign the small projects. That is a killer. If you cannot trust them to work on an important project, why have you hired them?

These are only some, from the top of my head. Bottom line – stop concerning and focusing exclusively on how to motivate them – employees give you a million chances and clues on how to motivate each one individually – you just have to be attentive and open for the tips. Just stop killing their enthusiasm!



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