It’s easier than you might think for a leader to upset the morale of a team.
If you are in any kind of management or leadership role, you know that managing different personalities and work styles can be difficult. Everyone has their little peccadillos that need to be handled appropriately.
But there are things that some leaders do that will almost universally upset the balance and morale of a team. It’s not that your team are delicate snowflakes that need to be handled with kid gloves, but they are people and they have feelings. If you abuse them or their trust, you will have a morale problem on your hands that will be very difficult to walk back from.
Team Morale: 5 Things You Should Avoid Doing
Here are some ways you can really freak out your team. The moral of this story? Don’t do them.
1. Be an Emotional Yo-Yo
One minute, you’re happy and laughing. The next minute, you’re slamming your office door and giving people the silent treatment. Are your mood swings even related to work? Or are you bringing your personal life to the office? Like the Hare and the Tortoise, slow and steady wins the race. Whatever is going on in your life or at the office, you need to display outward calm and control.
I knew a manager once whose employees would do a walk-by of her office to peek in at her and see how she was looking before daring to go in to ask for time off, or even a simple query about a project. That’s not leadership. The instability this causes among team members is a major hit to morale.
2. Be a Bully
Unless you’re wearing a crown, you don’t get to behave like a bully. And even if you are wearing a crown, it might not be a good idea. Intimidation and public humiliation are not management techniques. Using threats to get results will not propel a project forward in a positive way but will result in people feeling like their jobs are constantly on the line.
It even comes down to the way you communicate with your team. Good leaders ask for input and make requests. Bad leaders demand things of their team. The rules of the game apply to you too, and don’t think your team won’t notice if you think they don’t.
3. Make Poor HR Decisions
Even worse than making a poor HR decision is not making them at all. Your team needs you to make hard decisions, not pussyfoot around. Not dealing with team members who aren’t performing or have a negative attitude is a great way to bring down morale. It looks like you have no interest in the team or the project at best, or that you are blithely unaware of the problem, at worst.
Putting the right people in the right roles so that they can do their jobs effectively is not an exercise in politics or patronage. It’s an exercise in getting the job done. The right people are those who are qualified and motivated to do the work. If you’ve done your job correctly, by putting together a good team, you won’t need to micromanage them, treating them like kindergartners.
4. Stop Communicating With Your Team
This is on the same line of thought as ‘not being an emotional yo-yo’, above, but even more so, a good leader is straightforward with their team. Don’t make your staff guess at what you’re trying to tell them. Improperly communicating expectations will just result in the team not meeting them. Why? Because they can’t read your mind!
Feedback is essential for good team building. Not the dreaded once a year annual review, which no one appreciates, but on an ongoing basis. A good leader will offer positive or constructive feedback throughout the lifecycle of a project. Bad leaders will say nothing until they’re unhappy, equating feedback with criticism. Eventually, team members will avoid communicating with a leader who can’t or won’t share useful comments.
In the same vein, building a culture of blame and finger pointing instead of finding solutions to problems is a communication issue. If you are only looking for the holes and who created them, instead of finding ways to mend them, you’re not going to get far.
5. Take the Credit Where It’s NOT Due
By far, one of the easiest ways to upset a team is to blame them when things go wrong but take all the credit when things go right. Worse, if you refuse to admit when you don’t know something or when you are wrong about something. It comes down to being forthright and clear with your team, and having an understanding that without them, you have nothing. Appreciating their efforts is the single best way to boost their spirits and commitment.
Building a team and being a good leader are remarkable goals. They’re totally attainable as long as you keep both feet on the ground and work to achieve them with honesty and purpose.