In my mind, management and morale are so closely linked. Unfortunately, I’ve talked to many individuals whose managers weren’t born, and were never taught, to be “people managers.” Most companies will say that they want a high-functioning, cohesive team and to increase retention at their firm but do not always consider the specific skill set of those they place in management positions or provide the appropriate training to teach those important management principles. Some managers are given the title because of past accomplishments, longevity with the firm, or technical ability without considering their personality, affinity for others, conflict management skills, or communication style.
Some of the following management “missteps” can negatively impact morale and retention. If you see yourself in them, consider the tips for each to build more teamwork, collaboration, productivity, and respect among your team.
Do as I say – not as I do. Leaders must be willing to model the behavior we expect from our team. Keeping our word, demonstrating the qualities we look for in them (honesty, accountability), and putting in the effort we expect of them are examples of vital behaviors. When we require certain behaviors from our team but do not do them ourselves, respect is lost. For instance, if a client project is due on Monday and the team is behind, if you ask the team to stay late on a Friday, leaving early that day will only breed resentment! Being a good manager means being willing to dig in and be a team player, working alongside them whenever possible.
Lack of training/hoarding. On the opposite side of over-delegating is the manager who simply does their job as if they have no team. It is important to train your employees and allow them to learn the skills they need to grow and succeed – and even to make mistakes through that learning process. Not only is this critical for firm succession, but it shows that you trust them with the work, which builds morale and teamwork overall.
Micromanaging. This “over-management” style is often used by some of us who have controlling personalities or when someone hasn’t properly been trained in management techniques or isn’t sure of their management responsibilities, so they compensate by being zealous over every detail of their employees’ jobs. There may even be the fear of not looking good to their own superiors if things are not in perfect order. This controlling behavior, however, usually shows up for the employees as distrust of their abilities and saps their job satisfaction.
Take a step back to evaluate the truly important details you need from your employees and what does not need your input or attention. Then, establish how your employees should “return and report” their status so you can be sure they are on the right track, help them remove roadblocks, and allow them to do their job.
Favoritism or unequal treatment. Maybe one of your employees is your old college roommate or someone you hang out with on the weekends, but it’s not appropriate to give them the “preferred” assignments, overlook performance issues that you address with other employees, or give them inflated review marks and/or salary increases. The word will get out, and trust will be lost. The remedy for this is awareness and conscientious attention to fair treatment of all employees to maintain good team morale.
King/Queen of “No.” Instead of an automatic rejection of ideas that may be different from the ways things have been done in the past, which can shut down communication going forward and diminish collaboration, teamwork, and morale, it is good practice to truly listen to your employees’ suggestions or requests (and be open to them!). Their suggestions may just be the best for both them and your team if you are willing to explore new ways of doing business. It’s okay to discuss why their ideas may not work – or why certain aspects are not feasible – but be open to collaborating a win-win solution. If you are approachable in this way, your people will learn that you are willing to listen, even if their ideas won’t work each time, and they will continue to generate and communicate new solutions.
Any of these management missteps can cause morale problems and potentially lead to turnover. The first step is acknowledging that a problem exists. Then, have straight conversations with your team and/or manager, and consider seeking management training for your firm in the areas of leadership skills, conflict management, delivering effective feedback, and communication to help your current and future managers be better leaders.
If you are not a manager but encounter these issues in your work, start by exploring how you can view your situation in a more positive way (read our post on positivity here). Then, consider scheduling an honest (but collaborative and respectful) conversation to brainstorm real solutions to specific challenges you see in your group. And remember, managing people is not easy, so consider that there are viewpoints other than your own and be open to hearing them from your manager.
I would love to hear how you resolved or plan to resolve your past or current management struggles for the betterment of team morale!
P.S. It’s important to note that the cost to replace a lost employee is 1.5 to 2 times their salary, so improving management skills that, in turn, will likely boost morale and retention, is also profitable for the firm!
This is such a great article. I recently left a job where the manager was an extreme micromanager. We couldn't send emails without him first looking at them.
Morale was extremely low and during my two year stint there my team of 4 went through about 15 employees and contractors. Most left because of the manager himself.
Increasing management training is definitely a lot cheaper than to constantly retrain employees.
If there are any sales managers (or aspiring sales managers) here's a great program from the University of San Francisco which is transitioning to sales management http://www.usanfranonline.com/online-courses/sales-management.aspx
Thank you for the feedback, Brooke! Hopefully people will benefit from the ability to see themselves from the outside when they read the article. “Soft skills” training is so important, yet underutilized!
I never like to hear about people leaving jobs because of other people, especially positions they truly enjoy and could excel in, but as we both have seen, it is all too common… Hopefully you are in a much better situation now!
I am curious if you were able to have a straight conversation with this manager before you left – or if others tried to share their feelings and come to a resolution on the e-mail issue (or other points of contention)?
Kristina - People did try to talk to this manager without success. It was done both individually and as a team effort. Sadly even the director was brought in but this still did not change things. It was definitely sad leaving and as I put in my farewell letter the hardest part about leaving a company is not the company but the people you've developed relationships with. Hopefully others in my situation have better luck with and finds ways to work out the issues.