Fear is a powerful motivator, but managers who regularly threaten job security and employees’ livelihood run the risk of paralyzing their team. Employees who are afraid to lose their job may bow under pressure, waste company time looking for jobs “just in case” or gossip with coworkers — all activities that kill morale and decrease productivity.
Instead, cultivate a culture centered on trust, respect and engagement. Such a work environment encourages growth, learning from one’s mistakes and effective communication. Engaged workers who aren’t afraid of being fired can relax and focus on doing their best work. Similarly, disengaged workers can destroy team morale from within.
2. Calling employees out in public
Managers should praise publicly and counsel privately. Criticizing a team member in front of his peers is embarrassing for him; it also has an awkward, demotivating effect on his coworkers, who may now be fearful to make a mistake.
If you need to counsel an employee, do so in a way that won’t attract attention or distract others. This is especially important in offices with glass-walled meeting rooms or open floor plans, where it’s easy for others to see and hear sensitive meetings.
When I worked in an open-plan office, I’d initiate all one-on-one “development” meetings with an instant message or a short email that explained why I wanted to speak with the team member. Then I’d approach the employee and say something like, “Hey, let’s go take a walk. Will you be free in 10 minutes?” We’d then head to a nearby park, where we could speak freely. Because the company had cultivated a culture of trust, feedback and engagement (see No. 1), employees learned to look forward to these “walks” as opportunities to improve.
3. Avoiding project ownership
Managers who hold the strings in every regard aren’t leaders — they’re tyrants. Employees who are mere pawns can quickly become disengaged; they have little incentive to go above and beyond in any particular task.
Employees who have ownership over a project are emotionally vested in its success. That small measure of recognition builds accountability. An employee who is the point person for a project may go above and beyond to coordinate his teammates, meet project deadlines and communicate their progress with you.
4. Ignoring top performers
What practices separate your peak performers from your average performers? Ineffective leaders micromanage top performers or ignore their prowess altogether, essentially getting in their way or demotivating them.
Good managers recognize and acknowledge high-performance workers. Give these team members responsibilities that best leverage their skills. Meet with these individuals and ask what tools they need to do their very best work. Try to understand their work processes and how they may differ from the rest of your team.
5. Running ineffective meetings
Managers love meetings because it enables them to catch up on projects and disseminate instructions to key team members all at once. Many employees hate meetings because they’re poorly managed, irrelevant to their work responsibilities or held at a time of day that isn’t conducive to a long attention span. This disconnect between managers’ needs to stay “in the loop” and employees’ distaste for meetings can add up to energy lulls and decreased productivity.
Try these tips to running effective meetings to alleviate productivity loss in your office.
In an office setting primed for productivity, every leader would intuitively know how to manage their teams to peak efficiency. By avoiding these management practices, managers will be five steps closer to that optimal environment.
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