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How Do Managers Create Low Morale In Their Employees?

Everyone knows that the sports team with the highest morale wins. In fact, every manager wants high morale in his/her group. So why do most managers create low morale in their employees?

But given the societal, educational and workplace related influences, it would be amazing if managers did not create low morale and severely damage employee motivation.

From birth, most of us are told what to do. We receive a rather overwhelming number of orders, directions and policies from those who believe we should follow their dictates; parents, teachers, churches, government and finally bosses in the workplace.

This is commonly referred to as the top-down command and control management model. Having been literally bombarded with this model, it is unsurprising that the vast majority of managers adopt it as their own.

But what of the people being managed with this model? Unfortunately for managers, no one likes to take orders and all consider it to be demeaning, degrading and disrespectful. This teaches/leads employees to disrespect customers, their work, each other and bosses.

In addition, employees also feel demeaned and degraded if no one listens carefully to their ideas and whatever else they have to say. Every human has a need to be able to put in their two cents and are turned off if not able to do so.

But the command and control model implies that employees should listen to the leaders and that leaders have no need to listen to employees. So managers spend most of their time trying to figure out their next order, goal or target and rarely if ever take the time to really listen to their people.

And there are more negative effects on morale and workforce motivation associated with the command and control model, specifically from not listening to employees and not dialoguing with them over workplace problems. Without continuous input for lower level personnel, managers are denied the only available firsthand view of problems from those living with them up close and personal every day.

Without these facts, orders and directives from managers rarely address the real problems and more often exacerbate them. This leads employees to distrust and disrespect management and causes further reductions of morale and workforce motivation.

And there's more. Failure to listen and dialog over perceived problems denies employees information which only the manager has and which is necessary to being able to understand the true cause of problems or the seriousness of them. Lacking this information, employee expectations and criticisms are quite often unrealistic, thus causing the manager to disrespect employees.

Thus, low workforce morale, poorly motivated employees and greatly reduced employee performance quite naturally result from using an authoritarian based command and control model.

Our educational system is of little help. It is excellent at teaching management of "things" like engineering, marketing, finances, supply chain, and quality, but it rarely teaches the soft skills, the whats, whys and how tos of managing people. in addition, the tools learned for managing "things" actually reinforce the authoritarian, "just do as I say", approach to managing people.

As a manager, I spent 12 years stuck in this model, stuck with much lower morale and performance than I believed was possible. Fortunately, life provided me with two revelations which allowed me to transform my methods and subsequently prove that a level of employee morale and performance far beyond my wildest dreams can be achieved.

To learn how I escaped the top-down command and control model read an interview of me.
http://www.extensor.co.uk/articles/int_simonton/interview_ben_simonton.html

Ben Simonton, author of "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed"
http://www.bensimonton.com

kklogic's picture

I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to do my best and will be hopeful that if my instincts are incorrect, I will not have offended you.

Are you here to discuss M&M's model of management - or are you here to push your book?

svgates's picture

Agreed. Please make an effort to know the community before presuming to impart wisdom.

US101's picture

Ben - If you have some practical steps to improve morale, by all means, please share because it's relevant to managers.

But don't please don't use this forum to sell your wares.

Check out the podcast on persuading http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/11/how-to-be-persuasive-in-a-presentat...
in particular, pesuading when you have a weak relationship, but strong expertise.

bensimo's picture

I was asked

"Are you here to discuss M&M's model of management - or are you here to push your book?"

Neither. I am unaware of what M&M's model of management is and if it is the only topic for discussion, I apologize for intruding.

I am not here to push my book. I am not here for money and I am willing to help people gratis to whatever extent they desire.

I am here only to impart knowledge because I know that there is a great need for it in most workplaces. I spent years managing people in order to learn mine. Once I learned, I was able to successfully turnaround four different management disasters including a nuclear-powered cruiser and a 1300 person unionized group in New York City.

So, am I intruding?

Best regards, Ben

tomw's picture

[quote]So, am I intruding? [/quote]

"Manager Tools" is a series of podcasts created by Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman, commonly referred to as "M&M". This is their forum/website. It's not explicitly intended to discuss their exact method of management, but anyone posting advice here is probably going to quote them enough that you should know who they are and what they are saying.

As Steven pointed out, as with any internet forum, it's good to understand the culture of a forum before you start posting anything. If you look around, you will see that most users start out by posting a question, answering a question, or linking an article they found interesting with comments or questions about it.

If you start out by posting a long quote from your book, a link to it and a link to an article about you, people are going to assume that you are trying to promote yourself. When you offer help "gratis", people will assume that you will eventually start trying to charge.

Part of good management is knowing how others will perceive your actions.

"Intruding" is not really the term I would use. Perhaps "unaware of the environment you are speaking in" is more accurate.

AManagerTool's picture

Ben,

Welcome to the Manager Tools boards.

Many of us consider these forums to be our primary source of leadership and management advice. We sincerely want you to contribute to our discussions and become part of the community.

The people posting here run the gamut from CEO's all the way down to first year college students preparing themselves to be outstanding managers. There are no experts on these boards and we are all here to learn from each other. I think Mike and Mark would even agree with that statement.

Your unique viewpoint and experience are needed here.

Can I give you some feedback?

Your first posts are like a first impression. When you post those first two posts on a board that has thousands of managers subscribing to it that are considered to be the best managers in the world using a less than humble voice, people post responses such as you have seen. Your message is lost because you turn people off to what you have to teach. You become less effective in your mission.

We appreciate you and want you to stay. What do you think you can do to make a better second impression?

Once again, welcome to our home.

garyslinger's picture

[quote="bensimo"]I am unaware of what M&M's model of management is and if it is the only topic for discussion, I apologize for intruding.

So, am I intruding?
[/quote]

By that measure - turn up, take no part, acknowledge no part of what has gone before, and post what you posted - yes.

Others may phrase it more delicately, but I took your post as pure spam.

jhack's picture

Ben,

Welcome to the forums. We do want to hear other voices, and it's not just about the "Manager-Tools" podcasts and their underlying methodology/philosophy.

It is about management. And as stated by the forum moderators, " our audience wanted a place where they could discuss the practice of management and learn from each other."

The keyword is 'practice.' As you review other threads, you'll find a very strong focus on the practical and the real. Situations where people need advice. Hard learned lessons. While the discussions are often grounded in theory, this is not a management theory community. It's about what to do.

Your post was out of step with the general tenor and content of the vast majority of the postings here. You wanted to share your ideas, and here was a forum for doing such.

Please take some time to review some recent threads, and as new threads emerge, you'll have an opportunity to contribute your ideas. You obviously think about management a lot (me, too!).

We look forward to your participation. It can be tough sometimes joining a conversation in the middle.

John

HMac's picture

Ben -
Welcome. If you read this string of posts, you'll experience what makes Manager-Tools so valuable to its members. We're all ready to jump in, provide advice, be thoughtful, be direct, etc.

If you want to be part of the community, it's up to you to participate as a member: bringing relevant insights and advice, and doing it within the framework (or at least acknowledging) the body of work that Mike and Mark are putting together at the core of Manager-Tools.

As others have said, we welcome new voices!

-Hugh

bensimo's picture

Thanks for the initiation. There seems to be a range of reactions and I thank you for providing them.

Some people are driven by perceptions, others by substance. It is a choice we all make. I was sad to note that no one commented on the substance of my post although US101 did make a constructive comment, to wit -

"Ben - If you have some practical steps to improve morale, by all means, please share because it's relevant to managers."

In my turnarounds, I was able to convert a demoralized workforce into one of very high performance with most literally loving to come to work. Morale went through the roof.

Though there are many tools involved, the most valuable are to stop using the top-down command approach to managing people (it being by its nature demeaning and disrespectful) and start regularly (at least weekly for all) listening to employees for the purpose of receiving and respectfully addressing their complaints, suggestions and questions. These complaints, suggestions and questions should be received and addressed at group meetings of no more than 40 people including their entire chain of command. They can also be received one-on-one, but it takes a group meeting to gain enough credibility to convince employees that you actually do care about them. with forty people the effect is about 200 times greater.

Morale will improve because employees will begin to think that management really cares about them. Morale will also improve as all employees start to show more care for their work, their customers, each other and their bosses in response to management's positive leadership of caring for them.

Morale will rise further if this effort becomes regular and every employee has the chance to put in their "two cents" when they want and how they want. If not, it will revert back to its original level.

If in answering employee complaints, suggestions and questions, the leader does not provide answers and solutions but attempts to get them from the group, attempts to cause them to use their own value standards to decide how much quality is OK, how much fairness is OK, how safe to be, etcetera, etcetera, those employees who are conformists more or less (about 95% are IMHO) will become more accustomed to being like your best people who are naturally self-directed self-starters. This practice and slow conversion will cause a greater increase in both performance and morale. Nothing like being proud of yourself for being a self-starter.

Hope this helps on the morale issue.

Best regards, Ben
http://www.bensimonton.com

AManagerTool's picture

Ben,

Can I suggest that you try to start another thread and this time start by asking a question? That should start a conversation. After that point, you can read what others have to say and inject your wisdom as you go along.

You might want to start out by telling us how you actually measure your people's morale and motivation to justify your manifold successes at improving it.

kklogic's picture

[quote="bensimo"]Thanks for the initiation. There seems to be a range of reactions and I thank you for providing them.

Some people are driven by perceptions, others by substance. It is a choice we all make. I was sad to note that no one commented on the substance of my post although US101 did make a constructive comment, to wit
[/quote]

Others are being more restrained and polite than I am about to be, but now I am offended.

I happen to moderate another forum of size equal to this one and am a marketer by profession.

To date:

- You have admitted that you found a bulletin board you knew nothing about. One has to question if book sales was your purpose in seeking it out to begin with.
-You clearly haven't lurked to learn about the community.
-Your first posts are self-serving.
-And now you make a passive-aggressive comment about perceptions versus substance.
-You clearly didn't read the very well-written explanation of why, on an internet community, the content of a post like yours won't even be viewed. Anyone who knows enough to write "IMHO" likely knows this already.
- You are offering to impart "wisdom" on us when we don't know how you are or what you do -- on a website developed by two gentleman that we know and trust that are already doing this for us.

As mentioned earlier, on any other board, your post would be viewed as spam and immediately deleted. Instead, our members are trying to give you corrective feedback so you can be a part of it. But I don't sense you have an interest in that. And sadly, you have blown an opportunity to integrate into the community and prove yourself to it - which would have resulted in many sales.

My sincere apologies to M&M if I'm out of line in making this post.

tomw's picture

[quote="bensimo"]Hope this helps on the morale issue.[/quote]

Did someone say they had a morale problem?

Based on your posts so far and your inability to take a hint, I am beginning to think the common ingredient in the morale-challenged offices you worked in was you.

Although, maybe that was your point: Managers such as yourself can create low morale.

If you want to offer advice to those asking for it, answering their questions can be most helpful. I hope that you continue to contribute in that manner, not by posting unsolicited articles.

bensimo's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]Ben,

You might want to start out by telling us how you actually measure your people's morale and motivation to justify your manifold successes at improving it.[/quote]

To my knowledge there is no measuring stick capable of measuring the full spectrum of morale. One can learn by experience as I have what the spectrum sounds like and looks like. Listening to what people say (including tone of voice and body language) and watching what they do is the only way I know to get a rough measure of morale.

On occasion, a person told me outright how they felt. After being the executive in charge of a 1300 person unionized group for about 1 1/2 years, a union steward entered my office. When I had joined the group, he was known as an activist and very much against management (for very good reason in my opinion). He said he did not know what I do and did not want to know what I do, but wanted me to continue doing whatever that was. He said that he had hated to come to work for about 15 years and now loved to come to work. He thanked me for that and left. I have had a lot of those rather explicit messages, but they all were important signposts along the road to change.

As for measuring motivation, I have never tried to do that and am not aware of a reason to do so. Motivations are internal and each person has their own. Those motivations can never be accurately known by another person in my opinion. I viewed my job as helping people to do and achieve what they wanted to do. Sometimes that entailed helping the person get a job in a different company. I never tried to measure their motivations.

As for justifying my successes, that is quite simple. I was hired to do so and was a volunteer so that was my justification for correcting a management disaster.

In the case of the nuclear-powered cruiser which I commanded, the Admiral who chose me said that the crew was wrecking the ship, in those exact words, and directed me to fix that. He also told me that I had better not start thinking I was some sort of god because I had just been promoted and had better just do my job. He added that he would make things very difficult for me if I did not fix it even though he was not my direct superior.

In the case of the 1300 person group, I was told by my boss that the group's customers hated them and wanted to get rid of the group. He gave me the choice of either fixing it or getting rid of it. Once I took over after a month of learning everything I could about it, I chose the former.

I hope that answers your request.

Best regards, Ben

bensimo's picture

[quote="TomW"][quote="bensimo"]Hope this helps on the morale issue.[/quote]

Did someone say they had a morale problem?[/quote]

No, but US101 wrote "Ben - If you have some practical steps to improve morale, by all means, please share because it's relevant to managers."

I was only responding to his request and quoted it before providing my comments on how to improve morale.

Best regards, Ben

AManagerTool's picture

Ben,

You can indeed measure morale through a proxy device such as a survey. Gallup employs thousands of people doing just that. There are books and articles written on how to do it all over the internet.

Results are either measured or they are not results. It's just that simple.

Sorry folks, I couldn't resist the urge to feed into it....Bad Tool! Bad! I used to have problems in Catholic School too....Nun's and Catechism classes were my downfall. :oops:

lazerus's picture

It's true. Everything can be measured. Morale is not a behavior. If I have a one-on-one with my people every week, I can uncover the reasons for their behaviors which appear as the more generic "low morale". People at work seem happiest when they have the support they need from management to make a contribution. Manager Tools supplies a LOT of actionable techniques for raising "morale" , starting with the management trinity.

cwcollin's picture

Piling on I guess here but even in your offerings of wisdom I don't really see any actionable behaviors to grab onto

Really puzzled by some of the stuff you are offering...but thanks anyway

[quote]To my knowledge there is no measuring stick capable of measuring the full spectrum of morale. One can learn by experience as I have what the spectrum sounds like and looks like.[/quote]

[quote]He said he did not know what I do and did not want to know what I do, but wanted me to continue doing whatever that was.[/quote]

[quote]As for justifying my successes, that is quite simple. I was hired to do so and was a volunteer so that was my justification for correcting a management disaster.[/quote]