It’s safe to say that most leaders and professionals are familiar with the most common ways to motivate employees. Rewards, recognition, bonuses, etc. are the most common on the list. However, it seems that there’s a lack of awareness of certain practices or habits that do the opposite and actually demotivate employees. This article will help leaders become more mindful of how certain habits can contradict their positive efforts to motivate their staff. Here are 7 passive habits that demotivate employees.

1.       Editing/Changing Your Staff’s Work: If your staff is not aware that they’re completing tasks incorrectly or inefficiently, how will they know to correct it? It is critical for employees to know what areas need improvement (and the impact of the errors) so they can have the opportunity to develop them. When managers/supervisors edit the work of their staff, it can create hostility, defensiveness and hinders professional development.

                PRO Tip: If task errors are noticed, first identify if it’s truly an error (an incorrect way to complete a task/assignment that is outlined in a workflow process, policy, etc.); or if the employee’s method for completing the task is simply different from your preference. Please keep in mind that your staff follows a workflow process to complete their work. If their practices and means to complete the assignments aren’t negatively affecting the process reporting or end result, it shouldn’t be classified as an “error”. If it truly does negatively affect the end result, communicate it with the employee. More importantly, ensure that the correct method is indeed a part of the process and documented.

2.       Lack of Follow-up or Concern:

Not following up or checking in with your staff can make them feel unimportant or that their feedback isn’t valued. Likewise, it hinders visibility to possible performance issues or ideas which should be a high priority for managers.

                PRO Tip: Schedule regular follow-up/check-in sessions with your staff individually. These sessions don’t have to be formal or lengthy, they just need to occur. Also be mindful of the approach when meeting with each employee. This shouldn’t come off as an official performance evaluation or a reprimanding session. Instead, simply ask questions of concern (i.e. “How are things going with…”, “What are your thoughts on…”, etc.) and more importantly, Listen to their feedback. Take their insight and feedback into consideration, don’t lose sight of it, and be sure to follow-up on with them on what was discussed.

3.       Lack of Trust: If you hire and train someone to do a job, trust them to do it. Not doing so implies that their contribution isn’t good enough or that their skills aren’t as valuable as yours. It’s important for leaders to cultivate an environment of trust with their staff. Support their decisions and the opportunity for them to make judgment calls on their job.

                PRO Tip: If you notice that your staff’s decision-making skills aren’t as precise as they could be, use this as a coaching or development opportunity. Provide guidance and resources that may help them use more sound judgment and consideration when making decisions. After all, you may not always be available to make decisions for them. Therefore, trusting that your staff has the resources and skill-set to make certain decisions in your absence ultimately helps you, the team and the organization.

4.       Lack of Autonomy or “Selective Autonomy”: Autonomy shouldn’t be a game. In other words; a leader shouldn’t give autonomy and take it away at their convenience or without clear justification. Employees are more inclined to work better with a sense of independence as opposed to being micro-managed or babysat.

                PRO Tip: Don’t look at autonomy as a means for no structure or correction for your staff. Understand that your staff should know what the structure of the organization is and that they are expected to uphold that standard. Autonomy shows them that they are being trusted to perform their jobs and utilize their skills as a trusted professional.

Micro-managing will demotivate employees

5.       Passive Micro-managing: We know that managers are responsible for managing the processes and workflow of their staff. However, it shouldn’t entail sly and underhanded tactics to monitor them. A few of the most common characteristics of micro-managing are: hovering over employees, dictating their every move, timing their lunch breaks (or even bathroom breaks in some extreme cases), constantly correcting them, etc. But what about the passive characteristics that occur under the radar such as having others watch every move your staff makes to report back to you? Completing tasks for your staff so it fits your preference? Changing their work without their knowledge? Speaking for them or undermining their work, email responses or ideas to others? These are also ways to micro-manage but in a passive manner. In addition, these actions may also imply that their contributions or efforts are inferior to yours.

                PRO Tip: If your employees aren’t breaking processes or behaving in a manner that negatively affects the organization or others, please trust them to do the jobs you’ve hired them to do. If not, take the time to speak with them regarding the areas of concern and give them the opportunity to correct it. (Also refer to the previously mentioned PRO Tip for Lack of Autonomy, #4).

6.       Not Encouraging Creative Thinking or Creative Problem Solving: Creative thinking and problem-solving skills are essential for professionals to utilize on the job. However, if employees aren’t welcomed to apply these skills, the effectiveness and progress of the team/project can suffer. Lack of creativity may also equate to lack of innovation.

               PRO Tip: Creativity is necessary to create or maintain a competitive edge. Utilize the creativity of one of your most valued assets – your employees – to help drive innovation in your organization. Simply asking for their ideas or insight on a particular matter is a start.

7.       Unwilling to Delegate: Leaders and managers can’t do it all and they are supposed to.

As a leader, it isn’t productive to spend your time doing tasks that you’ve hired an employee to do. It doesn’t just overwhelm you and prevent you from being an engaged leader, but it also sends a message to the employee that they aren’t trusted to do their job. In addition, being unwilling to delegate may also appear as being unwilling to release control.

                PRO Tip: Take the time to intentionally practice delegating. Start with smaller tasks and continue to larger tasks. If your main concern is the quality, detail or timeliness of the tasks, be sure to clearly communicate those expectations with your staff. Also be sure to follow-up with your staff (in a reasonable time-frame) to discuss the status of the tasks as well. This will help to keep your staff engaged, while also allowing you to know the status along the way.