A business isn’t a clockwork mechanism with interchangeable cogs called employees. A business is like a mini-society with its own values, culture, and expectations. Unfortunately, management actions in many businesses can cripple the motivation of employees. Unmotivated employees are generally disengaged employees. Disengaged employees already have one foot out the door and will never work at their full potential. So, what things will send employee motivation into a downward spiral?
The difference between active management and micromanagement isn’t always clear. The confident employee with 5 years of experience might read your active management as a benefit. The insecure new hire might read the same behavior as micromanagement.
That said, some behaviors signal micromanagement to anyone. For example, it’s bad if you chastise employees about meaningless details. Demanding constant reports on low-priority work that should get a rubber stamp will frustrate and demoralize employees. Insisting every decision gets run through you signals you think everyone is incompetent. It’s the kind of situation that makes people look for an escape hatch.
Employees understand that they won’t be privy to the reasoning behind every decision. A perpetual wall of silence about why things happen will cause people to stop investing in their job. They assume anything can happen to anyone without explanation. In that situation, why be motivated?
Good communication provides the right amount of information for the situation. A lateral transfer might only need a token, “They needed someone who could do X.” A major shift in policy might need a staff meeting complete with Q&A.
Limited Professional Development
Everyone wants to feel like they’re making professional progress. It’s terrible for motivation if a business offers no path to professional development. It leaves employees feeling stuck with no hope of change. Again, if there’s no room growth, employees have no incentive for motivation.
Even if a business can’t provide promotions, it can still provide professional development. The business can offer access to continuing education, skills training, conferences, or offer a mentorship program.
Businesses can kill motivation in many ways. Micromanaging, poor communication, and limited professional development are particularly insidious examples. It’s important to remember that employees are human beings. Deprive them of autonomy, information, and the chance for growth, they’ll check out psychologically. They’ll do just enough not to get fired while looking for something better.