CXO

​4 ways leaders destroy team morale

Want to keep your team productive and motivated? Brush up on the interpersonal skills mentioned below.

Project managers know that an enormous amount of physical and emotional energy is required to keep teams motivated and moving toward goals. Despite this, some project leaders or managers can't grasp the impact of their actions and words when it comes to individual and team interactions. However, actions and words can make a long-lasting and devastating impact on morale and team performance.

SEE: Leadership spotlight: How to make meetings worthwhile (Tech Pro Research)

Here are four ways that project leaders jeopardize team morale.

1. Disrespecting team members

Let's face it: We've all done it, and we've all received it. The trouble is, when you are in a leadership position, talking at team members instead of with them or demanding anything simply because of your leadership position will become a sore point and may cause long-term damage.

People want to be treated with respect and not talked at or made to feel that they are of a lesser significance simply because of their job title. Project leaders and managers play a pivotal role and have a significant amount of influence, authority, and responsibility to ensure that their team members receive enough encouragement and motivation to perform.

Team members level of performance depends on how much they feel valued and respected and, in turn, how much they value and respect their leader. Unfortunately, some project leaders either don't understand this basic concept, or they get so focused on the goals that they damage a potentially positive and respectful relationship with their team members. Instead, they create an uphill battle to get work done to the highest standards possible.

As the old adage goes, "You catch more bees with honey than vinegar," and this is especially true for team members. There will be times when a firm stance is required but use this only when necessary and not as a regular occurrence. Leaders disrespecting team members only results in team members disrespecting their leader.

SEE: Quick glossary: Project management (Tech Pro Research)

2. Disregarding good ideas or taking false credit

A great idea is a great idea regardless of who came up with it. This isn't always an easily accepted concept for some leaders. Far too often leaders disregard great ideas primarily because of their own insecurities. This happens at all levels of organizations from people in junior roles to middle management, right through to senior executives.

Great ideas can get buried, or are taken away by leaders who add their own thoughts to someone else's idea and brand it as their own. This happens far more than most would like to admit, leaving team members frustrated, hurt, and angry.

It may seem like no big deal to someone in a leadership role, but it won't be long before people notice. Eventually, that leader will develop a negative reputation. As a project leader, it is only fair to give credit where it is due, even if you put your final stamp on an idea. Your team members are more likely to trust you and give each task their best if you listen to your team, implement, and give them credit for their ideas.

SEE: 10 ways to communicate more effectively with customers and co-workers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

3. Lacking rapport

We all want to discuss non-related work items. Some project leaders believe that taking 15 minutes out of a busy schedule for a quick chat in the kitchen with a team member about non-work activities is unproductive. They are wrong. Building rapport and building trust with each team member are essential to building a productive and strong team. In "Why You Should Build Rapport with Everyone You Manage," experts at Lighthouse offer these reasons why building rapport is key to success:

  • Increased engagement
  • Higher-degree of motivation
  • Increased receptiveness to feedback
  • Increased loyalty
  • Cost-effective
  • Just good manners
  • Work becomes more enjoyable

4. Being a know-it-all

Similar to disregarding good ideas from others, being a know-it-all also destroys team morale. As a leader and project manager, you clearly possess the right skill sets, experience, training, and certification for the role you were hired to do. It isn't necessary to portray yourself as knowing everything. Accept that you can learn from others if you want to grow, improve, and most of all, garner respect from your team and co-workers.

No one wants to work with a know-it-all. It is demoralizing for team members, and consequently, they may choose to keep their ideas to themselves. Your team is more likely to see you as human if you simply say, "I'm not sure, I'll check into it," or "I'm not sure, does anyone here have any ideas?" This creates a more inclusive and open environment whereby team members feel part of a team instead of seeing you as a team of "I."

Morale plays a monumental role in keeping teams motivated and productive. Disrespecting team members, disregarding good ideas or taking false credit, not building rapport, or being a know-it-all can destroy morale. Your role as a project leader is to lead, and you can only lead successfully if you understand your role and act in ways that maintain high team morale.

Also see

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Image: diego_cervo, Getty Images/iStockphoto

About Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...

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