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Why Employees Develop Low Morale & Are Managers To Blame?

By bsnsimo ·
I am presently helping several managers with low morale problems. This issue is so common that I have decided to try to gain wider understanding of it. So here goes.

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?

In truth, 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. In addition, they also feel demeaned and degraded if no one listens carefully to their ideas and whatever else they have to say.

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 and rarely if ever take the time to listen to their people.

But 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 these, managers are denied a 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. 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 does exist.

I now help managers to become effective, mostly by phone, some being paying clients and some not paying except for travel expenses. My website is

Thanks for reading,

Ben Simonton
Author, "Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed"

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The real trick with 'managing' people

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Why Employees Develop Low ...

is finding the best way to manage them, some are more comfortable with the directorial style. They want their directions with i's dotted and t's crossed.
Personally that style drives me mad, set goals, I'll score them, it's what I do. In fact I've never had a manager who could do my job better than I can.

Recognise and reward ability. Recognise the rewards that work, as well.

To this end we should all help our managers manage us, if they are doing it wrong tell them. ( I do )

Management have to learn there is no set way of managing, that a mistakes are to be corrected not denied, and that they can make them.

Strangely that's what they expect of those they manage.

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Thanks, But ---

by bsnsimo In reply to The real trick with 'mana ...

Thanks for responding, Tony.

But, fortunately, there is a way of managing that works for everyone. This way allows everyone to develop a strong sense of ownership of their work. This way results in a gain of over 300% productivity as compared to that of poorly motivated employees.

In addition, the script involved is easy to learn and easy to execute. I proved its effectiveness in four successful turnarounds including a nuclear-powered cruiser and a 1300 person unionized group in New York City. Over 85% of my subordinate managers were able to pick it up and become exceptional managers of people.

I admit that this script is not in use in many places, but the great companies, as related in "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, used many if not most of its parts.

Best regards, Ben

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That's a very small audience

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Thanks, But ---

I spent a lot of time on the shop floor in heavy industry. I've seen team working put in place, I've seen it work for some but not others. I've seen it crippled by management.

I'm just naturally suspicious of magic wands that fire silver bullets.

My hair is still thinning despite the ointment, the good looking females still aren't throwing themselves at my feet despite the aftershave and my feet still smell , despite the new 'let your feet breathe' technology.

What about the other 15%, did they sack or demote them?

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They was Me

by bsnsimo In reply to That's a very small audie ...

Sorry to respond so late. I missed this one somehow.

I was the one in charge. Out of the 1300 I started with, less than 20 were fired over the first four years. After that, I don't remeber. About a fifth of those fired were in management.

The 15% I refer to were those who never took charge of their own lives and work. They remained followers and could not be converted to non-followers. But they were certainly more than adequate workers, just not so highly productive, creative and innovative.

Best regards, Ben

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Someone has to follow or

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to They was Me

none of the rest of us could lead!

Best team I ever worked on, there were five of us at team leader level. The one who knew the way, lead the way. One of the five of usually had a vague idea of where to go.

No pep talk required, common sense and mutual respect.

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Sorry to have confused you -

by bsnsimo In reply to Someone has to follow or

You are right in what you said. All being leaders is the best of all worlds.

I use the term follower to mean a person who is attempting to conform to what she "thinks" is expected of her. Because of that, followers expend much of their brainpower attempting to discern what is expected of them and are always blaming others for what happens. Followers discern the value standards in use in the workplace and do their work in accordance with them. Thus, a follower can he dishonest because of believing that the bosses are dishonest and accepting that standard as their guide to doing their work.

On the other hand, a non-follower is one who does what she thinks is the right thing to do based on her own value standards and makes no attempt to conform. Thus, the non-follower can expend 100% of brainpower on the work since there is no need to detect what is going on in order to learn to what to conform.

Non-followers spend no time complaining or blaming others for what transpires in comparison it followers. Thus, non-followers are very highly productive as compared to followers since all creativity, innovation and productivity come from the brain.

About 95% of all people are followers, to a greater or lesser extent. If managers want to achieve extremely high performance, ~ 300%+ productivity gains, they must convert followers into non-followers.

In my last position as exec of a 1300 person unionized group, I was able to convert more than 80%. The beauty of this is that once converted to being their own person and tasting that independence and power, no one will ever return to being a follower.

Hope this explains.

Best regards, Ben

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Interesting, not thought of it that way myself

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Someone has to follow or

Personally I'd judge a follower struggling to discover how to follow as a failure to lead. Usually find in that situation that the person isn't a leader but a pointer.

Leading is done from the front, so follow is simply "after him" (or her).

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This is a dupe, unable to delete it

by bsnsimo In reply to The real trick with 'mana ...
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unfortunately, you

by Jaqui In reply to The real trick with 'mana ...

are right, I have someone who isn't happy unless I give himdetailed orders with timelines, he can't function without them.

I much prefer a flat management style, where each person on the "team" is in charge of the area they are best at.
This works great with most people, they know their ideas are being listened to and implemented, they are getting the responsability of leadership, when it's best for the team. This also helps the entire team to keep moral and team spirit high, they know that they are a valued member of the team.

I also tend to keep teams together as much as possible,since they will develop a work style that suits them best, keeping their productivity as high as possible, without adding stresses that would reduce it, such as having to learn a whole new team's weaknesses and strengths.

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Well, it's not too often you see anyone in

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to unfortunately, you

our job who requires a set of instructions every time. A good manager can make use of them though, they are sort of like an extra pair of hands.

It's when they get promoted through simple seniority, or to get them out of the way, people get annoyed.

I've seen both of those happen as well, there's nothing like being managed by a total nipplehead to make you feel valued.

The thing that annoys me most is when people confuse leadership and management, as though it's automatic that if you are one you must be the other. I'm apparently a reasonable leader, don't know whether I would be a good manager though.

You can be both, you can be neither, but any organisation needs both skills in place to be successful.

One thing IT really needs to do is to get rid of the idea that management is the only way to be more successful. The number of times you see a good tech turned into a bad manager just to get an extra few k on the salary is hurting everybody.

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