3 common management mistakes that destroy employee morale

60029252_MEmployee morale can have a huge impact on the success of a company. However, many workplace leaders assume they’re doing an excellent job as long as nobody complains. The absence of articulated concerns does not mean your team doesn’t have any issues with your management style, and as their boss, it’s your job to ensure you maintain an open channel for honest and constructive communication all the time.

If you’re wondering what negative impacts you might be having on your employees’ morale, consider these 3 common management mistakes and develop strategies for overcoming them:

Discouraging Constructive Criticism

A lot of workplace leaders struggle with accepting unfavorable – but constructive – feedback from their subordinates. After all, you’ve likely been in this industry longer and/or worked for this company much longer than they have – why should you listen to someone with less experience and workplace wisdom compared to you?

Answer: because they may have valuable insight that you’d miss out on if they don’t speak up. If you want to truly develop an innovative workplace culture, then you need to follow through when you promise your employees that they can offer input when they have ideas or suggestions. All too often, bosses verbally encourage this, while their reactions to criticism suggest they’re not so open to feedback like they say they are. Make sure your words align with your actions and be willing to accept constructive criticism from those working closely with you.

Micromanaging Every Move They Make

It’s hard to feel motivated to perform your job when you know more than half of your tasks will be intensely scrutinized and criticized by your boss later on. Micromanaging bosses tend to correlate with higher employee turnover rates because most people don’t want someone constantly checking up on them and making sure they’re doing their jobs correctly.

Micromanaging your employees can make them feel like you think they’re incompetent (even if this isn’t what you truly think), and most adults don’t want to feel like they’re children with overbearing parents watching their every move in the workplace. Many employees value at least an average level of independence to complete their assignments (within reason, of course), so do yourself and your employees a favor by learning to let go and trust them until/unless they prove themselves incapable of completing assignments on time and/or correctly.

Prioritizing Efficiency Above All Else

If your only value is efficiency, then hopefully your employees are all machines and robots because human beings aren’t built for maximum efficiency, all the time. Sometimes, life just gets in the way, whether that’s a mental illness, physical sickness, issues with family at home, death of a loved one, financial struggles, or all of the above.

To avoid damaging your employees’ morale, it’s important to remember: they’re only human! As obvious as this might sound, managers oftentimes forget that every person has their limits, and working long hours every workday can seriously take a toll on employees’ productivity and well-being. Rather than striving for efficiency above all else, take time and effort to display more compassion and understanding towards your employees. Just like you, they’re not perfect – but they’ll be much more willing to give you their best efforts if they feel like you genuinely care about how they’re doing.

5 common issues with leading a remote team and how to overcome them

32259023 - stressed businessman talking on many phones at onceIf you manage telecommuting employees, your role as a team leader is vastly different from a manager working with others in a physical workspace. The usual goals of meeting deadlines, exceeding clients’ expectations, and maintaining cohesiveness among the team are still the same but how you manage these tasks is incredibly different.

To avoid some of the most common problems experienced by leaders who manage remote teams, it’s important to be aware of these issues and prepare to confront them before they arise or at least before they pass the point of no return:

Unclear and Infrequent Communication

Are some of your employees or freelancers working in different timezones? Different countries? If so, clear communication is paramount to avoiding missed deadlines and confusion for team members just starting their workday while their colleagues are off to bed.

To prevent communication issues from cropping up, establish a clear protocol for phone, video conference, email and chat communications. Open yourself up to feedback from your employees in case something just isn’t working and consider setting up an easily modifiable meetings calendar, if you haven’t already.

Disorganized Operations

Beyond communication problems, issues related to disorganization seem particularly common among remotely managed teams because you can’t always ask someone a question right away. Sometimes, you’ll have to wait several hours for a response or deal with other concerns like poor online connectivity from a crucial member of the team.

To avoid going off the rails when it comes to productive organizational strategies, it’s important to schedule regular check-ins with your team (perhaps 1-2 times per week or monthly). This will ensure the team is never forgetting a task, rushing through assignments, or slipping up on important QA procedures.

Demanding 24/7 Connectivity

To prevent communication problems and stay as organized as possible, some managers go to the other extreme of the spectrum by demanding their teams stay connected to their phones and/or emails on a near-24/7 basis. This simply isn’t feasible or fair, even if this strategy could resolve problems related to delayed responses from team members working from different time zones.

Alternatively, you should create deadlines based on days instead of specific times and ask your teams to check their email inboxes when they start their workday and just before they finish up at the end of the day to make sure there aren’t any fires to extinguish before they go offline for the evening.

Micromanaging Everyone and Refusing to Delegate

Perhaps you don’t demand constant connectivity from your remote employees, but you still struggle with micromanaging everything they do because you’re not physically there to make sure they’re doing their jobs 100% to your standards. Micromanaging may seem like a great way to hustle employees to boost their productivity rates, but this usually backfires by driving down their satisfaction with their jobs, which leads to higher turnover rates.

Avoid micromanaging your remote team members by increasing the number of tasks you’re willing to delegate to them and waiting for results to come in before checking in on them. If the end results are inadequate, then have a discussion with that employee to figure out ways they can improve their performance instead of preemptively assuming they’ll fail to meet your standards and criticizing them every step of the way.

Employee Disengagement and Dissatisfaction

It’s hard to feel close and connected to your colleagues when you don’t see their faces or hear their voices on a regular basis. To overcome issues related to interpersonal ambivalence among your remote team, create opportunities for them to bond from afar. This might include fun end-of-week emails with inspirational quotes, recaps of notable achievements from the past week, and words of encouragement. You could also start recognizing your most outstanding employees/freelancers on a weekly/monthly basis and include a personal bio in your email so others can get to know more about their coworkers.

Do you have an employee who is always late?

Handsome businessman checking his wrist-watch isolated on white backgroundDo you have an employee who never seems to show up to work, meetings or other company events on time? Regardless of the frequency and severity of the tardiness, chronic lateness should be managed effectively to avoid upsetting other members of the team who make an effort to consistently arrive early or on time.

Start by discussing the issue with the employee privately. If this behavior has been going on for a while, then there might be something in your employee’s personal life that you aren’t aware of. Even if it turns out the employee just struggles with waking up early, at least you’ll have a better understanding and didn’t publicly shame them in front of their colleagues for their lack of punctuality.

Work with the employee to develop an equitable solution — such as staying later in the day at the office to compensate for arriving later. Ultimately, you may have to be firm with meetings and company events and require the employee to show up on time just like everyone else. Leadership is a lot about being equitable. Employees want to feel as it you are treating them equitably and fairly and not letting one or two employees have special treatment.

Three ways to improve your leadership communication skills

57531690_MBeing a workplace leader doesn’t guarantee that you’re an excellent communicator, but if you’re a great communicator, then you’re likely a solid leader. Communication is one of the most important skills any leader must possess, but all too often, we spend little time developing and enhancing this vital soft skill because it doesn’t offer immediate, tangible value.

However, communication plays a role in nearly every aspect of your job —from negotiating with clients to delegating tasks to your team, there’s probably not a single day that goes by in which you’re not actively communicating with other people. Even if you never took a class on communicating however, there are a few ways you can still brush up on your communication skills in a leadership role:

Listen to Others

One of the most important aspects of leadership-oriented communication doesn’t involve speaking at all: it’s listening to others’ ideas and feedback, even if you disagree with them. The best leaders are good at active listening, which means genuinely engaging with what another person is saying, demonstrating interest and concern for them, posing thoughtful questions, and waiting for them to finish before injecting your input into the discussion.

It’s the ability to engage with employees (without interrupting them) that separates the average leaders from the truly great leaders. Just because you’re in a position of superiority doesn’t always mean your ideas are the best, so take the time to listen to your employees to see what new ideas and strategies they might come up with.

Be Specific and Clear

There’s nothing worse for an employee struggling to complete a task than to have too little guidance from their manager. If they don’t know exactly what objective they’re striving towards and how to fulfill that objective, then chances are they’ll be pretty inefficient in the process and might even produce flawed results. To avoid this, it’s your job as a workplace leader to clearly specify your expectations and respond promptly whenever your employee seeks additional guidance. “Just do it” might work for Nike, but it isn’t a good leadership motto.

Avoid Indefinite Uncertainty

Similar to the issue of lacking clarity, shrugging off your employees’ questions or concerns can lead to serious problems down the line. Phrases like “it doesn’t matter,” “I’m not sure,” “that’s not my job,” and even “maybe” should be eliminated from your leadership vocabulary so you can emphasize consistently clear communication above all else.

Instead of saying “I’m not sure,” briefly explain how you’ll try to resolve the issue. Instead of saying, “it doesn’t matter,” explain what the most important goals of a project or task are and leave the rest up to your employee’s discretion, so long as those key objectives are fulfilled.

Three approaches to mitigating conflicts in the workplace

51090664 - boss shouting at female employee sitting at desk in officeConflict is an inevitable part of life, but what should you do when conflict occurs between two or more of your employees? There are many different strategies you might consider, but here are three approaches that research tells us are among the most effective way to resolve conflicts that may arise in the workplace:

Helping Everybody Cool Off

As a leader in the workplace, your role in conflicts between coworkers is similar to that of a referee. You don’t take one person or group’s side when you first notice a conflict arising; instead, your job is to step in and direct your employees to go cool off on their own instead of taking the argument to a whole new level of frustration and anger.

When you notice sparks of conflict among your team, take action before it festers into an all-out shouting match. While it’s important to eventually address all parties’ concerns on the matter, the first step should always be returning your employees’ to a rational, cool state of mind before engaging with each other on the issue of contention.

Mediating Squabbles Face-to-Face

Once your employees have cooled down and are ready to discuss the issue in a reasonable tone, then your role transitions from referee to mediator. Even though we’re all adults, many of us are still terrible with addressing and dealing with interpersonal or work-related conflicts in objective ways.

This is where you come in: bringing the conflicting parties together for a rational discussion (no raised voices, passive-aggressiveness or personal attacks allowed under your watch!). Face-to-face communication is the best avenue for resolving conflicts in the workplace because misunderstandings and greater frustration are more likely to occur over electronic means of communication.

Implementing New Conflict Resolution Measures

Once you resolve the issue, your final step is preventing similar issues from coming up in the future. Workplace conflicts are damaging for employee morale, so it’s crucial that you develop new strategies for conflict resolution based on your current experiences. This might involve scheduling more frequent check-in meetings with your employees, setting higher standards for professional conduct in your office, privately addressing an ongoing issue with one or multiple employees, contacting your HR department, etc.

Conflict shouldn’t be viewed as 100% negative because productive outcomes are achievable with conflicting ideas, opinions and personalities. However, conflict that borders on irrationality and negatively impacts your workplace climate should be addressed immediately and effectively to prevent more serious interpersonal problems from developing under your leadership.

3 ways to develop positive communication in the workplace

29170065_MHow would you rate your workplace climate? Warm and engaging or icy and cutthroat? If you’re concerned about the state of your office and your employees’ satisfaction with their jobs, then implementing more positive communication strategies could be your ticket to creating a much more comfortable and dedicated team of employees. Here are 3 ways you can accomplish this:

Recognize the Achievements of Others

Do you have any “Employee of the Month” awards in your office? Do you ever email or speak with an employee simply to tell them what an awesome job they’re doing? If not, then you should consider creating new opportunities for outstanding employees to be recognized for their efforts. They’ll never directly tell you that they want recognition, but humans are psychologically driven to desire recognition and the approval of others, so this is an excellent first step toward establishing more positive channels of communication in your workplace.

Open Yourself to Constructive Criticism

One of the biggest obstacles to greater positive communication between employees and employers is the lack of genuine opportunities for criticism of the boss. In other words, a manager who is quick to lash out against anyone who dares to critique something they say or do probably won’t inspire their employees to be honest if they perceive that you’ll interpret their messages the wrong way.

As an alternative, explicitly remind your employees that they can be open and honest with you, even when the matter involves something you are doing. You may be their superior, but that doesn’t make you 100% infallible, either. Keep this in mind and your employees will feel more empowered by a form of leadership that willingly acknowledges the capacity to make mistakes.

Aim for Consensus, Not Control

As a manager, one of your central tasks is ensuring that your subordinates are performing to the highest possible standards. However, a control-oriented approach to management can put a real damper on your employees’ enthusiasm to come to work and get the job done. In fact, micromanagement is one of the top complaints among employees, which can lead to disastrous consequences like high employee turnover rates and low office morale.

Rather than trying to control everything your team does, generate more feelings of consensus by giving them more active roles in the decision-making process. If they think that every decision is solely based on your own opinions, then they’ll be less likely to contribute potentially revolutionary ideas in team meetings because feeling ignored can be extremely demotivating for anyone!

Employee Benefits: How to Keep Up and Stand Out

Traditional employee benefits have long been the cornerstone of benefit packages. While traditional employee benefits will remain a staple, their power to “wow” prospective employees is becoming overshadowed by more outside the box benefits.  As you strive to  keep up and stand out in the employment market, the impression of your benefits package will be mostly defined by the unique benefits you offer.

When considering how to invest in employee benefits in a way that helps you attract and retain great people, it’s important to start by considering what your target employees truly value. For example, Millennial workers are more open to paying high-deductible health plans and likely to appreciate the value of Health Savings Accounts. On the other hand, they are not likely to put emphasis on long term disability.

At various stages of life, people appreciate things differently. In my experience, the prevailing soft benefit among people is flexibility. It comes in many forms depending on organizational structure and culture.  The knowledge that an employer will extend whatever flexibility it can to help employees balance life situations with work is an important foundation.  Families with young children are seeking more flexibility in order to balance the demands of childcare. Likewise, other families face concerns over elder care which may come with the same or greater demands. Studies have also found that 35% of millennials would take a pay cut in order to work remotely.

In my company, we start our annual business planning by asking employees to list their top 10 goals for the year.  We’ve even extended that conversation into the interview process when it makes sense. I remind people that we are working to live, so it makes sense to start with life goals when creating the goals and plans of the business.

Consider your employees or prospective employees situations. How can you add value to their lives?  I see more companies offering employee benefits including unlimited time off, hiatus, remote working opportunities, and various wellness programs including financial wellness like student loan repayment and mortgage programs.  No one company is the same so it’s important to know your people and what is important to them and then customize a benefits package that serves them best.

I’d love to hear about your most outside the box employee benefit! Join the conversation or email me at

The 3 best strategies for motivating your employees, according to psychological research

53954832 - busy business people working.The psychological concept of self-determination theory has been widely studied and practiced in academics and science, but it also has several useful strategies to offer leaders in the workplace. In a nutshell, self-determination theory refers to the three fundamental psychological needs that humans need fulfilled to be motivated to perform.

Since motivation should be a concern for any employer or manager, here are the 3 best strategies for improving your employees’ motivation and determination to perform their duties as efficiently as possible:

Let Their Competence Shine

One of the first components of self-determination theory is that of competence, or feeling passionate and qualified to perform a given task. Competence involves nurturing your employees’ intrinsic motivation, which refers to a psychological drive grounded in a person’s genuine enjoyment of something, as opposed to feeling forced to do something by external factors (e.g., a micromanaging boss, fluctuating deadlines, overbearing colleagues, commissions, etc.).

To help your team feel more competent in their roles in the workplace, be sure to praise them on occasion (instead of never-ending demands), acknowledge moments when they bring up good ideas, and encourage them to use their critical and creative thinking skills when developing new solutions to problems faced by the company or your customers.

Relate to Them

The second psychological component of self-determination theory is relatedness, or feelings of affiliation between an employee and their employer. Relatedness comes from the human connection between a supervisor and their subordinate, where they feel as though you genuinely care about their needs and goals in the workplace.

To establish greater relatedness between yourself and your employees, focus on being more empathetic when mistakes happen (zero tolerance for small errors will likely lead to higher turnover rates), socialize more with your team outside of working hours to foster a tight-knit professional family, and thank them when they help out, even if that’s an expected part of their job (people like to feel appreciated!).

Give Them Greater Autonomy

The final component of self-determination theory involves autonomy, or the feeling of independence and control over one’s own assignments and tasks. Bosses who micromanage everything are likely to drive employees away from the company, create a stressful workplace climate, and decrease their employees’ willingness to try potentially more efficient solutions in fear of deviating from the standard way of doing things.

Alternatively, you could help your employees feel more autonomous by encouraging them to use their own judgment to make smaller, less consequential decisions without always referring to you and check in less frequently with employees who consistently perform well without much external pressure.

Altogether, the 3 fundamental psychological needs – competence, relatedness, autonomy – are crucial for workplace leaders to develop for both themselves and their teams, so don’t ignore the potential benefits of enacting the principles of self-determination theory in your own office.

Balancing the needs of parents and employees without children

47107742 - woman working from home with baby on lapIt’s not easy trying to accommodate two vastly different groups of people, but when it comes to working parents and child-free employees, you might find their concerns and desires more similar than you might expect. While child-free employees sometimes feel cheated by a system that seems to accommodate parents’ concerns (e.g., leaving work early to pick up children from school), it is possible to address both groups of employees without hindering your team’s productivity or your workplace’s family-friendliness. Here are some useful strategies for managing both working parents and childless employees:

Equalize the Flexibility Factor

This is important for working parents and child-free employees alike. For working parents, flexibility is crucial because life happens. Sometimes, kids get sick or injured, schools have emergencies, and a screaming toddler who doesn’t want to get dressed for preschool one day prevents even the most patient, dedicated parents from getting to work the minute they’re supposed to be there. Child care is also expensive, and many child care facilities have rules about dropping off kids too early or picking up kids too late (some centers charge a fee for parents who arrive late!), so harping on employees for infrequent incidents or leaving on time instead of staying late to complete a project isn’t a wise move for any manager who wants to maintain employees’ job satisfaction and team morale.

On the other hand, employees without children might have outside concerns that warrant similar levels of flexibility, such as care for an aging parent, emergency trips to the veterinarian for a old or sick pet, unexpected housing repairs, car break-downs and other issues. To improve relations between working parents and child-free parents on your team, it’s important to offer the same level of flexibility to all employees when it comes to mishaps, unexpected incidents, and general desires to spend more time with their loved ones.

Develop Family-Friendly Policies for Your Workplace

To make your workplace more family-friendly, consider possible telecommuting options (even if it’s just working from home one morning or one day each week). As a manager, this might be more of an HR issue or company policy matter beyond your control, but you can still advocate for change on behalf of your employees. You can also try planning more family-friendly events so that employees who are parents can participate with everyone else.

Should you encourage employee advocacy in your workplace?

74833052_MDid you know that people rate employees as more credible than the CEOs of most companies? Many Americans trust what employees say about a company than what company’s leadership says. What does this mean to you?

It’s your job as a leader to strive for and promote the company’s goals to your team and other people beyond the company. That’s why you’ll want your team to be employee advocates, favorably representing the company online and beyond. Employee advocacy is an increasingly popular business strategy that helps companies boost their marketing efforts and increase revenue through largely word-of-mouth efforts. If you’re wondering whether employee advocacy is something you should look into, here are some ways managers can encourage their employees to become vocal company advocates:

Encourage social sharing. The first step to increasing employee advocacy is to encourage your own team to let others know on social networks what’s great about the company they work for. That could include sharing photos of philanthropic efforts or re-tweeting or sharing a company post. Just be sure to establish a thorough list of rules for employees interacting with others on social media to ensure that employees reinforce the company’s brand.

Brainstorm content ideas with the whole team

Why should marketing be limited to a single department within the company? Even if you’re not involved in the marketing side of the company, you can still work together to offer the marketing team greater insight for the blogs and social posts they produce. For instance, you could schedule a monthly meeting with the marketing team to give your own team the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for new pathways to driving up your web traffic, converting more web visitors into paying customers, and building relationships with existing clients. Rather than simply hoping the marketing department is fully aware of all the wonderful things going on in your company (and what the company is doing for the community and its current clientele), your team might have awesome ideas that the marketing pros might not have considered yet. Giving your team a voice in the process will inherently motivate them to become active employee advocates because they’ll feel more personally and professionally invested in the company’s success in all facets of the business.