9 Surefire Ways To Destroy Employee Morale

Many bosses don't care about employee morale. Set an example and avoid these management mistakes.
September 04, 2017

There's more to being a boss than just telling people what to do. It's about building a rapport and fostering a real relationship with your employees, so that you trust each other and can get things done.

Unfortunately, many managers don't care about their employees' morale, and spur them on by any means necessary. They fail to realize that it all has an impact on how well your company runs, and can have a major impact on your productivity, ability to retain talent and your bottom line.

There's no one-size-fits-all method, since every company has a a different corporate culture and every manager has their own unique style. But there are things that should be avoided in most situations if you want employees not to hate coming to work every day.

Here are nine guaranteed ways to completely ruin employee morale. Many of them come down to two basic ideals: treat your employees with respect and dignity, and that's how they'll treat you back.

Not accepting responsibility for mistakes

The blame game can ruin a company's workplace. If a subordinate makes a mistake, the blame shouldn't fall solely on him or her—it's on the whole team. That includes the others working on the project, and the person in charge of them.

Frequently, the boss refuses to accept responsibility for their worker's mistakes and dumps all the blame on the single person, and that can ruin not only their morale, but make their colleagues timid and fearful.

Calling employees out in public

There's no reason to put people on the spot publicly. Don't try to teach people a lesson or make an example of them—they aren't children. Instead, pull them aside and deal with the situation in private. Public embarassmentcan only serve to make employees scornful and ruin the office environment.


Tell your employees the truth, always. It's okay to keep things from your employees if they're sensitive topics, but never lie to your employees about them or their nature.

This includes promises that you make to your workers. Honor the rewards that you've committed to (like a promotion or raise you promised), because once you start down that slippery slope, it's difficult to ever earn that trust back. Employees will never work to their full potential for someone that they don't trust.

Setting impossible goals

Goals exist to encourage people to perform, but when employees are consistently coming up short because the bar's set too high, their morale is going to plummet. They'll feel like they're underperforming, even though they probably aren't.

Threatening their jobs

Making someone fear for their livelihood only causes fear, anxiety and distrust. When you make people feel like they're instantly replacable, they have little incentive to perform. It's easy to crush someone's spirit if you treat them like a number, and not a unique individual with distinct abilities.

Giving vague or incomplete instructions

Clarity is important in the workplace. Some managers feel like they're entitled to give instructions that lack specific direction because they're busy, but their employees' time is equally as important as theirs.

It's frustrating not knowing exactly what you're asked to do, and then if they do it wrong and are reprimanded by their boss for it, that just makes things worse.


There are few ways to demoralize a worker faster than micromanaging their every move. Nobody wants someone looking over their shoulder, combing through everything they do and second guessing their work.

When you micromanage an employee, you're telling them that you don't trust their abilities. That sort of discouragement is enough on its own to make someone hate coming to work, even if they like everything else about the job.

Never offering any praise

People need some sort of reinforcement that they're doing a good job. If they go through their entire work life without any, it can take a toll on their spirit.

That's not to say you should constantly be showering your workers with compliments. Be able to identify when your workers go above-and-beyond the call of duty,

Holding workers back if they're doing well

It's frustrating for someone when they feel bottled up. If people have initiatives they want to propose, or ideas to make things better, at least let them have their say. Every once in a while, there will be good ideas out there that you can use, and employees would love to see their own ideas in action. Let them own the idea, and give credit where it's due.

A version of this article was originally published on December 28, 2011.

Image credit: Omar_Gunah