How Bosses Turn Off Top Performers

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Recently I picked up a new coaching client and he left his previous employer because his newly promoted boss went from being collegial and consultative to being demanding and autocratic. The company lost a great executive and now has to find or promote a replacement and deal with that individual’s learning curve.

What’s interesting is that most managers don’t even know that they are ticking off the best performers.

Of course not every disenchanted employee decides to leave the organization. Sometimes they stay and just stop trying so hard. Their will broken and their motivation low.

Here are some of the top reasons employees get turned off and either give up caring for the organization or leave in search of something better:

1. Not being treated with respect

Probably the number one reason that a good employee gets turned off is that his or her manager talks down to them, is demeaning, or yells. Often this is the result of the manager being insecure, under stress or promoted beyond his or her capability. Managers need to realize that there is likely very little difference between their own capability and the people who work for them. Remember to treat people with respect at all times. Managers are expected to be in control of their emotions and actions. Slip ups can really turn off employees.

2. Making promises that aren’t kept and not backing up or defending his or her team

Good employees will report being lied to as a significant demotivator. Most managers don’t set out to lie – usually they are actually trying to keep people happy by telling them what they want to hear. Even making an innocent promise like, “I’ll get back to you,” or, “Leave it with me and I will look into it,” can turn into a lie if the manager does not follow through. If a manager does not defend the team when its warranted, they appear like a push over. Managers should say things they intend to follow through on and defend the team in front of other managers.

3. Letting people get stale – lack of challenge and encouragement

Good employees expect to have opportunities to grow and develop and the manager who lets them stagnate for too long risks having the employee’s eyes wander for a more exciting opportunity. Look at each of your employees and determine what they need in order to reach the next level of performance, or what new task or project you can give them to keep them excited. Employees get disappointed when the manager provides no real feedback until the performance review. Tell employees what they are doing well and thank them for their contribution on a regular basis.

4. Ignoring and avoiding the need to address poor performance

Managers still have a tendency to heap more work on top performers and less work on poor performers. Initially a good employee may appreciate being given more work and responsibility only to become resentful when they see their own workload increase and their colleagues getting away with doing less. This is especially a demotivator when both top and bottom performers are being paid the same. Perhaps especially in a unionized environment, managers can gain greater respect and lift overall performance by addressing unacceptable performance and behaviour.

How to avoid being a victim of demotivational factors and take ownership of your situation

Employees who work for a manager who exhibits the negative qualities listed above can take ownership of making things better. If you feel stagnant in your career, take the initiative and ask for a special project to work on. Managers are just as open to positive reinforcement as employees, so let your boss know when he or she does something positive that you appreciate. In the case of a manager who forgets to follow-up be bold enough to ask again. When you feel that you are a better performer than others, suggest some training that could benefit the group and if you think your performance deserves a reward, present your case to your manager on why you deserve a raise.

Recognizing that this is happening in your organization or work team is a good first step. We can provide the leadership skills needed to create a positive, performance-based culture.