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Are you sabotaging staff morale in your business?

Mandy Gilbert
Industry Insights

We’ve all had one. Bad bosses come in many shapes and forms. From the quick temper to the irritatingly indecisive, it doesn’t take much to become an ill-equipped leader. Yet often it’s not until employees quit — or a bad manager is replaced — that leaders start to reflect on how their own actions may be the root of the problem.

When company owner are putting in long hours at the office, managing a team, building the business, and answering to shareholders, self reflection is probably far down their to-do list. But what seems like harmless actions might actually be sabotaging office morale and building a divide between the boss and the staff.

If you are guilty of at least one of these common offences, it may be time to reassess your leadership skills:

You need to be copied on every email

Micromanaging is exhausting on all fronts. Furthermore, how can your employees feel empowered if they have someone constantly looking over their shoulder? Not only does the ‘cc’ lead to disgruntled staff, but it also affects your productivity. So ask yourself: do you really need to be scrolling through 85 emails to check your employee’s email etiquette? Save yourself the time and headache.

If you develop in-depth training and support from the start, then you should have no problem trusting your staff. Give them the freedom to correspond with clients, customers, and colleagues independently. If you need to know dates, times, or specifics, a simple phone call, or better yet face-to-face interaction, will do wonders for your workplace.

You never ask for feedback

The boss should never be exempt from the same quarterly reviews as their team. If you want to be respected among your staff, ask for their opinions. Be prepared that you’re not always going to like what you hear, but it’s necessary for you to become a better leader. Open up the lines of communication to every staff member, from entry-level employees right up to the chief financial officer, and ask for honest feedback.

One of the best ways to do this is to facilitate one-on-one’s every month. Ask questions, listen, take notes, and above all, don’t get defensive. And because some employees may not feel comfortable telling you their concerns directly, circulate an anonymous survey or form where they can voice their issues. A one-way conversation is not communication, so stop telling, and start asking.

By the way, how many employees do you know by name? It may seem unrealistic if you’re the head of a large corporation with hundreds of staff, but making an effort and putting aside time each week to introduce yourself will gain respect from your team. Richard Branson is famous for this; with a notepad in hand, he sparks a conversation with all levels of employees on an individual basis and asks how they think the company can improve.

Your staff work late every night. 

2015 study by Staples Canada found that 43 per cent of Canadians are overworked and burnt out. This erodes productivity and leads those people to seek new job opportunities. Every manager values a hard worker, but if your staff is constantly staying well into the evening, it’s a sign something needs to change.

Ask employees why they’re staying late every night. From there you’ll have greater insight into the operations of the company, where you need to hire, or which employees aren’t pulling their weight. Work-life balance has a huge impact on employee retention, and can lead to a more a productive team and profitable company.

 Your employees are the heart and soul of the business, and as a leader, it’s your job to ensure they’re motivated, supported, and cultivated. Leaders are in charge of finding and developing new leaders, which is why giving your staff the freedom to make decisions and grow within the organization will only lead to better office morale and in turn, make you a better leader.

- Mandy Gilbert, written for the Financial Post