Five most common ways to alienate your staff

Posted 23 Sep 2015 by John Hackston - Head of R&D at OPP
thumbs down for managers

The employment market seems to be improving, which is good news for jobseekers but not necessarily for employers; having more jobs available means that there are more opportunities for workers to leave. All the more important, then, that managers don’t give their people that extra incentive to start looking elsewhere. Here are five of the most common ways in which managers can (and unfortunately do) alienate their staff:

  1. Avoid communicating. There are still managers who follow the ‘mushroom management’ approach (keep your employees in the dark and pour excrement on them), but even those who do try to communicate don’t always do it well. Employees are human beings who want to be kept informed of what’s going on, in a way that makes sense to them. Recognising not only your own communication style but also the needs of your staff can make communication much more effective.
  2. Manage by fear. There is a stereotype of the forceful, charismatic leader who is feared but respected. Unfortunately such managers generally do more harm than good. When employees are afraid of being attacked, verbally or otherwise, they are less likely to suggest new ideas and are tempted to hide any issues or problems from their manager until it is too late. The best employees are likely to rapidly go elsewhere.
  3. Only listen to people who say what you want to hear, or who say things in a way that immediately makes sense to you. People will quickly become alienated and leave if they feel they are not being listened to, and some of your most valuable employees may have views or an approach that is different to yours. That’s one of the things that makes them valuable; history is littered with the corpses of organisations who indulged in too much groupthink. Recognising and taking advantage of the diversity within a team can really pay dividends.
  4. Be vague about what you expect. Even those employees who value autonomy will want clear overall targets, and to know what the basic ground rules of their job are. However, they may not appreciate being told in great detail exactly how to reach these goals. Understanding your employee’s personality, and the level of detail they want from you, is an important factor in keeping your staff engaged, and one where tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can add a great deal of value.
  5. Work your employees into the ground. Even machines need to be rested occasionally if you don’t want them to break down. People aren’t machines, and we shouldn’t be surprised when they start making mistakes, become demotivated, or leave the organisation when we continually make unreasonable demands on them. As managers, this requires us to have the emotional intelligence to see how our own behaviour affects our staff. For example, a habit of sending emails late at night may imply that we expect our employees to be working at this hour as well – even if we didn’t intend this.

There is good evidence that effective talent management can help with staff retention. In an improving job market, now is the time for us to take a long hard look at how to engage and motivate our employees.

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