Five Ways that Poor Leadership Skills Can Ruin Team Morale

Doug Staneart  |  July 22, 2022
last updated

Bad Bosses Ruin Team Morale Poor leadership skills can ruin team morale. As a manager, you hold more power than you might think. Obviously, you can hire and fire your subordinates. You can also promote them… or not promote them. You may also have the ability to approve a raise. If not, you at least have the ability to conduct the annual review.

In essence, your leadership skills and moral compass have a direct impact on their career. Even if you treat everyone fairly, your impact on their lives is unmistakable. This is why having a great boss is the number one wish of most employees. They often rank this above more vacation time and a bigger paycheck.

However, some managers can inadvertently destroy the confidence of their employees. When this happens, it can permanently damage morale. Low morale then creates poor employee retention.

Even the best executives avoid committing these bad leadership behaviors.

Below Are Five Ways that Poor Leadership Skills Can Ruin Team Morale.

Are You Guilty of These Behaviors?

1. Bosses Don’t Invest in Employee Learning & Development

Not Investing in Employees Bosses should invest in their employee’s development. Their lack of leadership skills might be apparent, but they won’t recognize it without some push or guidance. Your lack of encouragement might be causing their lack of motivation to apply or seek out promotions.

Similarly, company leaders who question employee potential or push them beyond their abilities create negative results.

I remember my first part-time job in high school. A year after I started, an executive from the corporate office came in to visit with my boss. While waiting, he overheard me training a new guy. A few minutes later, he asked me if I had ever considered applying for the shift-leader position. I told him that I was only 16. He responded with, “What difference does that make?” I didn’t have a good answer.

He explained that the company had a training system that allowed each team member to be promoted. Then, he pointed to an old VHS player in the breakroom. It had recorded classes that any team member could watch. I had walked by that “system” for almost a year. My boss never explained what it was or how I could benefit from it. (Needless to say, I was a little hacked off that I had missed out on an easy raise in pay.)

Some managers don’t tell employees about professional development opportunities, because they don’t want to lose someone or train someone new. Don’t be that guy. The best way to build a company is to build up employees’ leadership abilities. On the opposite end, employees can come in overly confident and seek roles they aren’t ready for. Great leaders, alone, have the ability to temper those personas and encourage improvement. Or encourage the status quo by ignoring untapped potential.

2. Poor Leadership Skills Can Create Employee Insecurity.

Some managers mistakenly think by threatening their employees’ job security that they’ll work harder. But the bottom line is that this hurts the overall workplace and team morale.

By pushing employees, you create an anxious sense of insecurity. Eventually, employees will hit a breaking point. An entire team pushed and pushed to work hard for a sustained period of time isn’t efficient.

This is a flawed way of thinking and a sign of poor leadership skills. Doing this will just create low employee morale. It will make your employees feel betrayed, depressed, and upset. Eventually, they’ll start looking for jobs outside the company.

Your top performers will leave rather than work harder when there’s an atmosphere of instability in the workplace. Instead, their doubt about their place and value initiates low productivity and a high employee turnover.

When my wife and I met, she was a catering manager at a big hotel. The big boss put in a hiring freeze to increase bonuses. Unfortunately, the consequence was that she and the other department heads were overworked. They often just slept in one of the hotel rooms versus going home. At times they were working 20 hours a day.

Eventually, the stress overwhelmed her. One day, she just threw up her hands and left. The big boss ended up having to hire three new people to replace her.

3. Bosses Misplace Blame & Criticisms for Flops

Misplacing Blame & Criticism Things go wrong in the office all the time. A new campaign can flop. The media may fail to attend a press conference. Or a presentation can go horribly awry. Some bosses take immediate action by issuing blame and criticism. (They often do this feeling fear for their own job, and it’s one of the most common bad leadership traits.)

But if you have good leadership skills, you’ll know that you are responsible for your team’s actions. Ultimately, you are also responsible for what went wrong. Strong leadership within a company understands this. You have to support your staff members and sometimes take the brunt of complaints or criticism. A successful leader will act like a protective sibling. On the other hand, toxic leaders often throw people under the bus and pass off blame and problems.

Last week, I got a blistering email from a long-time customer. I was shocked. She ripped one of my best instructors to shreds for violating a guideline that her company had given to us. When I responded trying to understand what had happened, she tore into me as well. The emails were shocking to read. Of course, we bent over backward to try to correct the problem. The next morning, she sent over an apology. As it turned out, we had followed the process correctly. The problem ended up being a miscommunication between members of her own team. I remember thinking, “Wow, I am so glad I’m not on her team.”

So, be careful when you lay blame or criticize others. Quite often, you may have to eat crow later.

4. Sharing Employee Mistakes With Others

Sharing Others Mistakes What if an employee makes a mistake and disciplinary action is required? That matter should be handled privately. An employee’s poor performance should never be office gossip. An entire organization built on gossip devalues communication. Staff members become poor communicators afraid to speak up about problems or feelings about the work environment. I know. Gossip among friends can be fun or help blow off steam. However, in the workplace it is a toxic behavior that creates more negative consequences than it solves.

Calling out a staff member’s mistake, either to punish them, is never the answer. By singling out an employee, bosses can seriously damage employee morale and cause humiliation. In extreme cases you may also cause serious psychological and damage to their mental health. This toxic behavior creates a ripple effect leading to an isolated company culture.

For additional reading on this topic, you might take a look at “Guide to Improving Leadership Skills” You may also be interested in 5 Characteristics of Highly Effective Teams.

5. Too Much Direction Isn’t the Right Direction

Job satisfaction lowers under a toxic environment created by too much guidance. A true leader gives more trust to their employees to work hard and meet the overall goals of the company. An unpopular manager is one who does the opposite. From personal experience, as an adult under a micromanaging leader, I felt disengaged and less willing to pursue activities outside of my duties. Employee engagement will drop under too much direction. Great leaders know how to find the balance between too much and too little direction.

General George Patton once said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

This is great leadership skills in action. When you train your team members, give them guidance in bite-sized pieces. If you have a great relationship with your team, if they need help, they will come to you. If not, sometimes it is great leadership to just let them run. The best leaders help them set goals and then praise them when they achieve them!

What does it mean to be a Good Boss?

Being a good boss can mean different things to different people. Whether you’re a strict boss or a hands-off type of leader, you are responsible for the well-being of your team — and that includes employee morale. Remember, happy employees are productive employees.

author Doug Staneart
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Doug Staneart is president of The Leader's Institute ®. He is based in the Dallas, Texas Region. He is a specialist in corporate team building activities and custom presentation skills seminars.
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