Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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When Leadership Demotivates Employees

(This is a part 2 of this series)

I was part of an organization that loved conducting employee surveys.  As an economist and leadership author, I love data that yields results.  However, surveys need to be properly conducted, or the intention can backfire.

The leaders dutifully distributed survey after survey about work conditions, corporate culture, and ways to improve the workplace. 

The problem was that the senior leadership didn’t share the information collected, nor what they planned to do with it. It was simply busy work for the sake of appearing to do something that looked like leadership, but clearly was not. 

As employees realized that they were spending time on surveys that didn’t matter, their attitudes shifted.  Employees felt that their time, their inputs, and their jobs didn’t matter.  Worse, it was rumored that the survey was actually intended to pinpoint unhappy employees to get rid of them.

These bosses are being deceitful and disingenuous. This is not leadership.  Employee surveys should have a clear rationale, and if they’re anonymous, an explanation of how names are kept confidential. There should also be a strategy on how to communicate the survey results to the employees, along with future plans for action. Otherwise, leaders risk losing employees’ trust. 

The numbers speak for themselves. In current research, only 24 percent of employees who took a survey with no follow-up considered themselves engaged.

Holding Leaders Accountable

One way to show that leaders care about being a good, authentic leader is to be accountable. If you make a mistake, communicate with employees about what happened, recognize the mistake’s effect on them, take responsibility for it and explain why it shouldn’t happen again.  If you are late on a project, resolve to better prioritize and make it right.  To prevent recurring problems, set up systems designed for accountability.  

Leadership is hard enough without making it worse by demotivating the employees you are trying to help. 



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