27 Ways Wellness Businesses Demotivate & Undermine Their Employees

That pain in your big toe? You’re shooting yourself in the foot. Day 1, your wellness hires are excited and enthusiastic. Six months later, resentful and frustrated – already checking out. Why? Your daily interactions with employees are chipping away at their energy and morale.

The bottom line: you’re unintentionally undermining and demotivating perfectly capable employees.


Remember this article on non-cash rewards? Even those won’t do any good if you’re making these mistakes:

1. Obvious omissions

You’re publicly thanking several folks for their work on a big project. You mention the three people here in Lexington – but you miss the guy who works at your Knoxville location.

2. Threats to employees

No, not physical threats, but sentences that start with “You people better…”

The implicit suggestion is that folks aren’t giving their all. That’s highly offensive to responsible and capable employees.

3. Non-selective fussing

The folks in one department are coming in late, so you read the riot act to your entire management team and have HR send out a company-wide policy memo.

4. Riding roughshod

Your employee’s said again and again that she hates being assigned to technology evaluation teams. But you keep doing it because she’s got the technical skills and it’d be a hassle for you to develop someone else to do it.

5. Second-guessing

Your seasoned sales staff has consistently demonstrated good judgement in handling customer accounts. But you still question their decisions – only to routinely end the conversations by saying “OK, go ahead” when it becomes clear that, yet again, they’ve behaved rationally.

6. Running late

You are predictably late for all or nearly all of your meetings when you are the most senior person invited.

7. Ending meetings on time

You without fail end meetings on time – but ONLY when YOU have another appointment with someone who’s senior to YOU.

8. Cancelling one-on-ones

You often or even routinely cancel and reschedule regular one-on-one meetings with your individual team members.

9. Not responding to voice mails or emails

You rarely reply at all to voice mails and emails from your employees. If they can’t grab you live in the hallway or the restroom, they’re out of luck.

10. Dodging decisions

When employees need a decision, you consistently decide to delay making it and give them more questions to answer, items to research, vendors to consider, justifications for delaying a key meeting, and so on.  In your mind, you always have good reasons for these additional requirements even though they were not initially identified.

11. Cancelling and rescheduling a performance review

You repeatedly reschedule your employee’s annual performance review.

12. Cancelling and rescheduling a salary or compensation discussion

You repeatedly reschedule a planned salary or compensation discussion.

13. Trivial recognition for massive accomplishments

An employee works extreme overtime for four months and you give him a $25 gift card or a pair of movie tickets. It would be better to skip the tangible gift entirely and just shake his hand.

14. Black hole

Employees complete a major assignment that appeared to be very important. No visible results ever appear and nothing is ever heard about it again.

15. Only your time is important

You constantly run late and force everyone else to adjust to that schedule by “asking” employees to stick around and wait for you.  In your mind, you always have good reasons for your lateness.

16. Tolerating poor performers

You know you have a problem person. You’ve talked to them. The situation has not improved. Rather than terminating the person, you allow them to perform at a low level. You either assign work they should be doing to others, or simply take advantage of the fact that good people can’t stand to watch someone else do a lousy job and will pitch in without being asked.

17. Criticism

An employee puts in a strong effort on a project. You’re not happy with the results, so you vent – often in front of the project group – although the employee has done everything possible within the constraints that the company or external factors placed on his effort.

18. You don’t really do what you say you’ll do

Your employees can’t count on what you say.

19. Shooting the messenger

You give the bearer of bad news hell, and rail about all the things that got us to this point, instead of saying “Thank you, I really appreciate your telling me about this situation so we can figure out what the best next step is.”

20. Marking your territory

I’ve seen three levels of management ALL insist on reviewing a routine sales presentation by a top-performing employee.  Every one of them had to mark it up and coach on strategy – and I kid you not, every comment was trivial. A couple of these folks had never even held a sales job or given a sales presentation.

Reminded me of dogs marking their territory, and it highly irritated their valuable employee.

21. Assuming you know more

You assume that because you are a manager, you know more about your subordinates’ jobs than they do. For example, you give an experienced employee the highest possible performance rating. Her track record is sterling.

Yet you always pepper her with advice and suggestions on how to do her job. Hold your tongue and ask yourself: Is it REALLY likely that she doesn’t know this already? In fact, isn’t it quite possible that SHE knows more on this topic than YOU do?

22. Undermining supervisors

You routinely bypass your employee and communicate information or decisions directly to their subordinates.

23. Soliciting feedback

You ask for feedback – suggestion boxes, employee surveys, lunch meetings – but you never follow through or act on the recommendations and ideas.

24. Resource allocation

Employees badly need better resources. For example, an employee is struggling to get work done on a slow, underpowered five-year old PC when a new one would make a huge difference. You refuse to spend money on the PC but allow VPs to stay at expensive hotels.

25. Breaking your word

For example, you agree to a flexible work schedule. Then you routinely violate the agreement by “asking” the employee to make an exception.

26. Challenging employee judgement

You challenge otherwise trusted and capable employees with clearly skeptical “Doubting Thomas” questions like “Why are you working on THAT?”

They give a perfectly sensible answer – and privately, they resent furiously the strong suggestion that they are idiots with poor judgement. They wonder sarcastically why, if they’re such screwups, they’re trusted to do anything at all.

27. Helloooo? Anyone home?

Very closely related to #26: You slink off to your office when they respond by saying “Well, I’ve updated you on that project in my required written status report for the past three weeks.”