OMG (Oh My Gourd)- Top 10 Staff Demotivators to Avoid for a Happier Workplace

OMG (Oh My Gourd)- Top 10 Staff Demotivators to Avoid for a Happier Workplace (1)-min

What does it mean to be demotivated? To be be a “Demotivated Employee” means that someone is less enthusiastic about their work than they used to be. The simple prefix “de” implies that they began excited, but something happened to demotivate them. In most cases we don’t have to look too far to find the cause. It is usually the manager or supervisor and the environment that they’ve created. This isn’t just my opinion. Gallup research shows that a mind-boggling 70 percent of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager. lt’s no wonder employees don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.

That may be a hard truth to take in, if this is the first time you have heard of such a concept, but it is a truth. This cheat sheet just scratches the surface on the topic, and is meant only to be an introduction to the concept that whatever undesirable symptom that you see in your staff is a direct result of YOU, the leader ….. what you are modeling, projecting or tolerating trickles down. 

For most directors or managers, it is too easy to BLAME “them”….. “my staff are so petty, my team is always calling out, my employees won’t do anything extra, there is so much drama and gossip at my center” ….. But the reality is that most of the time, these things are just a symptom of what the leaders are modeling from the top down.

There are exceptions, some employees just won’t cut it no matter what you do. But, your first thought when noticing a negative symptom in your work place, should be to look at yourself and see if there might be something you are doing to contribute to the problem. Take responsibility for the situation and ask yourself, “What am I doing to CAUSE the EFFECT that I am seeing in my staff?” When we can figure out what we need to change about ourselves, it can create an impact that results in a more positive environment for our team (AND the children.) Which also translates into:

    • More cooperation
    • Higher productivity
    • Fewer call outs
    • Increased engagement
    • Lower staff turnover
    • A better quality program for the children
    • Higher parent retention rates

It is important that your team feel like they are working in a positive environment and are surrounded by supportive people working toward a greater good. When they feel like they are contributing and making a difference they are MOTIVATED. Research from the University of California found that motivated employees (all industries) were 31 percent more productive, had 37 percent higher sales and were three times more creative than demotivated employees. They were also 87 percent less likely to quit, according to a Corporate Leadership Council study on over 50,000 people.

Creating a more positive work place culture in the early childhood industry is of utmost importance, as our turnover rates are extremely high at around 40%. The constant churn of employees is stressful on business owners and children alike. There are many reasons that contribute to this high rate such as low pay and high stress, but none are quite as glaring as poor leadership and a negative workplace culture.

A recent Glassdoor survey revealed that workers in the child care field rated their employers (on average) at a 2.8 on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 5 means it’s a really great place to work, and a score of 3 means it’s just “OK.” As a WHOLE INDUSTRY, child care workers said their work environments were LESS THAN OK. This is not good news, but it gets worse. Of those that rated their employers with any score, 47% said the reason they found their workplace to be so unpleasant and stressful was due to poor leadership and a negative workplace culture.

It a pervasive issue and it is more important than ever that we recognize this problem in our industry and actively make changes to improve it. One of the ways we can do that is to start with ourselves. We need to look in the mirror, look inward, and develop ourselves as leaders. We all must realize that the things that we do, even unintentionally, can contribute to a negative work place culture. Then we must work toward improvement.

In most cases, these things that we do that cause our team to become demotivated are completely unintentional. We don’t even realize that we are doing them. We have a big heart, and are trying our best, but we are juggling SO MANY responsibilities and dealing with SO MANY people that we just “do the best we can.” We put this article together to shed some light on some of these “Staff Demotivators” and to CHALLENGE you to develop your leadership skills by looking inward and making some changes. We hope you find this information helpful.

1. Lack of Vision

What this Looks Like:

People, especially millennials, like to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. When the leader isn’t effectively sharing the vision of the company, there is no clear mission for the team to work toward. Rather than being inspired to work to achieve a common goal, staff see lack of company progress, and have a hard time seeing any career advancement opportunities.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

Your team members, at least certain ones, seem to be just warm bodies in your classrooms. They are almost like directionless robots, merely coming in to do the bare minimum required to collect a paycheck. They lack motivation to be creative or try new things They feel stuck and uninspired. The quality of your program suffers in all areas (staff culture, quality of child care/education, customer service/parent interaction, safety).

2. Poor Communication

What this Looks Like

A child care center is a busy place. It is so easy to forget to pass along info and  messages. Poor communication happens anytime staff feel that they are not given the information they need to do their jobs well. This missing info could include messages from parents that are  conveyed, unclear policies, or lunch menus that are not posted. Usually, this lack of communication is not intentional, but happens due to a lack of organization and systems to make sure everyone is informed.

Symptoms You’ll Notice

When staff do not have the information they need, they feel frustrated by wasting time having to go here and there to track down the info. Trying to do their best, they guess at what is the right thing to do. They feel uninformed and unprofessional when they don’t have answers to questions that parents ask. And in the absence of constructive communication their minds go to the negative trying to fill in the blanks. Rumors thrive, confusion festers, assumptions are made, and morale drops.

3. Unclear Expectations

What this Looks Like:

This goes hand in hand with poor communication. When leaders have unclear or fuzzy performance standards, undefined roles, and job duty confusion people feel uncertain about their own roles and responsibilities within the company. When job descriptions or duties are not clearly spelled out or communicated, employees aren’t sure of what to do, where to look, or who to ask. One of the biggest contributors to this is poor, inconsistent training and onboarding practices.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

When employees are confused about what is expected they often fail to perform. In the absence of clear direction and expectations, they tend to stagnate. They will often blame poor performance on the fact that they “didn’t know,” and have negative and defensive reactions when corrected or asked to do things differently. This leads to a lack of pride in work and being afraid to make mistakes or take any initiative whatsoever.

4. Poor Onboarding Process

What this Looks Like:

Leaders have not taken the time to map out the training and orientation process. They just wing it every time, hoping they hit all the important points. This inconsistency in the orientation process is just about the only consistent thing when it comes to on boarding new staff. As a result, staff are poorly trained, unclear about their expectations, job descriptions, and responsibilities.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

At first, your new hire might feel overwhelmed, because they want to do a good job but aren’t fully sure how. They might feel ignored by admin, and judged by their peers for “not knowing” important stuff. More seasoned staff might have negative reactions to them when they don’t know something they should …. which can cause more feelings like confusion, irritation, frustration, and resentment on both sides. The gossiping and venting starts and turnover and/or client loss can be the end result.

5. Treating Everyone Equally

What this Looks Like:

This one might not be obvious at first glance, but when your best staff see others that are doing mediocre work getting the same treatment of strong performers, it can cause some pretty significant problems. Leaders who fail to hold staff accountable, demotivate people who usually do excellent work. It appears that following standards and expectations aren’t actually important to you, so why should they continue working so hard? Failing to recognize & reward individual accomplishments can also lower morale.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

Your best staff will not only resent their poorly performing co-workers, but they will resent you, as well, for tolerating such behaviors. Their irritation will show in their sour attitudes. Gossip will start about the poor performers AND about the management’s incompetence. Staff will pick sides and divide, creating an US vs THEM mindset. Turnover will happen. Bottom line, this is a complete morale buster ….. and because issues aren’t addressed, there is no opportunity for performance improvement.

6. General Announcements

What this Looks Like

Rather than having a talk with the one or two “offenders,” the leader makes a general announcement (or memo) to everybody. The leader feels like they’ve done their job successfully because they’ve addressed the issue at hand, but also got to avoid an  uncomfortable confrontation. However, this method, when truly intended only for a few individuals, is NOT the most effective way to communicate and is generally not received well by staff.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

The people it is intended for often think that the message is meant for someone else, meaning there is no ownership of actions and no improvement. Sometimes it is obvious that this announcement is meant for one person which can cause that staff member to feel embarrassed, and others to gossip. Seeing this happen to a coworker can cause staff to worry and be afraid to make mistakes themselves because this might happen to them.

7. Sugar Coating or Avoidance

What this Looks Like:

Child care directors are usually very caring people. It is natural to not want to hurt the feelings of others. However when in a position of leadership, you sometimes have to have hard conversations about job performance. Not being truthful about staff behavior issues by sugar coating the truth or completely avoiding anything remotely confrontational or  uncomfortable can actually do a disservice to your team members. They never have the chance to improve or grow because you sugar coat the truth to save their feelings (or yours).

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

When we aren’t honest with our team we will never have the ability to see constructive change in our work place. We rob the staff member of the opportunity to grow and improve. It will also breed resentment in other staff when issues aren’t properly addressed. It can cause employees to feel like they are stuck in a bad situation and lose pride in their work. Since performance doesn’t improve, the quality of care can also remain less than optimal. Sugar coating might feel easier to the leader in the moment, but it is not helpful.

8. Choosing the Wrong People

What this Looks Like:

When you hire the wrong person, promote the wrong person, or hang on to the wrong person for too long, your good employees know it. They are waiting for you to recognize this and take action to do something about it. This staff member may be wrong because of attitude, work ethic, philosophy or skill, but it is obvious to everyone that this person is NOT a good fit. It is up to the leaders to quickly realize it’s not working out, and to  protect the rest of the team.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

Your staff will usually give you a little leeway to realize that it isn’t working with this particular employee, and give you time to make a change. But if you don’t take action fairly quickly your team will be demotivated. They won’t want to come in because it’s hard to work with this person, and you’ll see more tardiness and call outs. There will be gossip and a divided team. This tension in the workplace will ultimately contribute to staff turnover.

9. Inconsistencies

What this Looks Like:

When you’ve gone through the trouble to create policies and procedures, you should also make sure that these things are consistently followed. Having different rules for  different people causes problems. Not upholding standards of conduct or licensing rules lowers your quality of care. Bending rules often (for staff and clients) can cause confusion and bad feelings because people just never know what to expect. It is important to be consistent with the way you conduct business and manage your employees.

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

Staff are confused why a policy is rigidly followed this week, but overlooked next week. Clients might expect you to bend the rules for them on a regular basis. Your reputation may suffer as staff and families talk about the wishy-washy policies/rules. You may lose clients or staff due to the negative word of mouth. Inconsistencies in following policies or how you’ll treat a situation may make staff less likely to follow your written policies and procedures, because they don’t really understand when they actually

10. Making Excuses

What this Looks Like:

Tolerating repeated offenses by making excuses for staff’s poor performance is another way of sugar coating a problem. You allow a bad situation to continue and nothing improves. You may also give excuses as to why you didn’t follow through on something or complete a project. Rather than calling out an issue and working on a plan to solve it, you put your energy into explaining all the reasons it happened or why it can’t be fixed. You stay stuck!

Symptoms You’ll Notice:

Staff might feel like you are playing favorites with the person you keep tolerating. This translates into gossip, division of team, and feelings of being stuck, which contributes to turnover. Who wants to stay at a place that tolerates and defends sub-par work? Staff lose confidence in their leaders when standards of excellence are not upheld. They are confused about expectations. Making excuses sends a message that goals are not important.

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