Three Things Managers Should Never Do – People Management

Managers attempting to create a productive and engaged workforce are unknowingly creating confused and disengaged staff. Often with the best intentions, managers’ strategies are back-firing when it comes to maintaining employee commitment, performance and satisfaction.

Three Things Managers Should Never Do

1. Provide too much autonomy

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Very few employees like to be disempowered by having the boss telling them exactly what to do and how to do it. Perhaps in response to this, some managers take a hands-off approach that they feel gives their staff reassurance that they are trusted. I’ve often heard managers say things like, “I set the boundaries for my staff, and then let them get on with their jobs”. The problem with this approach is that their leadership style becomes ‘transactional’. Transactional leadership is characterised by communication that is driven by staff behaviour – the employees receive praise when they perform well and corrective criticism when they fail to perform adequately. This results in performance by trial and error.

Recommendation: Employees need to understand your vision and expectations. Sharing stories about the business culture is a good way for your team to understand what is expected of them in the absence of detailed direction. There is a distinction between overwhelming your staff with instructions and details, and empowering them with a clear description of the outcomes that will be achieved when your goal has been met.

2. Buy their commitment

Cash bonuses have been used extensively in relation to employee retention schemes, where financial incentives are provided to employees who agree to remain with the organisation for a specified period of time. Cash bonuses can assist in retaining your personnel, however, retention of employees should not be confused with employee performance.

Employees who remain with an organisation because the cost of leaving is considered to be too high (eg. re-paying the bonus) are said to be in “continuous commitment”. Research has shown that continuous commitment is associated with decreases in employee performance and cooperation, and an increase in stress at work and at home.

Recommendation: A more effective way to engage staff for the long run is to promote the organisation as a great place to work – get to know your employees on a more personal level, surprise employees with a catered lunch once in a while, provide fitness classes, or arrange a regular Friday afternoon happy hour – during work hours.

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3. Set overly ambitious goals

You may be working off the principle: “Shoot for the stars and land on the moon”, setting targets well above the required level, yet this risks disappointment and demotivation even if the original goal is met. Say you have a goal in mind of $100,000 in sales, but you tell your team the target is $150,000; they will not be able to celebrate their success if they reach $120,000. They will still see this as falling short of their target, and providing praise at that point will only create confusion and undermine any future targets that are set.

Recommendation: Success breeds success! Start with a manageable target and call this your ‘C’ goal. Then create ‘B’ and ‘A’ stretch goals. Being able to achieve the first target will create stronger motivation to meet the next target. Be sure to reward the team (beyond their expectations) for reaching your A and B goals.

“Three Things Managers Should Never Do” was brought to you by Alison Skate

Alison Skate is a corporate psychologist and accredited professional coach who believes that supporting leaders is a key strategy to enhancing the results of entire teams. Starting her career in the Australian Army, Alison has since consulted to national and international leaders, government agencies, and medium to large business enterprise. Visit

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