Spot Ways to Grow Profits

Demotivation Starts with Disrespect

demotivationWorkplace motivation is based on achievement, trust, and then appreciation. Good managers build this kind of workplace, but we are only as good as our last interaction. Every manager slips now and then, and the result is demotivation. This article considers the slips that matter most, and the recovery techniques that minimize the damage.

The boss controls rewards and quality of work life, so employees are very aware and curious about the boss. While you may be focused on appraising them, they are always appraising you. They are looking for trust and honesty, as well as job knowledge and relationship skills. The quickest way to prevent motivation, to suck it right out of a competent team, is to under-value their contributions, obstacles they must overcome, their abilities, and their intelligence. Under-value means disrespect, and the result is demotivation.

Disrespect Leads to Demotivation

How do they spot this lack of respect?

  • They see arrogance when a boss refuses to listen and acknowledge what he (or she) doesn’t know. It’s better if he respects the hard-earned knowledge of his people, and admits he does not yet have that “tribal knowledge.”
  • They see dishonesty when a boss denies making an error or that he (or she) made that offensive comment. If she lies about that, what else does she lie about? It’s better if the boss admits mistakes, since we all make them.

demotivation I quit

  • They feel undervalued when a boss does not apologize for making errors that create rework. Expecting people to “own up” to their own behaviors is a two-way street. If the boss expects his (or her) people to be responsible and accountable, he or she must model that behavior.
  • They also feel undervalued when they see a boss being “too busy” to be interested in his or her people: their challenges; their solutions; where they need help. Your calendar reveals what you value. Do you make time to talk to your people? If you claim to value their work, and then treat them like furniture, they see you as distant, arrogant, and most of all dishonest.

To de-motivate someone, all it takes is to promise but not deliver, or fail to behave the way you want them to behave. Unfortunately, one demotivation experience can undermine years of positive motivation.

Sustaining Motivation

Are there some basic behaviors that can help prevent demotivation? Certainly! It’s not a trendy useless list of the top ten! The basic behavior is this: respect the worth of the people at work.

Is that too simple? “Is that all there is?” Well, there’s a lot in this idea. If you respect my worth, then:

  • You assume I come to work each day planning to do a good job; you don’t need to “police” me when I have a record of competence. Guidelines, standards, and references are sufficient.
  • You praise me publicly when I do well; you protect my image and self-esteem by correcting and coaching me in private.
  • You find opportunities to enable me to achieve.
  • You find ways to show your trust in my abilities and judgment.

demotivation respect-give-it-to-get-it

  • You admit when you are wrong. You respect me enough to know I’m smart enough to know it already, but I want to see if you realize you’re wrong.
  • You say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake or fall short of the ideal we both aspire to. It shows you respect me enough to value my esteem, so you apologize when you don’t measure up.
  • You ask for my help when you don’t have all the information you need. You listen when I give it, and dialogue with me to see how it solves or does not solve the problem. You’re willing to work with me – my contributions are worth that.
  • When I ask you and you don’t know, you say so, rather than making up an answer you may have to revise later. Then you find out and get back to me. I’m worth that follow-up effort.

A boss who respects the people at work trusts them to do their jobs well and be honest in their relationships at work. But there’s the other part – he or she trusts them enough to be honest in front of them. We all want the authority person to show humility: to admit when they are wrong or don’t know, to ask for help, to say I’m sorry. But that behavior is too risky for the boss unless the employees can be trusted to receive it in a positive and respectful way. Respect begets respect. Disrespect causes demotivation.

So what’s the first step in managing? Get to know your people, and help them get to know you.

  • Respect them enough to learn their abilities so you can help them succeed when they are asked for the necessary level of performance.
  • Respect them enough to learn the behaviors they value, so you can deliver those behaviors yourself.
  • Let them know your way of working and the behaviors you value, so they know what you expect of them and what to expect of you.
  • Then do what you said: model the right behavior – “walk the talk.”

Once you trust each other, then you can work together to make growth happen.




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About the Author

About the Author: “Profit Spotter” Tom Gray helps business owners spot and capture opportunities to grow profits, and guides those considering a sale. He is a management consultant certified as a Turnaround Professional (CTP), Business Development Advisor, and SCORE Mentor. Reach Tom at 630-267-7193 or See For Tom’s two books and ten booklets, see .


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