Here’s How NOT to Motivate Your Employees

Any good retail business owner recognizes that happy employees are more successful at engaging customers, selling more products, and acting as brand ambassadors outside the workplace.

Marci Martin of Business News Daily backs this up by stating:

“A motivated sales staff is critical to the success of your company. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your organization — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.”

The first step in building an awesome retail workforce is to hire the right manager. Why?

According to an article on Forbes, “an employee’s relationship with his or her direct manager is the single most important factor influencing engagement.”

Good managers are proactive in addressing the needs of their employees, going out of their way to find new ways to motivate each member of the team. They are consistently aware of mindsets, attitudes, and engagement levels, and quickly transform challenges into rewarding opportunities.

Unfortunately, managers like these are few and far between.

5 Ways Managers Demotivate Employees

According to a 2017 Gallup report, only 21% of employees agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do a good job.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways managers are failing to motivate their employees:

1. They Don’t Invest in Their Employees

After companies take the time, money, and resources to hire employees, they often assume their work is done. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A study by Access Perks indicates that the reason at least 22% of surveyed employees want to leave their job is due to a lack of training or career development.

“By underinvesting in their employees, retailers are actually making their operations much more inefficient, and therefore much less profitable.”

Source: Time

Continued on-the-job development ensures that staff members are well-trained, as well as showing that the company cares about their growth and career options. This, in turn, increases the efficiency of business operations.

Harvard Business Review article points out that:

“…ighly successful retail chains—such as Quik­Trip convenience stores, Mercadona and Trader Joe’s supermarkets, and Costco wholesale clubs—not only invest heavily in store employees but also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors…” 

2. They Don’t Take a Personal Interest in their Employees

Managers who neglect to ask employees about members of their family, what they enjoy doing outside the office, and the parts of their job that they like or dislike the most, risk significant employee churn. In fact, according to Entrepreneur, more than 50% of people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. 

“Gone are the days when people expect leaders to sit behind a closed office door and dictate from on high,” says Entrepreneur. “In modern business, the best leaders and entrepreneurs get to know their employees on a personal level as well as professionally.”

Showing interest in employees as people—not gears and cogs in a machine—ensures that they feel valued. When employees know that their managers care about them personally, it helps the whole team achieve shared goals.

3. They Don’t Recognize Achievement

According to a 10-year study of more than 200,000 employees, 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason. Sadly, many senior decision-makers don’t feel that regular employee recognition at work has a big influence on staff retention.

For busy managers, it’s easy enough to underestimate the power of a simple pat on the back. But everyone likes to be recognized for the work they do and it’s the leader’s job to create an environment in which those they manage voluntarily give their best.

This will only happen when managers ensure that the recognition they offer their employees genuinely serves their needs—not their own purposes.

“Employees who claim their managers regularly acknowledge them for good work are 5 times more likely to stay.”


4. They Let Their Position Go to Their Head

Power-tripping managers are less likely to listen to their employees, honor their commitments, and treat others with respect. Their main concern is their own success and the people under them pick up on that pretty quick.

According to statistics found on ACCESS PERKS, 44% of workers have left a job because of a bad boss. Unfortunately, as Entrepreneur points out, managers tend to blame turnover problems on everything but the obvious: people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

The sad thing is, 75% of the causes of employee turnover can be avoided. With a new perspective and a little extra effort on the manager’s part (through listening, getting to know employees, being approachable, and taking responsibility for their own actions), employee morale can be transformed and company productivity increased.

5. They Don’t Value Work-life Balance

It’s tempting for managers to fall into the trap of working their best people hard. But this sends mixed messages, making employees feel like they’re being punished for great performance. Furthermore, it can make them resent their manager for not recognizing—or caring—about their lives outside of work.

And there’s another important aspect these managers are overlooking: overworking employees is counterproductive. Stanford research shows that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours.

When employees feel like they’re spending the majority of their days working and neglecting the other important components of their lives, the result is stress and unhappiness.

“An employee who doesn’t make time for self-care eventually damages their output and productivity.” 

Source: The Balance.

Managers need to talk to their employees about their objectives and what they can do to help. Flexibility in schedules, for example, demonstrates sensitivity to their familial and lifestyle needs and can have a huge effect on employee performance and morale.


Managers must learn to work with a variety of people who have different personalities and motivations. To fully engage their employees, these leaders must recognize the individuality of each worker while maintaining an environment where everyone is working toward the same end goal.

To help employees stay motivated, managers should frequently ask themselves the following 3 questions:

1. How am I helping my employees succeed?

2. Am I providing them with the tools they need to thrive?

3. How am I showing them that I truly care about their progress?

With the right attitude and a desire to address these questions honestly and enthusiastically, managers can positively influence the success of their employees as they work together to sustain and grow their business.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.