If you don’t want to be a dick(tator) of a manager, you absolutely need to motivate your people. But if you’re a leader who’s unwittingly or even wittingly messing up your company’s culture*, then this list might describe you uncannily well:

  • You still have motivational posters in your office from the late 90s with images of teams rowing together in brightly colored spandex, quoting the very best of Michael Jordan. It’s not that the posters are that bad (although the cool people at despair.com have made a killing making fun of them) – it’s the fact that you recite the quotes in a condescending tone to people from time to time instead of providing real-time motivation.
  • After sending a blanket, “Thank you guys for a job well done,” email to the new product launch team, you wondered why Dani wasn’t all that appreciative of your appreciation. She led the team and her name was one of the 32 on the email, so wasn’t that enough? Do you really need to call her out specifically to thank her for launching the product in record time?
  • You “reschedule” a majority of your one-on-one meetings with your team (which is really code for “cancel and then never have”) because you’re so busy.
  • You approved the budget for the candy counter in the lunch room (with licorice! And Starburst!) and then wonder why people just aren’t working harder than before, especially with all of those extra calories for energy. You definitely kibosh the ping pong table because these perks just don’t pay off.
  • You promote Maddy to the AVP role, which is so motivating for her and makes you such a motivating manager. Yay! But you have a pesky problem because Juan applied for the job too and didn’t get it. Instead of talking with him about why and what it would take for him to get ready for a bigger role in the future, you say, “Sorry man, not in the cards this time,” slap him on the back, and go get a piece of licorice.
  • Maddy’s promotion also meant that you restructured the market research team, so Alec no longer reports directly to you. You ask Maddy to tell Alec this, and it doesn’t occur to you that Alec now feels like he fell off the org chart.
  • Instead of letting a committee decide what to do for the holiday party – if a party was even what the people wanted in the first place – you recreated last year’s boxed lunch in the conference room, because no one complained about it (to your face), and gave everyone an Applebee’s restaurant gift card (perhaps the biggest crime of all).
  • In your yearly reviews with your team members (which you still need to have with Rachel and Aaron, because you were “traveling” or something), you forgot to talk to each person about their career paths in the organization, to map out what they were interested in doing in the next few years, and how maybe you could help them get there.
  • At the Town Hall meeting, you went up on the stage to collect the Awesome Award from the CEO for the success of that new product launch, when maybe you should have encouraged Maddy to go up and get it. Why was she glowering from the back of the room?
  • While at the Senior Management Meeting last week, the head of HR was asking about high-potential candidates to send to a special development course. You failed to mention some of the bright stars on your team because you didn’t talk to them about where they want to go in the org so you didn’t think they’d be interested in something like this. (Also, you were trying to get that software update going on your phone.)
  • You forgot to pass on a positive feedback form from a customer about one of your team members, and when you remembered, you assumed it was too late. It felt so good to clean up your inbox by deleting that and so many other emails though.
  • You assume that everyone’s #1 motivation is money, and since your salary budget won’t allow for raises for the whole team, you throw in the towel on the whole motivation thing and blame your lackluster results on the lack of budget.
  • You got confused when Kathryn told you she was resigning to work at a company where she would be challenged to take on more work and to stretch and grow because you thought she had it easy this past year. Didn’t she want it easy? Who knew she wanted to be challenged?
  • You gave your overloaded assistant the responsibility to “look after” the new intern and wondered why several of your team members were disappointed that they didn’t have a chance to gain management experience.
  • You slashed and burned the sales incentive conference this year because the candy counter wasn’t working.
  • Don Draper from Mad Men is your hero for this exchange with Peggy. Draper: It’s your job! I give you money, you give me ideas. / Peggy: But you never say thank you! / Draper: That’s what the money is for!

Recognize yourself in a few of these points? Maybe even just one point that made you shift in your seat or adjust your collar? I know, it sucks to be busted. Maybe this nudge might motivate you to motivate better, to do pretty much the opposite of everything you read above. Even the subtle changes you make can be profound.
*We know that no leader really starts out to be horrible, but horrible has a very slippery slope that starts with a mild misstep and then careens, if the misstep isn’t addressed, into a total and utter culture catastrophe. Don’t kill your culture because of a motivation misstep.
Have you seen our other articles on culture killers? Check out “Culture Killer: PROMOTING PEOPLE” and “Culture Killer: ONBOARDING” 

Jodi Wellman

Jodi is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life, loves red Skittles (maybe too much) and finally got a Happy Spectacular logo tattoo.