| 14 July, 2020 | 4 Min Read

Are you empowering your employees or demotivating them?

Although many companies focus on employee empowerment as a top priority, businesses continue to struggle with disengaged workers. Find out the best approaches to empower and engage your employees and learn why some ways are not effective.

According to The Conference Board report, 53% of employees are unhappy with their jobs. That is, although many companies focus on employee empowerment as a top priority, businesses continue to struggle with disengaged workers. For managers, the report goes further to prove that employee empowerment may be a two-sided coin that, when not correctly implemented, has a counterproductive effect.

The lack of insight into what truly empowers employees can be detrimental to an organization. High retention rate, low employee engagement, and overall reduced productivity are just some of the major problems companies are likely to encounter.

In this article, we identify 4 counterproductive actions that managers and employers take when trying to empower their employees and proffer solutions to ensure improved employee engagement.


1. Providing negative feedback

Managers must provide honest feedback to employees at all times. When managers and employees feel comfortable sharing honest feedback, there will be development on the part of the employee, increased engagement, and improved performance.

While feedback aims to motivate an employee to do better, most managers’ feedback achieves the opposite. According to a Gallup poll, 4 out of 5 employees who have received feedback are looking for a new job.

This reaction is based on the fact that while providing feedback, most managers focus on actions employees need to improve on and neglect the great results employees may have achieved. As a result, their employees feel unmotivated, which then increases their likelihood of making more mistakes.

To ensure feedback is useful and motivating to employees, managers must start by focusing on the positive the employee has done. Next, they provide specific feedback by pointing out the exact change they want to see in the employee’s work. Pairing their feedback with words of encouragement will motivate the employee to want to do better.


2. Having an individual-only recognition program

Recognizing and rewarding your employees should be a big part of your engagement strategy. According to research, organizations with recognition programs had a 31% lower turnover than organizations without one.

However, not all recognition programs work.

Many organizations use individual-only recognition, such as ‘employee of the month’ award, to honor their best employees. This kind of initiative usually leads to unhealthy competition among employees and creates resentment. Also, employees who don’t win may feel left out and unmotivated.

To avoid this, organizations need to adopt a peer-to-peer recognition program. According to statistics, peer-to-peer recognition programs are 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on an organization’s financial results than an individual or manager-only recognition.

By adopting this approach, your employees will be at the forefront of recognizing each other’s efforts. This curbs the unhealthy competition between employees and instead enhances engagement between employees. Unlike an individual-only program, peer-to-peer recognition can be done daily, motivating employees to put in their best every day.


3. Strict management of employees

Ideally, managers are to provide general guidance to employees. They are to answer employees’ questions, give feedback, and regularly exchange ideas with them. As a result, employees find it easier to develop themselves and reach their potential. However, in a bid to ensure that employees are doing the right thing at all times, many managers end up micro-managing them.

Micromanagement annoys employees as it makes them feel they are not trusted to handle their jobs. Also, it causes employees to become dependent on their managers when making decisions. All these will lead to a toxic workplace in the long run and increase the employee turnover rate.

Managers should learn to trust their employees by encouraging ownership of their job. However, they should make themselves available when needed for support from employees. Truly empowering employees means believing they are competent enough to handle their situation without round the clock supervision.


4. Taking a hand-off approach

The opposite of micromanaging employees is giving them full freedom. This hands-off approach is believed to empower employees to make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions. With this approach, managers think employees will be more engaged with their work and hence be more productive.

A hand-off management approach can lead to unmotivated employees as they may not be able to access the resources, guidance, and feedback required to do their job well. Also, this style of management leads to a work environment where employees are not adequately acknowledged or rewarded for a job well done. This will then create a disconnection between employees and the organization.

A better way to empower your employees is to strike the right balance. Managers are to allow employees the freedom needed to do their job but also always follow up on them to provide directions, support, or help them identify what they can do better to enhance their performance.


Start empowering your employees the right way

Surely, motivating employees to do their best at work depends a lot on the employees themselves but the working environment employers create is even more crucial.

The first step to genuinely empowering your employees is to transform your workplace digitally. Next, employers and managers need to take action by avoiding counterproductive empowerment measures. Instead, they should focus on only proven strategies when seeking to engage and motivate their workers.

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