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Home / How to... / How to demotivate, demoralise and disempower your team


Tara Daynes W Editor chrism Kruti Buch

This how-to guide was created by Tara Daynes This guide has also been edited by W Editor, chrism and Kruti Buch

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How to demotivate, demoralise and disempower your team

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It is a pretty well-established fact that when it comes to keeping people enthusiastic, money is surprisingly far down the list of effective motivators! Which is good news for the non-profit sector, since we don’t always have a lot of it to throw around... Fat salaries and bonuses may improve people’s quality of life outside work, but they certainly won’t improve quality of life inside work. To keep people loyal, committed and performing to the best of their ability, we need to ensure that they are kept engaged and empowered. But there are still plenty of managers, if not organisations, out there that seem determined to minimise the effectiveness of their team.  So if you really want your staff and volunteers to be demotivated, demoralised and disempowered, then here is how to go about it...


Threaten them

Use penalties, and  threats of penalties, to coerce people into performing. Potential negative consequences, such as blame, criticism, discipline, cancelled holidays, demotion, withdrawal of benefits etc. might encourage them to perform. (Probably only to the minimum standards required though, and it will probably also encourage them to hate you and hide prawns in your printer.)


Make decisions and changes without involving them

Rather than consulting with your team on issues that affect them, just make the decision without them (after all, you know best...don’t you?) and tell them what you’ve decided (or just let them find out for themselves). And never, ever ask for their views, ideas, feedback or opinions!


Tell, don’t ask

Don’t give people freedom of choice in how to do their jobs. Instead, tell them exactly what to do, how and when to do it, and make sure they don’t do anything without your permission – preferably requiring them to complete a series of lengthy forms to get your authorisation.


Keep a close eye on them

Watch their every move, and have regular and frequent meetings to check on what they’re up to – you could even get them to provide you with their daily or weekly task list so you know exactly what they’re doing at all times. (They may spend more time in meetings and writing lists than actually doing the work, but at least you’ll know you’re in control!)


Don’t provide any support or guidance

Be unavailable and/or unapproachable to answer any questions, don’t let them waste any of their time on training, learning and development activities, and make sure they’re denied the resources and information they need to do their job.


Use appropriately negative language, preferably in a raised voice

Useful phrases are:

  • “I’ll tell you what you need to do...”
  • “I want to know exactly what’s going on...”
  • “You don’t want to do that, you want to do it this way...”
  • “I don’t want to hear about it”
  • “What did you do that for?”

You could even throw in a few swearwords. And take ‘please’, ‘thankyou’ and ‘well done’ out of your vocabulary!

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