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How to demotivate, demoralise and disempower your team

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!

Further information

So there you go – follow these simple ‘How To’ tips and you’ll have a demotivated demoralised and disempowered team in no time! Or possibly no team at all, because they’ll all have left.  Or you might just have a raft of grievances, sickness absences, or employment tribunal claims to deal with.

(Alternatively, if you’d actually like an engaged, positive and productive team, then you could try doing the exact opposite of all the above...)

To find out more watch Tara's Study Zone course Managing staff through difficult times


Page last edited Apr 13, 2017 History

Comments (1)

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Bret Willers
Bret Willers on May 07, 2014 01:34 PM

All so true, well summarised. I worked as a Director in Local Government in a large Metropolitan Authority and the then Strategic Director (who I formally complained about to the CEO) exhibited exactly the opposite of all those traits and worse of all many of my fellow directors in order to get on mirrored her behaviours. We had bully groups which were formally titled Star Chambers and instead of people supporting one another to improve they focused on faults in others to detract attention from their own shortcomings. A blame culture creates just more things for people to blame rather than find solutions. I often find the best managers are those who accept they will definitely make mistakes but will accept they have and learn from them. At managers seminars I used to turn away from the top table and look at the body language of the audience of middle and frontline managers and what I saw were disheartened, disillusioned and thoroughly demoralised cynical people with no motivation to improve. Fortunately the Director was finally sacked but not until nearly all the good people who refused to mirror her behaviours were given the heave ho.

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