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I don’t think anyone ever sets a goal to discourage their employees. No one ever wrote this next to their senior picture in the yearbook: “My dream is to be the worst boss anyone ever had, and make my employees hate coming to work.”

And yet, somehow it happens. There are people who hate going to work every day. You may be one of them.

Whatever you do, don’t be the reason for your employees detestation of their job. Don’t be the one to discourage them.

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If your employees are discouraged and disengaged, you may be the cause for that, especially if you do one of these 5 things that are sure to make them hate coming to work for you:

1. Don’t tell them where you’re headed:


When employees don’t know where you want to take the company, they certainly can’t help you get there. You think you are being savvy by holding your dreams close to your chest? Think again. You do your employees a disservice by being secretive. You do your company harm by not casting a clear vision for people to push towards. And you do yourself great harm by making your employees play “hamster on the wheel”.

While you think you are smarter than they are by keeping it all hush-hush, they can actually read the writing on the wall -everyone can. Now they just feel like you think they are stupid: which is the most discouraging, and insulting, of all.

DO this instead: If you know where you want your company or department to be in a year, 3 years, 5 years, craft a message and cast a vision. You’re excitement will carry over into your culture and you will have a team willing to follow you to Mars and back to make it happen.

2. Change your mind-often:

This is usually why people don’t share where they are headed; they want to reserve the right to change their mind. Hey, news flash, you own the place! Of course you have the right to change your mind. Markets, policy, competitors, innovation-there will always be adjustments to your course. But those adjustments should be the slight tap of the rudder, not an about face, and certainly not every other month.

If you want to implement a 5S program, do it, but see it through and have buy in all the way through. Don’t “try it” for two months and then move on to the next idea, and then go back to it two months later. It makes you lose the confidence of your team. It’s discouraging to work hard to implement something new and then have it trash canned two months later.

DO this instead: Stop chasing shiny objects. Finish what you start. Make yourself go in one direction until and unless you have concrete, quantifiable reasons for making the change.

3. Never say yes to their ideas:

Believe it or not, your employees have some really good ideas. And they are eager to share them too, unless you keep shooting them down. You aren’t the only one in the room with a good idea. If you thought they were bright enough to hire, then they should be worth listening to as well.


When employees feel like their ideas constantly fall on deaf ears, they’ll stop giving them. And one of those ideas they don’t give could change your company or, even better, change the world. But if you shoot down every idea before they are finished giving it, you have discouraged idea making, which is the engine behind good businesses.

“”I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” -Lee Iococca

DO this instead: Listen, nod, don’t say a word. For at least a full minute after they are done telling you their idea. No deep breaths, no body language. Just listen and think about what they just said. Have an idea board where everyone can display ideas and everyone can give input and collaborate.

The bad ideas will weed themselves out and the good ideas will stick.

4. Give them autonomy. And then take it away.

My brother gave me one of his marbles once. It was an Aggie too; opaque with a green and blue streams swirling through the middle, and a chip or two from battles won. I was overjoyed! I thought I must have the best brother in the world that he would entrust something so precious to me. I envisioned of all the marbles I would win with it at school the next day and vowed in my heart to share half of my winnings with him out of gratitude.


I probably held that marble in my hopeful little hand for all of thirty seconds before he snatched it back again. “Nah, you’ll just lose it.” he said.

Hand empty, hopes dashed, totally discouraged. You get the picture.

DO this instead: Give autonomy in small amounts to start with and increase it as you go along. Give grace for mistakes, because they will happen. Use them as learning opportunities and dole out many 2nd chances.

5. Make them choose work over family.

Your business is your life. I get it. I’m a business owner too. But our businesses are not our employee’s life. We don’t clock out, they do. We never stop thinking about it; they want to stop thinking about it. When we forget that truth and in the process, we force our employees to make decisions they shouldn’t have to make. Decisions that bring discouragement. Don’t make them miss their kid’s ball game or recital; they will resent you for it. Don’t expect them to work the same hours you do, they will decide to leave because of it.

DO this instead: Realize that they will never have the exact same level of passion for your business that you do. And that’s okay. Encourage time off and time spent with family. Ask about their family and hobbies. Show a genuine interest in their life outside of work. You’ll see the affect in their response. They will stand a little taller, engage with you more and be, well, encouraged.

What do you think?

Any of these ring a bell for you?

What other things have discouraged you as an employee?

What mistakes have you made as a business owner that discouraged your employees?

Share if you care.

    Tenaya (T.J.) Tison is a business leader and entrepreneur who is passionate about propelling others in their work & faith potential, by strategically directing them in business + work; and in full-faith living. Find out what T.J. does here. Follow T.J. on Twitter. Invite TJ to speak.

(This article first appeared on LinkedIn)