To be an effective leader, you have to be many things: patient, decisive, trustworthy, etc. Above all else, you need to be willing to prioritize employee satisfaction. Many employers today struggle with retention rates, which in turn can hurt their bottom line. There are many aspects to making sure an organization has high employee morale, engagement, and overall positive culture.
When employees are unhappy, they are more likely to quit, and the cost of high turnover can really hurt a business. Unfortunately, not all employers seem to realize this. In fact, there are many bosses out there who hurt their company more than they help it simply by how they treat and interact with their employees. Just take it from the following people, who recently shared the one thing their employer did that instantly destroyed employee morale.
Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
#1 Dream Vacation
My boss pitched a sales incentive trip to Cancun if the team hit their monthly goal. My team exceeded the goal, but they still canceled the trip. Two people quit, and I accepted a position with their main competitor. Less than a year later, they closed in bankruptcy. Karma's a beach.
#2 Overseas In Sight
"We're moving our manufacturing overseas."
Uh... All we do at this facility is manufacturing.
The news was announced a year before the move and since then, everybody in the company was just unmotivated and unproductive. Though, that may not have been the worst decision—at least it gave people a chance to find new work ahead of time.
#3 The Chromebook Catastrophy
My school wanted to switch to Chromebooks. So what did they do? One summer while teachers weren't working, they removed every single Windows station and replaced them with Chromebooks. They were told to simply "figure it out."
When the teachers came up and asked how they could teach Photoshop, programming, and AutoCAD 3d modeling on Chromebooks, the admin basically Googled for related Chromebook extensions and said, "See? There's an extension for it and it works!"
They ended up bringing back the desktops for most teachers.
#4 A Sickening Sign
A manager put up a poster that said, "Complaining is like vomiting. You feel better but everyone around you feels sick." The morale was already bad, but it was just a terrible way to encourage already upset employees.
#5 Varying Levels Of Expertise
I told the hiring manager that I was disappointed in one of his hires because he knew literally nothing about our job. I asked him, “Doesn’t that cheapen my knowledge and expertise?”
His response was, “Well, let’s be honest, your job doesn’t really need all that, does it?”
There were four other people my level with varying fields of expertise at that meeting and it got real quiet after that.
#6 Distraction-Free Zone
They banned phones, electronics, puzzles, books, etc. from being used at employees' desks. I work at a call center. We were expected to just sit and wait for the next call to come in “distraction-free,” even if it was a super slow day.
#7 Club System
I worked at a club in Miami and the owner was out of his mind. When the housing market crashed, obviously people were spending far less going out, but he insisted we were all stealing. We had meetings once a week with all kinds of threats. Finally, he put in an automatic pouring system for $50,000. It basically looks like you're pouring drinks from a soda machine, super boring. The fun vibe and flair we had was totally gone, which made sales drop even more. He ripped the system out two weeks later.
#8 No Socializing In The Pub
She actively tried to ban friendships. If co-workers became friendly, she would schedule them so they would never see each other. "You're here to work! Not to socialize!"
She also banned everyone from coming into the workplace when they were not working.
It was a pub. She banned socializing in a pub.
#9 Time To Go
They held a super positive, pep-rally-style meeting about how they were going to start combining our sick days with our vacation days. This was presented to us as a great thing since we could all now use our paid time off days fully as vacation days if we wanted to. Once the system was implemented, everyone realized that instead of getting 10 vacation days and 10 sick days per year, we now all had 15 paid time off days. Everyone was angry.
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#10 Family Restaurant
He had a big fight with his wife in front of everybody. I don't think you should run a restaurant with your family members unless you're really solid with each other.
#11 Clean Meat
They got rid of their night cleaning crew the week after I started, so we had to learn how to clean the whole department on our own before closing shop. I work in a meat department, so this meant taking apart and cleaning two meat grinders plus a band saw that was covered with meat goop. Almost the whole department quit because of this, but I stuck around and got the hang of it. After about three months though, they hired the cleaning crew back. Now closing is a breeze.
#12 Early Maternity Leave
They fired the girl who was in her third trimester of pregnancy three days before her maternity leave was going to start.
They started firing people by lining two employees up at a time and seeing which one they preferred to keep on. It didn't matter if a person was there for twenty years or two. Also, the new managers who were in charge of the cuts had no knowledge of anything that the company did in terms of ethics, procedures, or employee status. They turned the "clique" type environment into every person for themselves. Very unhealthy.
#14 Deflated Steam
We were once in the middle of a very stressful period of work, and everyone was feeling it. However, one afternoon, an off-hand comment turned into a conversation that we all got involved in and it led to a few laughs. My manager, returning from a meeting, piped up, "Oh, we've finished tomorrow's work, have we? What's all this about?" The entire team instantly deflated.
Unnecessary. Every employee needs time to vent a little steam.
#15 Empty Desk Syndrome
In a very short span of time, they changed everyone's 401K plan and also implemented an office-wide cleanliness policy. No eating at your desk. Only three personal items were allowed on your desk. Everything had to be labeled. No items other than your keyboard, mouse, and monitors were allowed on your desk at the end of the day.
Talk about angry. You could feel the gloom when you walked in. Everyone's ability to care broke at once.
#16 Wasting Gas
I used to work at a gas station. Our manager was definitely cheap, but he brought it to a whole new level after he bought another gas station over 50 miles away.
He started scheduling his pre-existing staff from my store to work in his other store. Some of us were still in high school, but he didn't care. He refused to hire more people.
#17 Internet Class
To cut costs, they started a policy that allowed only certain departments to have internet access. It basically started a class system that bred resentment across departments and caused an exodus from the non-internet teams.
#18 Dog Of A Move
I worked at a dog daycare center as the assistant manager for a few months. We just started a training class so where people could tell us what commands they'd like us to teach their dogs. We would pull them aside for one hour and teach that command with a certified trainer. The service usually costs an extra $45 on top of the daycare visit.
Well, our trainer quit unexpectedly and the owner asked me and the other manager to step in as the trainers. We informed him that we did not have the proper certifications and our program promised the customers a certified trainer. We were blamed for being non-loyal, good-for-nothing millennials. Well, he received six two-week notices within one week after I revealed this conversation with the employees. This place only had 10 employees in total.
#19 A Bad Christmas
I worked at a plumbing shop. Newer owners came in. They were a married couple who had worked there for years and bought out the original owner. A few months later, as we headed into Christmas, they called each employee in one at a time to explain how they weren’t getting a holiday bonus for individual reasons. My reason was that I had apparently broken a mirror in a customer's bathroom and it cost $200 to replace. It didn't matter that I brought in over $500,000 worth of business that year. The next week, they drove up in a new sports car. They’ve had a huge turnover in employees now.
#20 Not Open To Open Plan
I just started a new job that I love. The only problem is they're converting all of the offices to an open plan. Our area is up next for conversion. Everyone I've talked to is against it, and everyone I know that's currently working in it says it's terrible. The only people who don't have to sit in the open plan space are the people who champion it the most, go figure. I can already see my productivity (and morale) tanking when I'm forced to hear every noise emitted by roughly 200 people in my section of the building. Open plan offices are the absolute dumbest idea ever conceived.
#21 Unannounced Vacation
The company owner left on a two-week vacation to Chile without telling anyone. It was a small marketing firm with about seven employees. I texted him on Monday morning around 11:30 a.m. asking where he was (he stayed out late drinking pretty frequently and often didn’t roll in until 11:00 a.m.).
He informed me he was on vacation and put me in charge for the next two weeks, probably because I was lucky enough to be the first person to text him. He missed two client meetings and one campaign pitch, all of which went okay without him. I even signed on a new account, had all the paperwork completed and was working on brand new campaign ideas to show him when he returned. He only called twice to check in. He showed up two weeks later and declared that the company was bankrupt and we were all out of jobs. So yeah. That was an instant morale dropper.
#22 Caffeine Riot
They replaced all of the soda machines with water and Sobe Life water machines.
There was literally a riot in the break room.
You do NOT deny overnight workers their caffeine.
#23 Quitting Over Questioning
I had a boss that got upset when nobody answered his question quick enough on a conference call. So he told all of us techs to bring in our uniforms and tools the next day and he would decide who stays and who leaves. He only fired one person that day, but the rest of us found other jobs and quit within the next couple weeks. So he ended up having hundreds of clients and only four techs (his family) to do all the work.
#24 Apathetic Toward Animals
My coworker lost his dog and came into work teary-eyed. Our manager looked at him, asked him what was wrong and then proceeded to go on a 30-minute rant about him needing to toughen up. "It’s just a stupid animal. Go buy another dumb dog.” Needless to say, she no longer works for the company.
#25 A Slice In Pay
I worked at a pizza place a few years ago. The pay was incredible for the job: six an hour flat rate, tips, and 52 cents a mile. I was making like $600 a week after taxes just to deliver pizza. Everyone loved the job. The owner decided to decrease to pay to $7.25 while in the store, $2.13 on the road, and $1 dollar per run. This resulted in about a $200 decrease every check. Half the drivers left.
#26 Hate Mail
The boss accidentally forwarded an email to the entire team of a conversation talking smack about some team members. That was harsh.
#27 Lock-up Over Phones
Company policy was that personal phones were to be kept in the back of the company vehicle except for lunch. For years, no one cared as long as you weren’t on your phone playing games or texting instead of working. All of a sudden, they went crazy about this policy and started checking us when we left and returned to the shop. They also started coming out randomly to do “safety inspections.” They have been writing people up just for having their phones in their pockets. It literally feels like a place of confinement.
#28 Wrong Word Of Mouth
She takes other employees' words on who is a good or bad worker—but the ones who come running to her are natural complainers. She just believes them anyway. The wrong people have been fired because of this.
#29 Pretending To Work
My boss just entering the building kills employee morale. He doesn’t seem to get that when working at a store, sometimes it gets slow and there is nothing to do. Like, I’m a cashier and I’m not allowed to leave my cash register. All there is to do is check out customers and clean my general area. When both things are done, I have nothing to do. If he catches us just not doing anything he makes comments about how we are slacking off. So when he walks in, everyone has to start cleaning the already clean workspace for like an hour until he leaves.
#30 Cheap Over Chips
When I first got hired in a supermarket, the manager, who owned the store, told me in very bold terms not to take candy and other things. After a year or so, we went to a social event with our colleagues. The boss then collected all the used chips and tortilla chip bags. I later found out he sent them back to the supplier on the grounds that the bags had broken, so he could get new bags for free. Jesus.
#31 Serious About Work
Morale was already rock bottom, but we learned it could go lower when we got told, "I don't want to see any of you smiling. Smiling means you're not working because nobody likes work."
#32 Wind And Water
They told the cashiers that they could no longer bring reusable water bottles to work, and instead could only have store-brand water at the registers. So dumb.
They also told us we could not have personal, battery-powered mini fans at the register because it looked "unprofessional." The store was always warm, especially in summer. It was a miserable two months until they got enough complaints that they put electric mini fans on every register (some of which ended up getting stolen, but that's beside the point).
#33 Pricey Pop
They replaced the 25¢ soda machines with $2 soda machines.
Sometimes when we were pulling overtime well past midnight, that soda machine was the only thing that provided us food since breakfast.
#34 Losing On Booze
I worked in a distillery for a few months while trying to figure out what to do with my life. It was fun: the brewers were great, creative, and taught me everything there was to know about the art. They had some great ideas to change up the craft booze game and were motivated simply by their love of what they did.
Unfortunately, the owner didn't trust anyone else to do his job. He never ordered any of the brewing supplies on time, barely paid his employees enough to live on, and generally drove the business into the ground despite having a bunch of people willing to help him. The constant distrust between him and even his closest employees just destroyed any hope they had of trying to turn a sizable profit. Most of them got out of there before things went belly up, but it was just this sad, downward spiral for a long time.
#35 Mess Of A Manager
We had a new boss named Ali. He treated all of his employees like dirt. He refused to order anything until we had absolutely no restock items left. There was never any coffee in stock. He also would pull spoiled and damaged food out of the trash and put it back on the shelf. At some point, I stopped caring. In fact, everyone did.
I would even give him the middle finger to his back on the sales floor in front of customers and employees. It became a game actually. But I was always waiting for the day when he would screw up big enough that I could report him. Sure enough, one day I ran into him stealing groceries and he told me not to tell anyone or else he would fire me. I dialed corporate immediately.
He was fired the next day.
#36 The Leftovers
Several years ago, I worked catering in the south. We took things home from shifts from time to time, and everyone knew, even the owner. The key was not to take anything openly, and never in front of the owner. But if we had an open bar, we’d write that the party drank slightly more than they did, then we’d all get a few drinks to take home or drink at the end of clean up. And we definitely took leftover food home. Even though they didn’t have a “carry” license, we just knew not to waste food. We all had families so we’d wrap it all up for each other and bring home dinner.
A few years later, I moved to the upper Midwest and worked catering. Holy guacamole, these people had the biggest sticks up their rear-ends. All the managers were fresh out of college, and they followed every rule to a T. We each got one plate of food to eat during the shift in rotation, whereas before we might have been allowed much more. After the event was over, we cleaned up and threw leftover food away. Naturally, the employees hated this but had gotten used to it.
Luckily, I was also hired as a manager and each event that was mine, I told everyone to take whatever they wanted home. Once, when I was training with them, one of them came back and yelled at the employees for taking things home after cleaning the entire venue. So I took the food they were wrapping up and wrapped it up myself. They wouldn’t even help clean up, and where I’m from, everyone helps. So I told them it was insane that they’d rather see food go into the trash for rats and flies to consume than to allow the employees, most of whom were much older than these 20-something-year-old managers, to take food home to their families after working a 12-hour shift.
I continued doing this, and I don’t know why, but the other managers never told on me so I wasn’t fired, but boy did they shut me out. Be aware of whose side you’re on.
#37 Impossible Inspection
When I first came onto my new job, it was a mess and they had just completely failed an inspection. I mean, it was embarrassing and I was only there for a week when it happened. Heads rolled and people were forced out of the organization. I took responsibility for the entire program when the guy in charge of it “retired." I vowed to myself it wouldn’t happen again. I didn’t tell anyone this, I just took it and ran with it.
After two years of busting my hump ensuring it was perfect, we had another inspection. The inspector informed the higher-ups it was not only the best inspection that our unit has ever had but also one of the best he’s seen in 10 years. I was on cloud nine thinking I would get some sort of recognition for it, so I waited... and waited... but nothing. A month went by and my boss and I got called into the head boss' office only to be told: “The inspector must have missed something or didn’t know what he was talking about because no one person could have fixed all this in two years”. Needless to say, I haven’t been super pumped about going to work lately and I’ve almost given up caring about all the little details.
#38 Checks And Imbalances
My boss took a $130 delivery. A month later, the customer disputed the charge on their card. The boss went looking through all the receipts from that day and couldn't find our signed copy so there was no way to fight it, he just lost $130. He decided it was my coworker's fault because the receipt was supposed to be in his stack with all his other receipts that day.
But here’s the messed up part: My boss took the delivery so there’s NO WAY he could say, with 100% certainty, that he had that customer sign the receipt and then gave the receipt to my coworker to put in his stack. He’d rather just say it was the other guy's fault and take his money than admit that he could’ve made a mistake... that screwed my morale up. We don’t get paid much; I see his sales and $130 isn’t anything to him. To us, that’s like 40% of our check.
#39 Post-Poned Pregnancy
They asked a pregnant employee if she could postpone her due date because we were short on staff.
The manager was a woman as well.
We were all flabbergasted.
#40 Donating Time
An employee got cancer. Rather than giving her the time off she needed, they asked all the other employees to donate paid time off.
Making your employees choose between a much-needed vacation and the life of a co-worker is probably the darkest thing I've ever seen.
#41 Two Very Different Tales
Due to a lack of coordination, we got two emails back-to-back.
One was from our division president, saying that the economic downturn meant we'd have to tighten our belts, so the traditional sizeable Christmas bonus wasn't going to happen. Instead, we'd get some gift certificates. For $20.
The second was from the National President, congratulating the division on a record year and inviting the sales staff to a corporate retreat.
#42 Lost Water
My terrible boss blamed me for giving away a water bottle to a very pregnant woman during a heat wave. I was working at a cabin in the forest and was the only staff with water within five kilometers (I was the only one with a mini fridge in my cabin to keep people's lunches cold). Furthermore, it was a staff bottle, so there was no profit to make there, but she was really annoyed and called the headquarters about the staff "giving away drinks for free." We had a visit from her boss the next week. I ended up buying six water bottles and putting them in that work fridge to make it up so she would stop being so angry at me. Not the nicest boss I've had.
(The cheapest water bottle costs 40 cents in my country, so I am not sure a national company cares about losing that amount.)
#43 Sad Secretaries
The new vice president came in and fired both of the secretaries from our purchasing department. These ladies had each been with the company for 25 years and kept things running like clockwork. They were like the cool grandmas in our department, organizing potlucks and giving out birthday cards.
When we got called into a staff meeting to hear that they had been "let go," people couldn't believe it. We came back to our desks and found the ladies weeping while trying to pack up their belongings. The whole thing was depressing and drove home the idea that everyone is expendable. Within three months we lost two buyers. About nine months later, when I quit, only three of the original twelve buyers were left.
#44 Tortured At Casino Tables
I worked in a casino. Morale was already very low. Then they added timers and bells to the tables to keep the games constantly going... even when there were no people on the table.
#45 Orange You Glad
She offered to treat the entire staff to a fancy restaurant for going above and beyond only so she could receive a fat bonus. She had multiple group sit-downs asking us for suggestions. She wound up instead forcing the maintenance guy to come in on his day off just so he could BBQ us hotdogs while we were compelled to participate in a game of water balloon volleyball unless we wanted to get written up.
Oh, and our Christmas bonus was an orange.