Are Your Missteps Driving Your Talented Staff Away?

We all have worked with or have heard stories of bad managers. But even supervisors with the best of intentions sometimes make missteps. These include criticising people in front of other staff, playing favourites, or other behaviour that harm morale, motivation and productivity for the entire team.

As the job market improves, these mistakes can lead to turnover, particularly among finance professionals whose numbers are still lagging demand across Asia. It’s especially critical to make sure you’re not inadvertently alienating your staff. Below are some common mistakes that Robert Half has observed in its work with many clients.
Keeping staff in the dark
It is always a wise move to be up-front about company developments, so employees feel they are in the loop and know what to expect in the coming months. Otherwise, they may listen to the rumour mill and believe there’s something to hide, such as financial trouble. The more connected people are to the organisation and its future, the more motivated they will be in their jobs.
While e-mails, memos and information on the company intranet provide updates, try to hold group face-to-face discussions whenever feasible, particularly if you anticipate company events that will affect employees directly. This can ease their concerns or anxiety about potential changes.
Being too involved on the front lines
You may pride yourself on being a hands-on manager, remaining highly involved in your employees’ daily responsibilities. In fact, you may be aware of precisely where every project is in the completion stages, because you sign off or receive updates at each step of the process.
It may seem like you’re showing an interest in your staff and ensuring you’re always there as a resource. But what you’re really doing is micromanaging. Employees prefer being given the latitude to do their jobs the way they deem best. Try to empower people to make decisions and problem-solve. Not only can you boost morale, but you’ll also be better able to focus on higher priority initiatives.
Being too removed from the front lines
At the same time, be careful about being so involved in your own work as a manager that you make yourself unavailable to your employees. Try to respond to e-mails and calls from staff in a timely manner. Otherwise your team may believe they’ve been left to sink or swim. That feeling is hardly confidence-building.
Try to keep a routine of ongoing staff meetings and impromptu discussions with individuals in your group about their projects. If you’re particularly busy, give people the heads-up and explain the best way to reach you if needed. Consider designating someone to serve as your backup, so staff members know there’s a support system if they have questions about their assignments.
Avoiding risk
When business conditions are uncertain, it’s particularly tempting to go with the status quo. After all, if you know particular processes or strategies have worked well in the past, why make adjustments? However, by avoiding innovation and risk, you may be implying that you don’t value your staff’s suggestions, which can cause people to lose respect for you as their manager.
Even if you don’t openly tell employees not to offer new ideas, consider whether your actions are sending the same message. Are you critical when suggestions fail? The way you handle recommendations can greatly affect whether your staff feels confident enough to make them in the first place.
Overlooking burnout
If your employees have been asked to do more with less for an extended time, they are at high risk of not just having poor morale but also physical or mental distress. Odds are that staff won’t tell you they’ve reached their limit, out of fear of being perceived as complainers or incompetent in their roles.
So be sensitive to the warning signs. These include starting to miss deadlines, having greater conflict with co-workers, generating customer or internal complaints about job performance, or frequent attendance problems.
Even if you can’t afford to hire more full-time staff to alleviate stress, look at ways to redistribute and reprioritise assignments. You might also consider bringing in temporary or project professionals to assist with peak workloads. Simply making sure employees take their breaks and use their vacation time allotment also can go a long way toward renewing energy and motivation.
Forgetting the power of praise
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of showing appreciation to your employees. Even if your budget doesn’t allow you to give bonuses or other pricey rewards, acknowledge the contributions of those on your team.
Praise during a meeting or granting an afternoon off are just a couple ways of offering meaningful thanks for a job well done. People who feel their managers notice their efforts are more likely to give their best to future assignments and maintain high morale.
About the Author
Andrew Morris, Managing Director of Robert Half Hong Kong, which is a unit of Robert Half International, a specialised staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about its recruitment services, please visit

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