Three Ways to Demotivate Your Employees

With the low hiring rates and high jobless numbers, it can be more difficult than ever to make an employee so miserable they will go away.  With all that great talent sitting on the sidelines, the opportunities you are missing are tragic!  So, as a public service, I though I would share a few ideas on simple actions you can take to demotivate and disengage your employees.

Oh sure, there are a lot of simple things you can do that you probably know.  Ask your accounting team to wash your car.  Move your subordinates into the windowless basement and turn off the lights.  Verbally berate them every morning as “motivation.”  But those too often lead to lawsuits, and that will slow you down!  Instead, let’s think of perfectly legal ways to reduce their happiness factor!

Set Expectations

Those pesky employees may have unrealistic expectations of you.  This probably came from something you did in the past, such as deliver on a promise or two.  But don’t worry, you can recover!  There are always opportunities to disappoint your team.  Things like:

  • Development opportunities.  Work with them to create a list of classes for them to attend, then make sure there is no budget available.  (Feel free to divert those funds into getting a new desk chair.  Your comfort is important!)
  • Project involvement.  Find a high visibility project that needs someone with their skills and tell them about it.  Then attend the meetings in their place.  Tell them all about the meetings and ideally ask them to do some of the work (you need their skills, remember), but don’t bring them along.  Or let anyone know they are working on it.
  • Networking opportunities.  They are everywhere if you look.  Don’t look.

Team Structure

This is an area that is often overlooked.  After all, you need to build a strong team if you want to move ahead based solely on their work.  So how can you use that team against each other?  It’s easier than you might think!

  • Competition.  Pitting them against each other for your love is so 1984.  Pitting them against each other for their merit increases, which are set at a specific amount for your department, is also old news.  Be creative!  Hiring an intern?  They can’t report to everyone!  And who gets to decide which team members are important enough to be included in interviewing or onboarding activities?  That’s you, big time.    Use those opportunities wisely to keep them guessing!
  • Delegation.  Need someone to take the reigns when you are on vacation?  Ask someone from outside the team to help you!  What better way to send the message that none of your reports are worthy of your chair, even for a week?
  • Succession Planning.  Keep that “ready now” box empty.  Then see the advice above on development opportunities.


This is an easy one.  But the others require some effort, so you deserve at least one “gimmie,” I think.  Better yet, this isn’t even about the team.  It’s just about you!

Employees need to know they are doing the right things, that they are valuable, and that you are interested in them as people.  (That’s what you mean when you say they are “needy.”)  You can withhold all of those things just by not being around.

  • Work remote.  Without notice, if you can pull it off.  Best yet, work remote without notice on days you are expected to meet with them.
  • Travel.  You may be doing this anyway.  Schedule the trips around their times in the office so you see them less.  Augment with vacation if you must!
  • Hide in plain sight.  If you must be in the office, keep your door closed, your phone off the hook and your head down.  Ignore email.  And don’t forget to log out of any chat programs.  It’s a sneaky way employees might try to get your attention.  Don’t fall for it!

This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course, but you can be sure it will have an impact.  Get these skills down, and you can start scouting for new talent!


  1. […] Make your employees wash your car, move their office to the dark, windowless basement…there are plenty of easy ways to drive your talent quickly away. Dwane Lay of Lean HR has three more for you in “Three Ways to Demotivate Your Employees.” […]

  2. […] back, people pushers.  As we’ve covered in previous posts, there are plenty of ways to demotivate and disengage those pesky employees that try to usurp […]

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