9 Things Managers Do That Kill Team Spirit

9 Things Managers Do That Kill Team Spirit

Mistakes will be made by all managers. It’s important to remind ourselves what it is we’re doing that may kill team spirit.

The following is a shortlist of things managers do that kill team spirit. Some of them I have witnessed and some of which I have committed as a manager.

Regardless of whether you’re managing a team of 1 or a team of 1,000, I’m sure you’ll get a timely reminder of what not to do by reading this article.

How to Kill Team Spirit

1. Saying “Pay Attention!”

Granted there may be times when this is appropriate to say. However more often then not, this statement “pay attention” does not have the desired effect.

It comes across as lazy, arrogant and thoughtless feedback.

It doesn’t offer anything in the way of constructive criticism, it doesn’t carry with it a better method, system or protocol.

It’s often used when the manager can’t think of anything better to say, so they use the term “pay attention” as a one size fits all solution.

More often than not, it’s delivered with a sense of disdain to the person on the receiving end.

Telling someone to pay attention, can be a real trigger for resentment as it implies that you are someone who generally doesn’t pay attention and for some reason you’re so incompetent at your job that you need to be reminded.

What’s next “remember to breath”?!?

2. Being fixated with blaming the employee

As discussed in my previous article – WHAT DO WE VALUE MORE – Blaming Others or Finding a Solution? some managers have a tendency to get fixated on blaming staff. Pushing them into a corner to bring them to a level of shame.

For some managers this is like being on drugs, it’s an ego trip. They are always in search of their next fix or victim.

On some level, they do think this is the right method to deal with the situation, but more often then not this is exactly what will kill team spirit.

Instead focus your energy on finding a solution and less on blaming and shaming others. It truly is a waste of everyone’s time and delays the solution.

3. Not Leading by Example

There is nothing worse then a manager that corrects you on something when they themselves are guilty of the very thing they are correcting you on.

You reveal yourself as a hypocrite and lose respect.

This can also come in the form of a manager who lacks the skills of the people they are managing. It’s difficult to take orders from someone who hasn’t got a clue what you are doing from a technical point of view.

4. Comparing Other Staff to Each Other

Each member of staff is on their own journey and will develop differently.

Highlighting one team member’s downfalls by comparing them to super, fantastic “Michelle” the office employee of the month is a real kick in the teeth as it diminishes all the progress they have made up to that point.

You’re creating a scenario whereby if they are not as good as “Michelle” the office superstar then their contribution isn’t valued.

5. Public Calling Out

There’s no doubt about it, staff will make mistakes, repeatedly. It’s essential to their development and progress.

A staff member who is not making mistakes, simply is not progressing.

However when a mistake is made, it should not be handled in public for the rest of the office staff to see. This is demeaning, embarrassing and brings birth to the idea of seeking revenge and power grabbing within the work environment.

In my opinion, any manager that does these public shaming displays is not worthy of their staff.

6. Showing Favouritism

Everyone is going to have their favourites. This is just human nature. And from time to time, managers may even blur that line between work relationships and friendships.

This happens and sometimes it’s a beautiful thing.

But at no point should that influence your decision making as a manager and when it does it will kill team spirit.

It will cause people you are not so friendly with to take a back step when it comes to their efforts, as they will always take a back seat when it comes to opportunities within the work place.

7. Hiring Based on Connections

There is a historical term that comes from the religious reformation period called nepotism. This term was used to describe people getting positions due to their family connections within the church.

This led to underqualified people in positions of authority and also a hierarchy that was based on privilege and not merit.

I was a terrible history student, but for some reason, I remember nepotism since I first learned about it. I have witnessed this taking place and it leads to unprofessional performances within the workplace as well as resentment among employees.

Perhaps giving your cousin that job, isn’t such a hot idea after all

8. Not Being Culturally Aware

In today’s day and age, we tend to live in increasingly multi-cultural societies. Bringing people of different nationalities, beliefs, and races together.

More often than not, we are simply not trained to deal with this and everyone gets treated like a local.

I’m not saying for one moment you shouldn’t treat everyone the same, but you should be aware of how it might affect communication and how it might affect your reactions.

For example, I’ve lived in Israel for 8 years, a Jewish nation in the Middle East and I’ve lived in the Republic of Ireland for most of my life, a Christian, Catholic nation in Europe.

Israeli people are incredibly direct and not fearful of engaging in meaningful conversations. Irish people, on the other hand, keep things more light-hearted, they are often more indirect and keep their conversations on the surface.

For this reason, Israelis can often come across as being rude in the Irish context and Irish people can often come across as not caring in the Israeli context.

This cultural difference can lead to judgment, which will kill team spirit.

A manager for this reason needs to become aware of cultural differences. Not to change them, but to allow them to be – without having a negative reaction.

We all have something to learn from one another.

9. Downplaying their personal life

Managers are often concerned about performance and forget that staff are humans.

They are people who have lives outside of work. Sometimes they get sick, need to go to the doctor or have one of the many, many complications that we all go through as people.

Sometimes the best thing a manager can do is to give their staff the respect and space to be human, showing them empathy, in place of judgment and finding ways to support their mental wellbeing as opposed to trying to control them to get them to do their job.



Often as managers, we forget that the problems we experience with staff have nothing to do with the task at hand.

The problem is rarely the problem.

I’m a firm believer that your day to day experience is an outward projection of what is going on inside of you.

Your work environment will continuously bring up the same issues over and over again until you resolve them within yourself.

If you want to manage better staff, first you must become a better manager.

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