12 Ways You May Be Alienating Your Employees (And How To Fix Them)

12 Ways You May Be Alienating Your Employees (And How To Fix Them)

A manager’s job is to help guide and encourage employees to reach their ultimate potential. But as projects pile up, life gets busy and the day-to-day grind takes top of mind, maintaining and improving one’s leadership skills can sometimes take a back seat. However well-meaning the manager, sometimes they may alienate an employee without even realizing it.

Unfortunately, since employees may be reluctant to speak up, managers may not find out they’ve misstepped until productivity falls or an employee leaves the company. To help, 12 members of Forbes Coaches Council share the common ways they’ve seen managers alienate employees, as well as how those instances could have been avoided.

Forbes Coaches Council members give their insight into how you might be alienating your employees and how to stop.


1. Projecting Disrespect

Based on decades of experience coaching and developing global leaders, disrespect is the greatest cause of alienation. Employees are seen as objects, not subjects. Disrespect shows up as aggressive body language, disdain, and condemnation. An employee’s confidence is undermined, communications are curtailed and motivation is dashed by managers who take on a command and control stance. – Maryann Billington, Action Leadership Group LLC

2. Not Consistently Communicating

Alienation almost always occurs due to lack of communication. Whether it’s a weekly status call, a few texts or simply asking how they are doing over lunch, communication is critical. If you’re not building relationships with your team, they will ultimately head in another direction. This is almost always solved by increasing your communication on a consistent basis. – Ben Newman, The Ben Newman Companies

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

3. Trying To Maintain Constant Control

Many employees I know to quit their jobs because their line managers were micromanaging. These managers did not allow my friends to express their creative potential, which was then interpreted as a lack of trust in my friends and/or as doubting their capabilities. How to avoid it? Implementing a smarter hiring process and designing a company culture with respectful, clear communication. – Dr. Natalia Wiechowski, Think Natalia

4. Playing Favorites

It’s easy to accidentally alienate staff without realizing it by favoring one person consistently over the others. When assigning tasks, ask multiple team members to participate. Even consistently complimenting the same person while neglecting the others is all it takes to signal that team members are not appreciated. Remember that productivity requires everyone to perform and favoritism hurts. – Mitch Russo, Mindful Guidance, LLC

5. Taking Employees For Granted

Alienation can come from taking employees for granted, not truly valuing them or their contributions, not acknowledging their work and taking credit for it or lack of tangible recognition, especially personal and public affirmation. Look in the mirror. Engage others to help you see (and excise) blind spots. Tough love as a truth scalpel can infuse life into a leader’s whole career. Take the risk. – Diana Furr, Champions of Destiny

6. Failing To Give Employees A Voice

A common mistake that managers make is not giving employees valid opportunities to express themselves and their experiences. This can cause employees to feel isolated, alienated and undervalued. Managers can avoid this by implementing things like open feedback sessions and/or anonymous feedback surveys that can lead to a culture where feedback is encouraged and employees feel involved and valued. – Jamelle Lindo, PARADIGM People Development

7. Not Following Up

Too often, the staff is dropped into positions with little guidance and even less follow-up—until things go wrong. While managers are busy, they must recognize that employee success is dependent on individual learning style, direction, engagement, and follow-up. It’s critical to sit down with new employees once a week, review their work, give them a chance to ask questions and provide direction. – Laura DeCarlo, Career Directors International

8. Interrupting

Interrupting people is a quick way to nonchalantly tell someone that you don’t care about what they’re saying. It also means you were listening just to reply and not seeking to truly understand the person. Avoid that at all costs. Practice listening. It’s the most important management skill that nobody ever learned. – Brian M Harman, Business Management Hallmark

9. Not Involving Employees In Decisions

Explain the decision-making process to employees in order to engage rather than alienate them. A manager has three options when deciding how employee ideas will be used: 1) Hear all ideas and make the final decision alone. 2) Have everyone hear the ideas, then all vote to narrow down, with the manager making the final call. 3) All votes count equally and the best idea “wins.” Communicate the option you will use. – Susan Gellatly, BenchStrength Coaching LLC

10. Having A ‘Versus’ Mindset

I’ve seen this again and again, throughout my global career, on five different continents and over 30 different countries. The surest way for a manager to alienate a person on his or her team is to adopt an adversarial posture. I versus You destroys trust, erodes confidence and silences dissent, all of which ultimately results in alienation and a feeling of not belonging. – Gaurav Bhalla, Knowledge Kinetics

11. Lying About The Job

Most managers alienate staff by lying to them about the job and the culture during the interview. Then, the new hire joins, discovers the truth and tunes out their boss. Hiring managers all put on “happy smile button faces” and tell their potential hires about the terrific opportunity with a motivated team of pros. Instead, tell them the truth about your culture. Surprises are rarely good. – Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

12. Not Making Small Talk

Based on my two decades of developing leaders, one of the most common missteps I have seen is that managers don’t make small talk. They think it’s unnecessary or will encourage long, non-work-related discussions. But, employees want to know that you care about them as human beings first, not just workers. Ask how their weekend was, where they went on vacation, and wish them a happy birthday. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

Employee Retention: Wages and Compensation


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