Four Ways To Destroy An Employee’s Work Life


Imagine you are driving from California to New York and in one out of every three miles some kind of barrier appears in the road—a detour here, a traffic jam there and an occasional car failure just to keep you on your toes. It certainly wouldn’t be a very efficient or pleasant, trip.

Recent research suggests that bosses might be derailing employee productivity at just this frequency.

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have spent the past 15 years studying what makes people happy and productive at work. In doing so, they’ve also learned quite a bit about how bosses can contribute to making work miserable for employees. In their most recent research, Amabile and Kramer collected daily electronic journals kept by 238 employees over several months–nearly 12,000 days of journals in total. The striking result: In one-third of the days analyzed, the employee was either unhappy, unmotivated or both. One of their primary reasons:

“What we discovered is that the key factor you can use to make employees miserable on the job is to simply keep them from making progress in meaningful work.”

In a recent post on, the duo discussed four ways that a boss can make work miserable for employees, as revealed by the research.

  1. Never allow pride in accomplishment
    Create setbacks so that employees feel stalled in their progress or unable to make any meaningful contributions.
  2. Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects
    Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible and allow people no autonomy in meeting them so employees can’t move forward on their most important projects.
  3. Give yourself some credit
    Often managers are unaware of how their words and deeds contribute to poor morale, thinking instead that all problems stem from the employee’s poor work ethics.
  4. Kill the messengers
    If you are told that there is a problem with morale, and that they might be part of the problem, deny there are problems first, and, if possible, strike back.

Read the entire post on How to Completely, Utterly Destroy An Employee’s Work Life

Source: Teresa Amabile is a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and researcher. They are co-authors of The Progress Principle.

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