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It’s really quite easy to demotivate a department, a team or a person.

We all know not every boss is inspiring. Some people are just not born to lead; for others it takes time, training and patience to get there but they can do it.  Motivation in a leader is an intangible quality – one you can’t physically see in the person, but it’s obvious in that person’s team and how they operate. Is there joy in the workplace or is there toxicity in the air?

joe vs. volcanoWhen you work for a great, motivating and inspiring leader, the workplace can be a wonderful place to be. If there is no inspiration at the helm, the days can be long and dark, only punctuated by those ever-flicking overhead fluorescent lights (i.e. Joe Banks with Mr. Waturi in Joe Vs. The Volcano).

Recently, I overheard an executive in a discussion with one of his direct reports. The conversation elevated to the point the executive was yelling loud enough the entire office could hear. Then, the executive didn’t think yelling was getting his point across, so he began dropping F-bombs as adjectives. It was uncomfortable for everyone and completely unnecessary: the yelling was a good enough indicator of his irritation. Afterwards, when I spoke to the employee on the receiving end of the tirade, he shrugged it off and said, “Oh well, that’s his managing style and it doesn’t mean anything.”

But it does. It means a lot. Yelling, swearing and calling out a team member in front of others is demotivating and demeaning, and a sure way NOT to get the best work from a person or team. It also acts like a virus – one that can bring down a team.

In another example, one former supervisor was just not good at managing his people or invoking trust. He was unpredictable, blatantly showed favoritism, and also had a penchant for dating the women on his staff (a whole separate issue I won’t get into here.) One day while dealing with a particularly difficult client, he put me into the line of fire and stepped away. Afterwards, when I went to discuss this situation with him, he told me, “I would never throw you under the bus.” It was truly a matter of semantics, so my response to him was, “No, not under but you’d throw me OFF the bus, make me out to be wrong in front of the client. Then you’d whisper, “I’ll come back to pick you up later.” His response? He laughed, shrugged, and said, “Yeah, that’s probably what I’d do.”

Two good things came out of that situation: 1) I learned how to motivate myself; and 2) I promised myself I would never do to my teams what he did to me.motivation

When you have a leader who is incapable of motivating, you really have to take things into your own hands. Change your mindset and create your own motivators, set your own goals, ask for feedback from colleagues, and build a support system – both in the company and outside. You can’t always rely on someone to be a solid, inspirational leader. Maybe that means it’s up to you.