By Gale Mote / Guest Column

In the past few weeks, I have engaged in numerous conversations with employees who are disappointed, frustrated and saddened by their manager’s behavior. Now, none of these employees are packing their bags. They have not succumbed to joining the disengaged ranks.

However, they are scratching their heads and asking, “Why does he act this way? How can I help her to see how her behavior is negatively impacting me and the team?”

When I asked for specifics, their responses reminded me of an e-book that Daniel Goleman published in 2011, “The Brain and Emotional Intelligence-New Insights.” His research identified the top five amygdala triggers in the workplace.

First was condescension and lack of respect. Nothing will dishearten commitment faster than ego, flashing your credentials and making yourself the center of attention. I like to ask managers how much work would get done if all of their employees took a day of vacation at the same time. If the answer is more than 10 percent, they are clueless. Managers need their employees more than employees need their managers.

One of the best ways to show respect is to take time and be there for your employees. Make them your No. 1 priority. Schedule meaningful one-on-one meetings that are much more than just status updates. Show that you care about them – when they are doing great work, when they are doing poor work and when they are struggling to find their way.

One more thing on respect – show it to your peers. When a manager speaks ill of a colleague or another department, employees see that as disloyal and untrustworthy. It also creates silos and role models adversarial relationships, not collaborative problem solving.

Being treated unfairly is another way to create mistrust and tension. Most managers realize that fair does not mean equal. Of course, those who perform at higher levels, demonstrate more commitment and go above and beyond living the values of the organization need to be recognized. It is appropriate to find ways to build on their strengths and provide opportunities for them to grow.

The slippery slope is when managers begin to allow their best performers to slack on rules that apply to everyone such as safety and attendance. When managers turn their backs on holding their best performers accountable for poor behavior, they get labeled as playing favorites and being unfair. Managers must know what is negotiable and what is not.

The third negative trigger is being unappreciated. I know managers are under a lot of pressure to perform. They run from one meeting to another, looking at one scorecard after the next. They are focused on consistently achieving results – check the box, on to the next project, do more, reach higher.

Most managers, however, are not mindful. They miss golden opportunities to say, “I am so proud of what you accomplished here” or “I believe in you.” Perhaps their focus is more on what didn’t get done or how far behind the project is on the schedule. Constant criticism and a feeling that no matter how hard I work, it will never be good enough is defeating and disheartening.

Accentuate the positive – focusing on the 96 percent right first is better than attacking the 4 percent wrong. Celebrate progress, not just results. Slow down your thoughts, words and actions enough that you can sense your own emotions and anticipate the feelings of those around you. A kind word never goes unheard and too often goes unsaid.

The final two management behaviors causing emotional distress are feeling that you are not being listened to or heard and being held to unrealistic deadlines.

The solution here is easy in theory and hard in practice. Active listening requires a manager to stop multi-tasking and be quiet. Reading non-verbal cues and asking probing questions are essential to ensuring that what you truly understand what your employee is feeling and saying.

If a deadline cannot be negotiated, perhaps alternatives can be found in how to go about accomplishing the objective. Staying open to options keeps people positive and optimistic.

Managers can, without being self-aware and self-disciplined, create an unhealthy place to work simply by demonstrating these negative behaviors. Your employees are watching.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at