Are you aware that there is a very strong correlation between low employee engagement and poor leadership?

While it may seem so easy to blame the employees for being disengaged, most of the time, the level of employee engagement is very much determined by the leaders in the organisation. By leadership, I am not only referring to the top management or the C-suite, but to anyone that is in charge of a team, big or small.

So, if a company is facing the typical issues caused by low employee engagement such as low productivity, employee turnover, lack of initiatives, or even office politics, you may want to go through the list below and see if it is indeed caused by these common leadership mistakes.


1.Not Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

“Giving credit where it is due” may sound simple, and because it is so simple it is often forgotten. In Singapore, we are constantly caught up with deadlines and submissions and thus that we sometimes forget to recognise the contribution of our team memberss’ contribution to the success of a project. Sadly, it is prevalent where leaders -, with no ill intentions -, simply fail to give credit. This ultimately sparks a seed of distrust and disengagement among team members as they feel their leaders are taking credits for themselves.  


Make a mental note of specific contributions by your team members and ensure they get the recognition they deserve. Reward efforts too, not just outcomes. Do note that recognition does not always mean financial rewards.

2. Micromanaging

Competence, the double-edged sword of leadership. You heard right, leaders who are highly competent sometimes either end up doing most of the work or they tend to hire people who are less competent than them. The more competent the leaders, the higher the standards they demand from themselves and from their team members. Leaders also get into a chicken-and-egg situation where they know they need to delegate but are afraid to trust their members with the task, thinking they can do better themselves.

According to Daniel Pink, in his book, “Drive”, Autonomy is one of the components that will encourage internal motivation which is much more powerful than external motivation. Hence, when we micromanage and remove that autonomy, we eliminate that internal motivation of the team to want to do more than what is expected and hence lower the employee engagement level.


First, hire the right people for the right position. Second, provide guidance in the form of well-developed SOPs. Third, delegate tasks, allow mistakes and room for improvement. As a leader, draw the line that forms the football field but allow the team to invent and define their way of doing things within those boundaries.

3. Finding Faults

Think about this: in Singapore, since we were young, haven’t we been conditioned to catch people’s mistakes? In school, when you failed to complete your homework, what would happen? When you sent an email with errors to customers, how did your manager react? I am sure you are getting the picture.

The problem with this is that when leaders start to assign tasks to team members, they tend to look out for what is wrong. Research has shown, the more the team fear making mistakes the more disengaged they will be over time. On the other hand, ‘psychological safety’ has been quoted as one of the key culture points that can lead to highly engaged employees. Google is one of the companies which ‘psychological safety’ as their culture.


Set the tone right from the beginning. Communicate to your team that they are expected to show constant improvements, not zero mistakes. Recognize them for their improvements instead of waiting for their perfection. When the team has the motivation to get better, they are more creative and proactive in their work.

4. Non-Existent or Weak Culture

Today, culture drives engagement and performance. When the team has a strong culture, each member knows exactly how to behave in any given situation. They take pride in their company and they have a constant support system from everybody that embraces the same culture. At the other end of the spectrum, where there is weak or no culture, everyone operates as a “me” instead of “we”.

Some of the most successful companies in the recent years such as Google, Amazon, and Zappos are well known for having very strong culture that are embraced by the majority of their employees. These companies have a strong focus on building culture and promoting engagement.


Instead of just having corporate values, that most people don’t remember, think of how to translate those values into day-to-day behaviors that everyone in the team embraces and practices.

5. One-Way Communication

In the old days, a transactional leadership style was common. Leaders were expected to give instructions and the teams were expected to do as told. With the current workforce comprising a large number of millennial employees, this method is less effective. “Millennials” respond better to environments where they are allowed or even encouraged to voice out their opinions. They thrive when their voices are heard and when constructive feedback is given on a regular basis. They appreciate the “coach” approach as opposed to the “boss-employee” approach.


Leaders should encourage open discussion and schedule regular feedback sessions. Discussions that focuses on the team’s achievements as well as areas of improvement. Keep in mind the “coach” approach. If the solution comes from the leader, the team members commitment will be low and vice versa.

In conclusion, employee engagement starts from the leaders. Leaders should exercise awareness and avoid these pitfalls. Common and simple as they can be, these pitfalls can wreak havoc on the team engagement level and the overall company’s productivity.

Would you like to improve the employee engagement in your company? Are your current initiatives not helping you achieve the outcome you want? Would you like to grow your leaders to better engage their teams?

If you answer YES to all these questions, contact Coach Felicia for an employee engagement strategy session.