In academia and corporate America, one of the hottest topics today is employee engagement.

As scholars and organizations try to find solutions to increase employee engagement, some employers remarkably find ways to mistreat high performers. Often organizations are not aware that they mistreat their high performers.

Three Morale Killers

  • Conformity
  • Micro management
  • Reactive environment

Research shows that people join companies, but leave managers. The connection between employees and managers makes a huge difference in the degree of engagement and involvement people will feel. If people know you understand what matters to them, they’ll trust you to act in ways that align with their interests.

Here are descriptions of the “3 morale killers” that lead to high performers exiting an organization:


Many years ago, Earl Nightingale was credited with saying, “the opposite of success is not failure, the opposite of success is conformity.” Conformity is defined as a social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit with a group. It is the yielding to group pressures (Crutchfield, 1955).

Compliance is the most common form of conformity. It is the form that is observed most. Compliance is changing one’s public behavior while privately disagreeing.

In his book Overacheivement, Dr. John Eliot states, “by definition high performers are abnormal; they strive, throughout their entire careers, to set themselves apart from the pack.” What this means is forcing a high performer to conform is not suggested. Conformity is not in their DNA. By nature, high performers are non-conformist.

Micro Management

Micro management is a destructive management style in which the supervisor closely observes or controls the work of the employee. It can have negative and long-term effects on a business’s success. It ties up management in issues that other employees are better suited to deal with, resulting in time and productivity loss.

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It also displays a lack of trust in employee performance and ability, which leads to employee frustration, de motivation, and burnout.

When employees feel they have little control or power over their own work, they can become resentful, disengaged, and less likely to contribute to their full potential.

Reactive Environment

Effective, high performers operate with a proactive approach. Reactive environments are draining and demotivating to high performers. They embrace the truest sense of what it means to be a visionary.

They are able to perceive the challenges and introduce systems that facilitate navigating through those challenges when they hit. They also foresee the good times ahead and set up to take advantage of and celebrate those times.

High performers think differently, act differently, and seek environments which encourage creativity.

Environments that include any of the three morale killers will be detrimental, and high performers will seek environments where the morale killers are non-existent.

How Do You Increase Employee Engagement?

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Crutchfield, R. (1955). Conformity and Character. American Psychologist, 10, 191-198.
Eliot, J. (2004). Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More.
McLeod, Saul. (2007) What is Conformity? www.simplypsychology.org. 

Dr. Terry Jackson
Terry is Managing Partner for WEpiphany. Developing People is Terry’s purpose and passion. Terry brings 25 years of experience working for organizations and is also a certified Executive and Business Coach, and Sales Trainer.