Three Reasons Why Managing People is Bad for Morale

October 23, 2023

Although the words leadership and management are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two, and understanding that difference has an impact on organizational morale.

Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps said, “Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.”1 Leadership is about people.

On the other hand, management is about systems and procedures. Supervisors who manage people like they were boxes of Styrofoam cups create morale problems in an organization.

  1. Managers treat people like a commodity.

People are living, breathing, thinking human beings. They are complex individuals with desires, needs, goals, and a wide range of emotions. The people working for you are not merchandise stamped with a bar code waiting to be taken from the warehouse and placed on the floor to be at your beck and call. Treating people like that creates poor morale.

  • Treating people like a commodity devalues them.

Many times, individuals who are technically and tactically proficient are promoted to supervisory positions. They are generally smart, top producing people who know how to get the work done. But that does not automatically mean they know how to lead.

In my career, I saw people promoted to the company and chief officer levels who attended a fire officer certification course. Even though there was a block of instruction on leadership, some of those individuals still treated people like they were lifeless products. Treating people like a commodity causes morale to plummet.

  • Devaluing people creates a fortress mentality in supervisors.

Treating people as if they were a disposable commodity devalues them. At the same time, a wall is built between the supervisor and the troops. The boss stands on the ramparts of their fortress, looking down on the lifeless workers moving about like zombies, and asks, “Why aren’t these people motivated? We pay them enough money. What more do they want?”

They want to be led, not managed. They want to be treated like human beings, not human doings.

Do you want to build morale with those who work for you? Then lead people and don’t manage them.

Do you want to learn more about being a good leader?

Then follow this link for my new online companion course to my book The Furnace of Leadership Development: The Furnace of Leadership Development Companion Course – Fire Officer Leadership Academy.

1 Definition – QPME: History and Traditions of the United States Marine Corps: Ethics, Values, and Leadership Development – Research Guides at Library of the Marine Corps (

©2023 Rick Davis. Artificial intelligence (AI) WAS NOT used to generate this content.

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