Popular Terms
The act of reducing another's confidence and hope, or discouraging and disheartening someone's optimism, causing them to lose faith in the future.

The term "demoralize" is often used in military, sports, and business settings where there are competitors. In the military, an army unit or entire military outfit can become demoralized if the enemy's superiority overpowers them.  In 1990, the United States and its allies overpowered the Iraqi military in Operation Desert Storm, achieving their objective of liberating Kuwait in just five weeks, demoralizing the enemy.

In sports, competitors demoralize one another by using psychological tactics to make the other believe they cannot win. When a team scores several points in a short amount of time, it can often demoralize their opponent.

In business, the term often refers to the demoralization of employees by bosses, coworkers, or customers. In any business relationship, there is a competition to achieve one's goals. Coworkers compete against one another for promotions and raises. Bosses and employees compete against one another to meet objectives with limited resources. Customers hope to get products for the least amount of money.

The relationship between boss and employee can often be demoralizing, especially if there are conflicting objectives. An employee would like challenging, exciting projects that would enhance his or her career. A boss's objective is to assign projects to those that would best perform them. Employees who do not get choice assignments might feel demoralized. In addition, if a boss feels threatened, perhaps believing an employee might not perform a job to expectations, the boss might micromanage or simply do the job himself, demoralizing the employee.

Also, if a boss feels threatened by an employee's abilities, the boss might actually become demoralized. The boss might use his or her authority to undermine the employee.


Oftentimes, the company's top management can demoralize employees without knowing it. For example, a reorganization without consulting employees can be devastating to employees beliefs in the importance of their careers. In addition, paying lip service to employee morale, but never acting on it can demoralize employees. For example, if a company administers an employee survey, not only should they publish the results, they should also act on it.

Use 'demoralize' in a Sentence

Amy feels demoralized because her performance review did not go well.
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Fred was demoralized when he lost out on a promotion that went to one of his own employees.
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The Broncos effectively demoralized the Panthers in the Super Bowl.
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Notable Quotable

Startups in 13 Sentences (#11)
"Don't get demoralized. Though the immediate cause of death in a startup tends to be running out of money, the underlying cause is usually lack of focus. Either the company is run by stupid people (which can't be fixed with advice) or the people are smart but got demoralized. Starting a startup is a huge moral weight. Understand this and make a conscious effort not to be ground down by it, just as you'd be careful to bend at the knees when picking up a heavy box."
- Paul Graham
Startups in 13 Sentences (#12)
"Don't give up. Even if you get demoralized, don't give up. You can get surprisingly far by just not giving up. This isn't true in all fields. There are a lot of people who couldn't become good mathematicians no matter how long they persisted. But startups aren't like that. Sheer effort is usually enough, so long as you keep morphing your idea."
- Paul Graham

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