One of the biggest challenges any leader--and any organization--faces is how to engage employees. According to HR consulting company TowersWatson, 4 out of every 5 workers are not fully engaged in their jobs and delivering at their full potential. Not only that, but according to the Gallup Organization, disengaged employees are more prone to absenteeism and are more likely to leave their jobs.

Unfortunately, bosses are often the problem and not the solution.

The good news is you have the power to change all that. Here, are 21 things every smart leader needs to stop doing right now to have more engaged--and happier and more productive--employees.

1. Stop organizational politics

An environment in which competition for power, influence, resources, and promotions are based on subjective and hidden criteria is very demotivating for employees.

2. Stop setting unclear expectations

Unclear, confusing, and contradictory goals, objectives, and standards cause employees to check out.

3. Stop unnecessary rules

Rules are necessary, but too many of them are demotivating.

4. Stop poorly designed work

Poorly engineered work gets in the way of satisfying internal and external customers and frustrates employees.

5. Stop unproductive meetings

Employees often leave meetings looking exhausted, battered, and bored for good reason.

6. Stop the lack of follow-up

Most employees could write a book about the the latest-and-greatest programs that died on the vine.

7. Stop the constant change

Change is necessary, but in some organizations it seems as if change is arbitrary and capricious.

8. Stop the internal competition

The healthiest organizations compete against their competition, not against themselves.

9. Stop being dishonest

Employees hate being lied to.

10. Stop the hypocrisy

How can you trust leaders who say one thing and do another?

11. Stop withholding information

Lying by omission is still lying.

12. Stop being unfair

Some organizations are full of policies and practices that are perceived as inequitable.

13. Stop discouraging employee ideas and suggestions

Negative and instantaneous responses to employees' ideas and suggestions, such as "It won't work," "You can't do that here," "That's not feasible" will turn off your employees every time.

14. Stop criticizing

Some work environments make employees feel like they are "guilty until proven innocent." Does yours?

15. Stop underutilizing your people

Many employees feel that the capabilities they were hired for aren't being used.

16. Stop tolerating poor performance

When you overlook a poor performer, you can cause everyone to look (and feel) bad.

17. Stop taking employees for granted

Many employees quietly do a good job, and are systematically ignored.

18. Stop being invisible

It is amazing how many employees wouldn't even recognize the division vice president, much less the CEO.

19. Stop over-controlling

Most employees are willing to be empowered, but few managers are willing to give them the authority to be empowered.

20. Stop benefits takeaways

Reversing a benefit or policy--and putting your employees at a financial or other disadvantage--is a sure way to kill morale and loyalty.

21. Stop forcing employees to do poor quality work

Work rules that don't allow quality-conscious employees to take pride in the work they do destroy engagement.