Low morale in the workplace can hurt productivity, increase work errors, increase “sick days”, and decrease cooperation between teams and departments, all of which lead to larger problems. As an employer, manager or leader, you must find the source of low employee morale and deal with it before your profits start falling or employees start leaving, or both.
What Causes Low Morale?
The number one cause is almost always poor leadership. Why? First, because a poor manager will ignore the feelings, thoughts and reactions of his or her employees, focusing only on the bottom line. Or, the manager’s style may be abrasive, dismissive, critical, or otherwise negative. Mostly, a lack of morale in the workplace means a leader or manager has not addressed the issue that caused it.
- Dissatisfied Employees – The monotony of doing the same thing day after day, year after year, can cause a good employee to suffer low morale over time. Most people hope to move up in an organization, whether to make more money, take on more challenging work, or obtain new titles and prestige. Even if they are content with their current jobs, if they feel underutilized or underappreciated, their performance will be underwhelming. Be sure your company takes an active role in employee career development by giving them opportunities to advance themselves. Offer them training, teach them new skills, and make sure they have a defined career path.
- No Expectations – Employees want to know what is expected of them. If managers don’t take the time to give clear expectations of the roles in their departments, employees will become stressed, anxious and frustrated – not the hallmarks of a happy workplace.
- Troublesome Coworkers – This is where the saying “one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel” applies. If one employee is a complainer, difficult to get along with, or an obvious underperformer, negativity can quickly spread among the entire staff. You must deal with problem employees before they have a chance to infect too many other people.
- Unattractive Environment — Believe it or not, the work environment is vital to employee morale. Is your workplace clean? Are the furniture and equipment modern and functional? Are your employees’ surroundings drab and dreary? If you want to improve morale and performance, consider whether you need to upgrade the work environment. What can you do to make it a more pleasant place to be?
When morale is low, employees may not express it, but they expect management to solve the problem. Remember, morale is an emotional issue. Employees need to know their work is appreciated. They want to have the sense that they belong, that they are respected by management and their peers, and that what they are doing is important and will be worth their time.
The key to business success lies in the productivity and output of your employees. If you can identify the signs of low morale, you can focus on improving or eliminating its causes.