5 Causes of Low Employee Morale—And How To Avoid Them
Posted: 01/26/2011 12:00:00 AM EST | 6
Emerson states, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” A majority of the issues related to worker productivity stem from enthusiasm or the lack thereof. Individuals simply go to work despite their abhorrence of their employer, the monotony and the products. There is no passion or pride.
Organizational Culture Affects Employee Morale and Productivity
Much of this issue stems from practices embedded within an organizational culture affecting employee morale and productivity. These include:
- Leadership not serving as exemplars—Some leaders today are narcissists, demeaning and ruthless. More importantly, leaders’ salaries can exceed employee pay by 425 times the average worker! Leaders need to act in harmony with employees and ensure equal treatment of all, like the organixational cultures of companies such as McDonalds, FedEx and UPS.
- Little or no accountability—The U.S. economic system is currently in financial turmoil and no one is being held accountable. Employees need to know that mistakes may count for learning, but criminals are punished for repeat offenses.
- Career planning and succession planning is null—Simply put, there is no succession planning. Most CEOs and senior managers join an organization from competitive industries and companies. Whatever happened to the mailroom climb?
- Too many silos and departmental infighting—Companies are in business for one reason: to create clients. End the infighting and focus on the most vital asset! When the fighting ends (and everybody understands their reason for being employed) perhaps harmony will arrive.
Management Influences Organizational Culture
Causes of low morale correlate in the organization, its culture and its management. After 25 years of research in this area, we find five factors contributing to organizational morale. A study by the Corporate Leadership Council reveals the tremendous impact managers have on an employee’s level of commitment. It is imperative to note that individuals do not leave companies—they leave poor managers. Organizational mismanagement contributes to negative employee morale. As recently as 2006, the Gallup Organization estimated there were 32 million actively disengaged employees costing the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity. Such loss includes absenteeism, tardiness and poor work. To dilute the productivity impact, research shows that taking time to build relationships with employees through personal interaction is a key step management can take to keep employee morale high. Employees need to feel trust and respect from their management. Employees desire feedback from management to understand that their work matters.
Management Solutions For Low Employee Morale Issues
Ending the employee morale issue is not easy, but here are some suggestions:
- Begin with talent acquisition, and start with the right people. No firm we work with ever hires on a proactive basis—most firms conduct employment searches reactively. Seek employees that fit with the organizational culture and with the obligatory skills. Never wait!
- Hire for skill. Talent is innate. Organizations hire for personality and behavior first and skill second. Skill is not interchangeable, behavior is. A great hire might have a wonderful temperament but lack the skill to plug a socket into an outlet.
- Look at best practices from best people. Management focuses on “fixing those that cannot” rather than “improving those that can.” Icons of performance exist in your organization. Discover what they do right and encourage others to emulate it.
- Hire for passion. In the 1980s Sylvester Stallone appeared again as Rocky, this time with a theme, “Eye of the Tiger.” What a great metaphor for valuable talent! Seek to acquire talent that truly loves work. Passion too is innate. Employees must love what they do and how they do it. When passion is high, so too is morale.
- Focus on the customer. Management, the organization and the employees must vehemently focus on the customer. Southwest Airlines and FedEx both intensely focus on servicing the client.
Management must constantly strive to provide feedback to employees. Feedback is not an annual performance review event. It is imperative that daily communication exists for good information and improvement. Coaching, counseling and mentoring are components of organizational morale. Many people attend church and hear the words, “It is right to give thanks and praise.” Many watch professional sports and witness coaches cheering on their athletes. We can learn something here: Simple words of thanks and praise can improve employee morale and relationships.
Leveraging Productivity through Management and Employee Training
The first item terminated during economic volatility is often training. Research finds that employees are assets and require that treatment. Never stop training; this improves productivity and employee morale at all times. Issues of low employee morale and productivity are onerous, volatile and difficult to control. There is a need for management, the organization and the individual to assist with success factors. Much is dependent on the desire to change; methods chosen and consistent follow through. However, if you do nothing you still have an employee morale issue. Take the time, seek remedies and keep morale high. Doing so lowers attrition, improves productivity, increases profitability and most importantly—reduces stress.
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Drew- Great post and I would like to add to the previous comment. about negative employees. Too many employers allow negative employees to spread their doom and gloom accepting the belief that there is always one "bad apple." See my allbusiness post, "Stop Trying to Bring My Day Down." http://www.allbusiness.com/labor-employment/human-resources-personnel/12397149-1.html
Your assertions are good with one caveat: the Director of HR is exactly like the person you want to hire. If the HR Director is unable to perform these tasks admirably, the whole thing falls apart. If you can't operate at that high-performer level, you will difficulty spotting that kind of talent.
As for training during economic volatility, most organizations dropped the ball on this one as they reigned in spending to save cash. Ultimately, they abandoned their employees and now payback is about to begin. A Right Management survey reported last month that 60% of workers will actively be leaving their jobs if they can find another and an additional 21% say that they might leave and are actually networking.
At a time when employees needed reassurance, they had the rugs pulled out from under them and felt abandoned. now they will abandon their employers. I warned my Blog readers twice this past year (March and June) of the consequences of pulling training budgets. i hate to say I told you so, but I did.
Morale gets hit when senior management try to protect their bonuses ahead of their people.
Corporate Attitude/Culture Strategist
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