When workplace morale is high, employees are cheerful, disciplined and happily engaged in their work. Unfortunately, when morale declines and employees are unhappy, productivity suffers and absenteeism increases, costing businesses millions of dollars. In most cases, low morale is caused by a combination of factors, which often combine in a domino effect to cause problems that can hinder the success of the business.
In a 2006 survey of HR executives, nearly 75 per cent of the respondents said that poor leadership was the cause of low morale in the workplace. Without strong leadership, employees are unclear about expectations, the direction of the organisation and the purpose of their work. In addition, leaders who micromanage or control every aspect of their employees' work can cause low morale, as employees do not feel like valued members of a team who can make valuable contributions to the success of the business. If leaders fail to create a culture of trust in the workplace, by not empowering employees to make decision and contribute ideas and failing to be honest, share information or keep agreements, morale will suffer.
Heavy workloads can also contribute to low workplace morale. When employees are overwhelmed with work, and more gets piled on every day, they feel as if they will never catch up. At the same time, when employees are not challenged by their work, or there are inadequate opportunities for growth or advancement, morale can suffer because employees feel bored or stifled by their work. Failing to recognise employee achievements or provide honest and constructive feedback can also cause morale to decline.
Low Pay and Benefits
When employees believe they are underpaid, or their benefits are not up to par, morale suffers. Almost everyone wants to make more money, but when raises are cut back or not offered at all, and benefits are trimmed, employees feel less valued and have decreased loyalty to their employer. Inflexible working conditions also lead to low morale in the workplace. As high-paying jobs with attractive benefits become harder to find, employers need to find creative ways to reward employees, such as flexible work schedules or increased vacation time, or face the consequences of decreased morale.
In difficult economic times, visible signs that the company is struggling can affect morale in the workplace. When employees hear rumours about the company struggling financially, they may fear for their job security and worry about whether the company will survive. In addition, if the company lays off employees, closes departments or engages in labour or contract disputes, morale suffers.
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- "CIO Insight"; HR Execs: Lousy Leadership Is Leading Cause of Low Morale; Deborah Rothberg; July 24, 2006
- "The Leading Edge"; The High Cost of Low Morale; Nicole Fink;
- "Inc."; 10 Tips for Boosting Employee Morale; Jacqueline M. Hames; Jan. 7, 2011
- "Inc."; Poor Communication Hurts Morale; Michael Gadd; Nov. 6, 2008