Resolving the Morale Issue at Work

By Drew Stevens, Ph.D.

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.

• 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 enure equal treatment of all. Cultures where this practice occurs frequently include McDonalds, Fed Ex and UPS where employees and management are one.

• Little or no accountability – The United States economic system is currently in financial turmoil and no one is accountable. Employees need to know that mistakes may count for learning but criminals are punished for repeat offenses.

Causes of low morale correlate to 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. As recent 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 managers can take to keep morale high. Employees need to feel trust and respect from their managers.

Ending the morale issue is not easy but there are cures.

1. 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!

2. Hire for skill – Organizations hire for personality and behavior first and skill second. Skill is not interchangeable, behavior is. A great hire might have a wonderful temperament and lack the skill to plug a socket into an outlet. I recall a five star hotel that sought advice to correct housekeeping flaws. After five minutes, it was easy enough to terminate staff and find those without flaws.

3. 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.

4. Passion – In the 1980’s 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. Employees must love what they do and how they do it. When passion is high so too is morale.

Lastly, managers 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. In addition, many attend church and hear the words, “It is right to give thanks and praise”. Many watch professional sports and view coaches coddling athletes. We can learn something here; simple words of thanks and praise constantly improve morale and employee relationships.

Issues of low morale and productivity are onerous, volatile, and difficult to control. Take the time, seek remedies, and keep morale high. Doing so, lowers attrition, improves productivity, increases profitability and most importantly- reduces stress.


One Response to “Resolving the Morale Issue at Work”

  1. Glen Givens says:

    Managers are the coach of the corporation. They study the strengths of each employee and allow that employee to use those strengths to perform efficiently and productively towards the company’s goal, objective, or mission. It is the strength of the employee, brought out by the manipulation of the manager, that aligns this strength for the corporation.

    A manager has to fulfill the emotional and social needs of each employee to engage them positively in the work force. A minimum of a quarterly evaluation from all employees would be a minimum measuring device to give feedback of the managers performance. Gallup offers such a feedback evaluation.

    Hiring the correct employee requires an in depth evaluation of each role. The requirements to perform excellent, not just above average, need to be listed. The external skills and methods are quite obvious, but the personalities that would drive the individual to perform excellent every time are the hidden keys to excellent performance.

    An employee’s innate abilities can not be changed. Their habits are changeable. Specific skills and knowledge can be layered on an individual’s strong foundation of the required basic innate talents. Basic mastered skills can be adapted to the requirements of similar role.

    The increasingly pay separation is a result of some misguided concerns. In the 70’s the difference between the rank and file worker and the CEO was closer to 30 to 50 times. I agree that the leader of a corporation is worth more money than an average performing manager or employee. I would even like to mention that an excellent performing employee is worth more than a substandard performing manager. Just because you go up one career level does not necessarily mean you are automatically worth more. If you advance up to the next level, you should have the opportunity to make more than the lower level, if you perform with excellence. Excellence is the measuring device, average is not just good enough.

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