How to Fix Low Morale in the Workplace: A Guide For Leaders

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One person with a poor work ethic can introduce a kind of social virus to an otherwise cohesive and well-functioning system.”

Morale is a mental state that includes emotions and feelings. It is often regarded as an elusive quality because it is created within each employee. It includes one’s attitude and perception of one’s job, work environment, team members, managers, and the organization as a whole. Positive employee morale is usually exhibited by confidence, discipline and willingness to perform. There is no single factor that explains high or low morale; rather, it is the result of a combination of related factors.

What Causes Low Morale?

The root cause of low employee morale in today’s economic reality can include job security issues, uncertain business conditions, limited upward mobility, a perceived lack of fair compensation, and excessive outsourcing practices. Employees in such an environment are more concerned with their career choices, personal well-being, and financial future.

So, what do you do when employee morale is low? Low morale can be overwhelming and difficult to detect. That is why we developed this guide. Below, we’ll go over the signs of low morale, investigate some of the underlying causes of the problem, and propose solutions to eliminate the problem before it spreads from one person to an entire team—or your entire company.

What is Morale in the Workplace?

Employee morale describes how your employees feel about their jobs, including how satisfied they are, their attitude toward their jobs, and their outlook. If your employees aren’t enthusiastic about their jobs, this indicates a lack of morale. Employees in a low-morale workplace are disengaged from their work and dissatisfied with their level of responsibility. Morale varies and is influenced by a variety of factors.

What are the Signs of Low Morale?

If you’re not sure how your employees’ morale is, take a look around the office and look for the following indicators.

White arrows all pointing right
Looking out for these indicators can make it easier to detect low morale and fix it

 

Attitude Shifts

If you suspect low morale in your workplace, keep an eye on your surroundings for evidence. Take note of how your employees work and communicate with their coworkers when you observe them. If they appear bored, this is a strong indicator of low workplace morale. Other indicators may include opposition to new company policies or failure to complete tasks by the deadline.

Gossip

When employees lack the information they require to do their jobs well, they frequently speculate about the unknown, which leads to gossip. If you’ve noticed an increase in misinformation at your workplace, it could be due to poor communication from management. Fostering honest conversations based on trust can help to alleviate any concerns about negative information.

Lack of Motivation

Another key indicator of low morale in the workplace that you may notice as you observe your surroundings is low motivation. Unmotivated employees are more likely to do the bare minimum of work rather than learn new duties or accept additional responsibilities. They turn down leadership positions and new initiatives that require extra effort. Leaders who take steps to motivate their teams may notice an immediate difference in the group’s efforts.

Nonexistent Praise

Employees may feel unappreciated if there is no recognition of exceptional performance in the workplace. Managers who use incentives and rewards for a job well done may find that their employees are more satisfied and perform better. Companies that consistently praise their employees provide the emotional support required to keep employees happy and productive.

Inadequate Performance

Low morale usually leads to poor performance. When your team members begin to make more mistakes and lose interest in providing exceptional customer service, they are most likely experiencing workplace negativity. When these signs appear, step in and provide the assistance required for a positive experience. Showing that you care about your employees’ well-being encourages them to work more efficiently in return.

Decreased Productivity

Unproductive employee building a card castle on the desk
Low morale in the workplace creates low productivity

 

When morale is low in the workplace, productivity suffers. People may put less effort into their job duties due to a lack of motivation and an overall negative environment. When morale is extremely low, employees may not care whether or not the work is completed. Reduced productivity slows down your work processes and can be detrimental to your business.

Loss of Enthusiasm

People who are assigned to repetitive tasks frequently lose interest in their jobs. That is why it is critical to introduce new concepts and projects regularly. Employees benefit from challenging work because it allows them to develop their skills and makes them feel accomplished. If you notice your employees are disengaged with their daily tasks, consider introducing a few projects that encourage learning and creativity.

High Absences and Turnover

When employees dislike their workplace, they tend to take more time off or arrive late to work more frequently. They may even quit a job soon after starting it. If your company has a high absenteeism rate, it may indicate a lack of morale. Recognise your employees’ efforts when they arrive on time and are ready to work to keep them motivated.

What are the Causes of Low Morale?

What can affect morale? Recognising the causes of low employee morale will give you better insight into how to turn things around.

1. Lack of Communication & Clear Instruction

People are much more afraid of the unknown than they are in the absence of knowledge, the rumour mill will take over, and negativity will take root in the organisation’s culture. Transparency means communicating both the good and the bad so that employees understand what is going on. Employees should hear bad news from management instead of gossiping.

Angry male employee shouting at work desk
Lack of communication can cause employees to become frustrated

 

This employee morale crusher is by far the worst. When employees don’t know exactly what they should be doing for a certain task, they’ll feel unstable and unsure. A lack of effective communication isolates team members and closes off the open flow of ideas.

2. Lack of Trust

A positive company culture requires trust. According to some studies, it is also directly related to employee morale. Employees who do not trust you will not feel invested in the company. Create a trusting environment. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This is related to communication.

3. Dishonesty

Employees do not trust dishonest team members or leaders. There can be no effective teamwork if there is no trust. It’s as simple as that.

4. Micromanagement

Constantly peering over your employees’ shoulders can cause anxiety. If you don’t give your employees the freedom to do their jobs in the most natural way, they won’t do their best. Find the right balance that allows you to manage your team while also giving them some space effectively.

5. No Team Bonding

Employees who do not feel connected to their coworkers do not feel connected to the company as a whole.

In contrast, if they feel connected to their team, they are more likely to enjoy being at work as well as the work they do. Make time for team bonding activities at (and outside of) work for your team.

6. A Lack of Appreciation or Praise

Employees may not understand how they fit into the Vision and Mission of the organisation. Make sure employees understand how their individual position goals are in alignment with the Vision and Mission of the organisation so they can see how their part is critical to the organisation’s success. It is also a good practice to recognise employees for their contributions when possible.

Recognition does not have to be a pay raise or promotion it can be as simple as a handwritten note of appreciation for giving extra effort on a project, a $5 gift card at a team meeting for hitting the required KRA’s, or an employee of the month certificate, etc.

Thank you notes or recognising a team member’s hard work can go a long way. When you rarely say thank you or “great job!” to employees, they may begin to believe that their work is unimportant, and morale suffers.

While many people may claim that they do not require this type of recognition, it can significantly boost self-esteem. And having high self-esteem leads to having high morale.

Female employee receiving praise from team
Not receiving praise means that employees will feel forgotten about and undervalued

7. Inadequate Training

It’s one thing to be self-sufficient within your position, but our morale suffers when we feel lost and unguided. Make certain that your employees are properly trained and are aware of a support system.

8. Reluctance to Accept Responsibility

Employees are turned off when the boss or the team refuses to accept responsibility for their actions (especially their mistakes). Blameless team members may be concerned that the blame will be unfairly shifted to them. It fosters a dishonest environment in which collaboration is difficult.

9. Disrespect

Employees dislike going to work when they do not feel respected.

10. Unrealistic Goal Setting

If you set a goal that employees are unable to meet, all of their efforts will be in vain. They won’t be able to get there, their confidence will be shattered, and their morale will plummet.

Meet with your supervisees regularly and set achievable goals; these goals can always be raised as time passes.

11. Insufficient Supervisory Meetings

Employees may feel disoriented if regular meetings between supervisors and supervisees are not scheduled. They may not know whether they are doing things correctly or incorrectly, and they may lack guidance. Their work will suffer, whether because they aren’t doing something correctly or because they simply don’t know.

Supervisory meetings can help you and your employees stay on track even if everything is going well. And if an issue arises, your employee will have a channel through which to express themselves. So, hold those meetings, but make them useful and efficient.

12. Stagnation

One of the most motivating factors for the current workforce is to be mentored and/or to grow. Employees want to know that they are progressing and that there will be opportunities for advancement in the future. Managers should be aware of the objectives of each member of their team. Managers can use this knowledge to mentor, cross-train, and grow their employees.

Helping them grow for the next level will boost their morale and give them a reason to put in extra effort and stay engaged. After all, they are at that point investing in their future.

Female Hands Holding Green Plant on Yellow Background.
Mentoring employees will eliminate stagnation and promote growth

 

Be an effective leader. Recognise and address any of these morale killers at your workplace as soon as possible! Taking regular employee satisfaction surveys is a great idea.

What Happens if You Have Low Morale in the Workplace?

Less engaged teams are less productive, less customer-focused, and more likely to withdraw their efforts and engage in counterproductive behaviour. This happens when management is unclear about expectations, employees haven’t been properly trained, or they don’t feel a sense of ownership over their work. Employees lose interest in going the extra mile when they do not feel valued by managers or care about the projects assigned to them.

High turnover is a costly indicator of low morale; when employees leave because they are unhappy with their jobs and have few external reasons to stay. The negative impact of employee turnover is concerning because of its enormous financial and productivity impact. More importantly, when employees leave, they take with them the knowledge, skills, and abilities that contributed to the organization’s goals, profit, and performance.

Increased absenteeism is another cost of low morale. A more present and healthy workforce achieves more. Sick days cost the company money and productivity, as well as higher health and insurance costs. When employees are dissatisfied, are less invested in the work they produce, or are dissatisfied with their managers, absenteeism rises, resulting in lower productivity. However, absenteeism does not always indicate that employees despise their jobs. It can also be caused by a lack of confidence or training.

How Do You Improve Employee Morale?

How do you raise low morale? you might be wondering. Even if morale at work is currently low, it can be improved with consistent work. To raise morale at work, take these actions:

1. Develop Trust

Increase workplace morale by encouraging trust and honesty. When appropriate, inform your team about important projects and company decisions. Take the time to listen to their concerns and express your gratitude for their efforts. Setting a good example is another way to foster trust. Demonstrate the positive characteristics you want to see in your employees, and they will be more likely to emulate you.

MBM banner with equation that equals trust
Trusting your team is one of the key ways to boost morale

 

2. Be Respectful

Respecting your employees makes them feel valued. When you’re around your team members, pay attention to your body language to ensure you’re sending a positive message. Make an effort to treat everyone with the same level of respect. Maintain eye contact with your team and allow them to contribute to the discussion. Praise your employees regularly when they achieve a goal or reach a milestone. Implement their suggestions to demonstrate that you value their opinions.

3. Encourage Creativity

Employees feel more empowered when they have more opportunities to create. Consider incorporating fun rituals into your weekly work schedule to make employees feel more relaxed. When you encourage rest periods, you create space for your employees to collaborate on new, innovative ways of working.

For example, you could schedule an hour of board game time on Wednesday afternoons for your team, or allow an extra hour of lunchtime every Friday. You can create a more relaxed environment that fosters enjoyment and creativity by giving them something to look forward to.

4. Begin Team-Building Exercises

Great leaders set a positive tone for their organisations. Look for ways to bring your team together through clear communication and accountability as you demonstrate positive leadership skills. Your employees will be more open to team-building activities and games that strengthen professional relationships once they know what to expect. Plan regular team-building activities to help employees learn more about one another and trust one another more.

5. Gather Feedback

Speaking with your employees can assist you in identifying low morale issues. Listen for things that irritate them as well as suggestions for improvement. Meet with employees regularly to demonstrate that you value their input.

6. Conduct Exit Interviews

With low morale, high turnover can be an issue. Hold an exit interview with those employees before they leave to find out what went wrong. Inquire as to what caused the employee’s departure and what you could have done better. Inquire if there was anything you could have done to keep them. Make changes based on this information before more employees leave.

Close up of two businessman's hand at an interview
Holding an exit interview can help you to understand which areas need improvement in your team

7. Provide Opportunities for Advancement

Employee morale can suffer when the workplace becomes stagnant. Make professional development opportunities available to your employees, such as classes, conferences, and on-the-job training. Offer them new responsibilities or projects that are in line with their interests. Hiring internally can also boost morale. Employees are aware that they have the potential to advance, which can be motivating.

8. Place a Premium on Health and Wellbeing

Employees who skip breaks, work long hours and skip meals are at risk of becoming burnt out. Encourage a healthy work-life balance by allowing your employees to leave work on time and use their vacation time. If you have employees who always stay late, limit their working hours to encourage them to leave at a reasonable hour.

By including a wellness program in your offerings, you can encourage people to make healthier decisions. Consider putting healthy snacks in the breakroom and going for group walks during lunch breaks to help you develop healthier habits.

9. Provide More Benefits

Providing additional incentives and perks can improve your employees’ overall satisfaction. Examine your current perks and benefits to see where you fall short. Provide extra benefits that improve work-life balance or make employees happier. Offering flexible schedules or allowing employees to work from home at least a few days per week is one example. Many perks are inexpensive, but they can improve your employees’ attitudes toward their jobs.

10. Address Negative Employees

Sometimes one or two employees can bring everyone’s morale down. Bullying should never be tolerated. Address those behaviours as soon as possible, and consider terminating employees who continue to be bullies. Constantly arguing with coworkers, gossiping, making fun of others, or being generally negative can all harm morale. Improve behaviours by working directly with those employees. Make your expectations for how employees should interact with one another clear to all employees.

11. Get to Know Your Employees

Learning more about your employees outside of their job responsibilities can help boost morale. Employees want to know that they are more than a number. They understand that their role is to generate revenue for the company, but they also want to know that you care about them. Make an effort to connect with employees to learn about their lives outside of work. Show concern when they deal with a death in the family or other difficult situations.

12. Provide Necessary Support

Close up of two women holding hands in support
Providing support to your team makes them feel safe and heard

 

Employee morale is often higher when the company provides the necessary tools, equipment, and support. It can be aggravating to use inefficient tools to complete a task. Check with employees to see if new software, equipment, or other resources could make their jobs easier. Ensure they have managerial support when dealing with difficult tasks or difficult work situations. Make it clear to your employees that they can come to you if they require additional assistance.

13. Give Employees Autonomy

Micromanaging your employees is a sure way to lower morale. It communicates to your employees that you do not trust them and do not believe they have the knowledge or skills to do the job on their own. Allow your employees to make their own decisions and handle tasks. Pay attention when they share ideas or suggest new ways to do things at work. This empowers your employees and improves their work attitude.

14. Make Work Enjoyable

Relax a little in the office to create a more relaxed and enjoyable environment. Add some fun to the routine by installing a karaoke machine in the breakroom or organising a friendly game of charades after a long organisational meeting. These small activities promote team bonding, lighten the mood, encourage fun, and provide a mental break for your employees.

How Do You Test for Morale?

Conducting anonymous employee surveys is one of the best ways to gauge morale. They provide insight into your team’s viewpoint on specific issues. You can ask specific questions or let them respond to open-ended questions. Consider conducting an online survey.

Who is Responsible for Employee Morale?

Employers are responsible for fostering positive workplace morale. When their employees feel valued and respected at work, they are more likely to succeed. Managers frequently have the most influence on morale because they enforce policies and interact with employees directly. Teach your managers to prioritize morale. Employees can boost each other’s morale, resulting in a virtuous circle. Being upbeat and improving interactions with coworkers can be beneficial.

Conclusion

Morale is a mental state that includes emotions and feelings. Positive employee morale is usually exhibited by confidence, discipline and willingness to perform.
Low morale can take time to identify and improve, so don’t give up if your efforts don’t yield immediate results. Persistence and constant monitoring will become your best friends in your mission to improve workplace happiness.

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