When employee morale is low, it can have a hugely negative effect on the culture, decrease collaboration between teams, affect the way customers are treated, and so much more.
Leaders will often look for a quick fix, but it’s not that simple.
It’s easy to put the blame on the hiring process or one individual employee, but unfortunately, the blame is on managers. As a leader, the buck stops with you. You need to take full responsibility for the low morale.
It’s the environment that you create through your attitudes, policies, and even biases to decrease morale at work.
A high-morale environment is one built on trust, respect, autonomy, and recognition.
Every employee has the potential to do amazing things, but often they’re stifled for a number of reasons.
Before going through ways to fix morale, let’s look at a few of the causes of low morale.
Causes Of Low Employee Morale
There are many causes of low morale, but again, more than anything, it comes down to a lack of trust and respect. When you don’t trust your employees, you’ll do things like micromanage or blame.
Here are some of the main causes of low morale:
Lack Of Growth
This is true at both the personal and the business level. If the business isn’t growing and there’s no movement or action, employees can become bored and demotivated.
The research shows that employees need that growth to stay engaged, and if they don’t get it, they’ll start to become disengaged and eventually leave for a more challenging role.
Lack Of Clarity
When employees don’t fully know what’s expected of them, or those expectations are misaligned, that leads to unnecessary stress and employees will lose morale.
This is why it’s important to set clear goals with each member of your team and use monthly one-on-ones as a way to check in to see if there are any clarity issues.
Change In Leadership
Any type of change is hard to handle.
If there was a recent merger, or a shakeup at the senior leadership level, that can easily lower morale as that confidence is shaken, the culture will likely change, and morale can take a hit.
Change management is one of the hardest things an organization will have to go through, so it’s important to keep a close eye on morale throughout any major change.
More often than not, leadership issues are one of the biggest reasons for low morale.
Leaders need to understand how their behavior is affecting the team. It’s tough for front-line managers that are stuck between their team and the senior leaders, but low morale can have such a dramatic effect on your team that it’s worth bringing up to senior leadership.
How To Deal With Low Employee Morale
Luckily, low morale is easy to fix. It just takes a conscious effort and commitment.
Here are seven ways you can fix low employee morale:
One of the worst things you could do when morale is low is pretend it’s not.
It’s easier to just sweep problems under the rug, or try to “shield” your employees from bad news you might be receiving from above, but you’d be much better off being transparent.
Employees will respect that honesty, and you can all work together to fix the issue.
When morale is low, it’s important to focus on the positive and recognize good work.
Lack of recognition might even be the reason morale is low, so it’s in your best interest to focus a bit more on this in tough times. Employees need to feel appreciated and valued.
According to the book How Full Is Your Bucket by Don Clifton, lack of appreciation is the number one reason people leave their jobs. If people don’t get recognized for all the time and energy that they put into their work, morale will drop.
Remember, if managers aren’t the direct source of the low morale, it’s their responsibility to fix it. Managers need to be trained in things like:
- Emotional intelligence
- Different leadership styles
- Giving feedback and recognition
Managers have the biggest effect on engagement and morale, therefore training them is one of the most important things you could do to fix morale issues.
Run A Calm Company
Setting aggressive goals and pushing yourself and your team to the limit is inspiring, but reducing stress, maintaining work-life balance, and running a calm, healthy company should be your real goal.
Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, talks about the importance of running a calm company, in a preview of his new book The Calm Company.
“What’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity. Companies that force their crew into this bargain are cooking up dumb at their employees expense.”
We should all take a page from Jason’s book (pun intended) and run a calm company.
To keep employees motivated, give them a sense of progress and that they have something to look forward to.
Even if it’s not an actual job promotion, give them growth by helping them take courses or attend conferences that will improve their skills. As long as there’s a sense of growth and advancement they’ll be motivated.
A great way to increase morale is to collect feedback from the team and show them that you’re listening. When employees feel heard, they are more likely to be motivated at work.
You can set up an anonymous feedback tool like Officevibe or have informal team meetings, but whatever you do, find a way to show employees that their opinion counts.
Don’t forget to act on whatever feedback you receive. Even if you don’t actually implement every piece of feedback, thank them and get back to them.
Have Team Building Activities
When morale is low, organize a team building activity like a night out or a team lunch to lift spirits.
It’s amazing what a few slices of pizza can do for team morale.
While this isn’t as long term a solution as our other recommendations, this is a nice quick fix to boost morale that we’d highly recommend.
What Do You Do To Improve Morale?
Let us know in the comments!