The symptoms are painful: low performance, high turnover, passive-aggressive behaviors, and general lack of focus on what’s important to your business. Is the source of the pain a problem with employees’ morale? Or is it a problem with motivation? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

What’s the difference between morale and motivation?

Morale has to do with feelings. In workplaces where morale is high, employees approach their work with energy, enthusiasm, and willingness. They want to come to work—or at least are enthusiastic about work once they get there.

Motivation, on the other hand, refers to employees’ drive to get the job done. Highly motivated employees tend to be high producers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their morale is high. In fact, employees can be motivated by “negative incentives” such as a fear of losing their job, an excessive desire for rewards, or an overly competitive need to outperform a colleague. Although these tendencies often result in an employee getting a lot of work done—and can even result in highly creative or innovative output—they diminish the overall health and morale of the team or the organization.

How do morale and motivation work together?

Morale and motivation work together in an ongoing cycle. When morale is high, employees seem naturally more motivated to work hard and get positive results. When morale is low—and employees become less self-motivated—some well intentioned managers mistakenly resort to unpleasant, heavy-handed tactics (such as nagging, threatening unpleasant consequences, making more rules, micromanaging, etc.), which in turn lower morale even further.

Understanding morale and motivation is vital to creating a high-performance workplace. Not surprisingly, the best results come when both high morale and high motivation are present. When it comes to raising morale, there are two important things to keep in mind:

  1. It’s not all fun and games.
  2. Occasionally, you need fun and games.

The chart below illustrates this. The idea, of course, is to get your employees into the Efficiency Zone and keep them there.

Here’s what we know:

  • The manager sets the tone for the entire team/department/center.
  • Morale is contagious.
  • Different things motivate different people.
  • Environmental conditions affect morale.
  • Motivations change.
  • There’s no magic formula or 100 percent guaranteed approach to creating high morale.
  • Maintaining high morale is as much about caring as it is about caution.
  • When employees’ needs are met, they tend to be willing to do what you ask—and more.
  • Increasing morale makes good business sense.

Our downloadable guide to reducing call center turnover includes tips on how to improve morale and motivate your staff so you have a high-performing workplace—one where employees strive to help you reach your goals.