Many organizations that survived the 2020 shutdown are now faced with a new pandemic – low employee morale. This disease kills businesses by obliterating workplace productivity and performance. This disease is contagious and can spread like a virus from employee to employee, as well as department to department, destroying a positive organizational culture. Organizations infected with this disease may see symptoms such as:
• Increase in absenteeism and turnover.
• Increase in errors and the need for re-work.
• Increase in complaints by team members and/or customers.
• Increase in an “us” versus “them” attitude.
• Decrease in commitment, enthusiasm, and responsiveness.
There are many factors that can contribute to the spread of this disease within an organization. Let’s take a look at five common causes of low morale and keys to preventing them from turning infectious:
- Poor Management. Managers are often promoted because they are great individual contributors, but they are not always trained to lead a team. Managers need to switch their mindset from individual performance to team performance. Train your managers how to motivate, inspire, and lead a team. Give them leadership processes so they know how to plan, delegate, coach, and hold employees accountable.
- The Unknown. People fear the unknown much more than they fear change. In the absence of knowledge, the rumor mill will kick in and negativity can take root in the culture of the organization. Be transparent by communicating both the good and the bad so employees know what is going on. It is better for employees to hear bad news from management instead of through gossip.
- Disconnection. People who have been forced to work remotely or apart from their normal team may feel disconnected. Even if their team has come back together, they need to rebuild camaraderie and trust. Build in team building activities in virtual or face-to-face meetings to build/rebuild camaraderie among team members. Managers should also take the time to connect with them one-on-one to build rapport and show them they care for their health and wellbeing. They should get to know employees as individuals not just think of them as tools to get the job done.
- Unimportance. Employees may not understand how they fit into the Vision and Mission of the organization. Make sure employees understand how their individual position goals are in alignment with the Vision and Mission of the organization so they can see how their part is critical to the organization’s success. It is also a good practice to recognize 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, or a $5 gift card at a team meeting for hitting the required KRA’s, or an employee of the month certificate, etc.
- Stagnation. In most motivational surveys, one of the highest motivational factors for the current workforce is to be mentored and/or to grow. Employees want to know they are growing and there is an opportunity in the future to advance. Managers should know what the goals are for each person on their team. With this knowledge, managers can mentor, cross-train, and grow their employees. Helping them grow for the next level will not only increase their morale but will also give them a reason to give discretionary effort and stay engaged. After all, they are investing in their own future at that point.
To help prevent low employee morale, it’s critical for managers to proactively build morale in the workplace. Focusing on the areas discussed above will help create increased positive morale and ensure employees will remain productive.