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  • By: Lynda Stephen

Low Morale in the Workplace?

“Accountemps Survey” cited a third of human resources managers as having said, a breakdown in communication is the main reason for low morale at work. In the same survey, 38% of HR managers cited ‘communication’ as the most efficient way to raise morale.

One definition of morale is ‘… a sense of common purpose on a group’: Merriam-Webster.

Ever started a new job where you feel that you have landed on an alien planet where colleagues hardly acknowledge that you exist because they are all so busy they can barely make eye contact? You are met with blank stares or frowns when you attempt to communicate with them. Ever been given instructions, then been left to it with never another word from the manager until something goes wrong? The atmosphere is far too tense, draining you of joy, energy and any creativity!

Here are some signs of low morale to look out for as a manager:

  • Active grapevine – scarce communication encourages gossip. Red flags could be; increased negativity, more absenteeism, reduced co-operation and commitment.

  • Lack of initiative – merely going through the motions.

  • Poor performance – missed deadlines, frequent mistakes, reduced service levels.


  • Checking in with workers helps to measure morale so that problems can be anticipated and addressed. Giving out accurate information eliminates misinformation that leads to speculation and gossip.

  • Ignoring an employee’s achievements kills morale instantly. Encourage workers to solve problems creatively and reward success immediately. It encourages initiative and enthusiasm for what they do. A simple “thank you” could change the way you communicate with your peers.

Poor Leadership:

Management style is critical and is often the biggest problem. There may be a disconnection between manager and workers.

1. Perhaps a manager needs affirmation or could be encouraged to move up the ladder if they feel underused.

2. Management is not clear in their expectations of the position the worker is expected to fill. It creates confusion and distress which often impacts on the employee’s performance review.

3. A good manager deals with underperforming employees before they affect the team, especially with teams that are dependent on each other.

Something to remember: Morale is an EMOTIONAL issue!

  • CONNECT with workers to show appreciation and value by spending time with them - even spending time at their desk if only to see how they are doing. It must be SINCERE attention. It can be a daily exercise.

  • Always show RECOGNITION and acknowledgement by thanking the staff for their effort, so they understand how important the effort is to meet budgets, deadlines and for saving the company money. It demonstrates how valuable employee’s work is to the company

  • CHALLENGE the worker. Boredom can set in and create low morale over time. Offer a new challenge to break the monotony. It could be something as simple as preparing a report if the worker does not usually do it. The manager could also take an active role in a member’s career development. Offer training to teach new skills. Discuss their career path with them.

  • Deal with BAD INFLUENCES. Problematic underperformers drain morale faster than anything else. Check the culprit’s progress with regular follow-up meetings in a way that does not make it obvious that you are targeting a particular person. If this does not work, terminate for the sake of the employee, yourself, the company and colleagues.

  • A DYSFUNCTIONAL SYSTEM is one that has impossible expectations where employees cannot stick to your policies or, these may be too strict to apply so that a worker is in constant fear of losing their position. An example is the attendance register. It should make allowance for realities like traffic jams, faulty alarms. Naturally, too frequent lapses must be investigated, and the worker should get assistance in overcoming these. Job expectations must be written down for performance review purpose. How else would employees know what their expectations are?

  • COST – Get it wrong, and it will cost you lost productivity and most of all MONEY.


Let the worker know that he or she is a valuable and worthy person and a valuable and worthy team member.

If you found this week's blog useful, then we recommend you also take a look at our post on Ten Ways to Improve Your Confidence at Work.

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