People are the most important resource in any organisation. They are the engine that drives productivity so their sense of morale at work directly affects the company’s success. Managers thus need to take deliberate steps to deal with low staff morale.
Morale is a state of mind which involves feelings and emotions. Staff morale involves the attitude and perception of the employee towards their job, work environment, team members, managers and the organisation on a whole. Today, the causes of low staff morale can include:
- job security issues;
- lack of recognition/appreciation;
- uncertain business conditions;
- workplace bullying/harassment;
- limited upward mobility;
- lack of fair compensation;
- lack of clarity in job expectations;
- poor/cruel leadership;
- micromanagement, and;
- extra working hours.
In such an environment, employees focus more on their career choices, a sense of personal well-being and financial future and the cost of this attitude to companies is staggering. Gallup estimated that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees costing the economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity including absenteeism, illness, lack of teamwork, poor customer service and other low staff morale issues.
Managers must ensure employees are being effectively utilised through job enrichment in order to combat low staff morale. Here are ten ways to go about it:
Employees need to feel a genuine connection between themselves and management. That they share a common purpose and common goals. They need to know that management knows who they are, what’s going on with their job and that management is there to help them when needed.
The key is to spend time with them. You should regularly work right alongside with them if possible. Take your lunch or breaks with them. This shows them you do not consider them beneath you. It also gives you an opportunity to have more candid conversations for more accurate feedback.
One of the worst things you could do in a workplace with low staff morale is low is look the other way. It’s often tempting and easier to just sweep problems under the rug, or “shield” your staff from bad news you are receiving from above, but you are much better off being transparent. Employees will respect your honesty while “shielding” them leaves them feeling infantilised.
Employees want recognition and acknowledgment that their work has purpose and that it is appreciated. Never miss an opportunity to recognise when someone has done good work. Even a simple “thank you” every time an employee completes a task for you can go a long way.
Make a conscious effort to recognise how the contributions of your employee have helped you get your job done or helped the company save money, so they know how valuable their work is. Awards and public recognition of work above and beyond are excellent ways to recognise the hard work of your staff. All employees want recognition from management and their peers.
Train your managers
Managers need to be trained in things like emotional intelligence and communication because they have the biggest effect on engagement and morale: if they aren’t the direct cause of the low staff morale, it’s their responsibility to fix it. Therefore training them on how to use different leadership styles and how to go about giving feedback and recognition is one of the key steps to take.
Run a realistic 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 company with calm, healthy staff should be your real goal because that is what realistically produces sustainable growth for your company.
Unfortunately, nowadays long hours, excessive busyness, and sleep deprivation have become a badge of honor for many. However, sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor and it’s sad that there is a toxic “always on” culture that romanticises it at the cost of real people’s health.
Help them grow
To keep employees motivated, give them a sense of progress and show them that they have something to look forward to on the job. It doesn’t always have to be a job promotion, give them both career and personal 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 will be motivated.
Show your employees that you are listening. Employees who feel they are being heard are more likely to be motivated at work. When they realise that their opinion counts to the company low staff morale is less likely to occur. Don’t forget to act on whatever feedback you receive. Even if you don’t actually implement every piece of feedback, thank your employees and get back to them about it.
Have team building activities
Weekly or monthly team building activities are a great way to lift your employees’ spirit. When morale is low, organise a team building activity like a team lunch or office games or theme days. These little things can go a long way in dealing with low staff morale. It’s amazing what a few slices of pizza can do for a lethargic team in the office.
Deal with the bad apples
Problem or under-performing employees can drain staff morale faster than anything. You must always take immediate action to deal with such issues before they become larger ones. Issues like racial or sexual harassment should be handled with strict intolerance.
Use progressive discipline to deal with under-performing employees. Check their progress with regular follow-up meetings. If there’s no significant consistent improvement, terminate for the good of the employee, yourself, the company and their colleagues.
Promoting good posture, private workplace stations free of distractions, clean and tidy desks and comfort by allowing employees to move regularly is a way to fight low staff morale. If the employee is not happy sitting at its work station undoubtedly the performance will be affected. Always make sure your office chairs are comfortable and standing desks are another great option.
The key to dealing with low staff morale is managers maintaining a steady and healthy connection to their staff. When an environment of value and acceptance is generated through consistent recognition and open communication, it’s a win-win situation for the company and its employees.