Failure to understand the cause of low morale leads to artificial fixes that either create a false sense of a morale boost while further frustrating employees or do nothing at all. It is important to understand that low morale is not the result of external forces: customers, regulations, audits, bad PR, decreased sales. Nor are team members to blame when low morale results in back-biting, victimization or resentment of peers. Rather morale is established exclusively through a top-down mechanism and not the other way around. Management and leadership drive morale up or down. And ultimately only these individuals within the organization can change its trajectory.
What can leaders do to boost morale?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. 70% are in the same boat. But that does not make it healthy or do anything to improve your company’s bottom line. On the contrary, organizations that can effectively manage morale have a strong competitive advantage that cannot be denied and should seek to stand out above the masses in this area. So what can a leader do?
Our human resources are people, not job descriptions. When people know that they are respected as individuals with unique goals, talents, personalities, strengths and weaknesses, they are willing to do and give more. They find themselves in an environment that gives and does not exclusively take until they have nothing more to give. In this setting, the ability to give more in seemingly infinite.
A management structure in which all decisions are made at the top and then dissiminated down through the ranks just doesn’t work. What happens is a perceived or very real disconnect between what the company thinks is happening in various levels of the company and what is actually happening. This can lead to changes, policies and processes that just don’t work. Employee’s become defiant, find work-arounds and distrust the company’s grasp on reality. Rather employees at all levels should be regularly engaged for input through surveys and a culture of openness to new ideas.
Instead harness their passion and energy in a positive way. Find ways to give as much control and autonomy as is feasible to those being managed and take on the roll of supporting their ability to empower themselves in a productive way for the success of the organization. Most people will happily step into this role.
It only takes one weak link to break the chain. If you are in the position to either hire management or perhaps mentor the company’s future leaders who may be at the cash register today, it should be our goal to seek out and nurture the right leaders, who understand how to lead by example, learn their team member’s strengths and utilize them effectively.
Accountability can very often take on a negative connotation. You do something wrong and you get punished. Yet not holding people accountable for their actions or failure to meet objectives destroys morale as others wonder why they try so hard to meet goals. Organizations that can flip the negative image on its head by demonstrating how accountability to our companies, our jobs and each other can make us all more happy and productive can boost morale.
If an organization is suffering from lowered morale, then the employees are only doing enough to keep their jobs. As morale sinks, this lowers the standards for everyone and both productivity and morale continue to decline. They do not see a link between what they do and the success of their company other than perhaps in the form of do more, sell more, we’re sinking, work longer hours. As leaders, we must assure that employees understand the connection between their efforts and the success of the organization. We should help make positive connections between the two. This can be in the form of profit-sharing, outcome based incentives that clearly promote company objectives and clearly linking their day to day objectives with the larger outcomes to help them see the bigger picture.
Stop sinking morale in its tracks
Recovering from poor morale is not as difficult as it seems when we consider the number of employees who are not engaged due to it. Through evaluating organizational objectives, establishing expectations for management regarding how they manage and holding them accountable for applying effective morale-boosting techniques, we can completely change the direction of our organizations.