Leadership Mistakes

How to Increase Morale at Work

Drew Stevens asked:

Copyright (c) 2008 Drew Stevens PhD

Emerson states, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”. A majority of the issues related to worker productivity stem from enthusiasm. Individuals simply go to work because they abhor their employer, the monotony, and the products. There is no passion or pride.

Much of this issue stems from issues embedded within organizational culture. We find that organizational Issues affecting morale and productivity include:

– Leadership not serving as an exemplars – some leaders today are narcissists, demeaning and ruthful. More importantly, salaries exceed employee pay by 425 times the average work. Leaders need to harmonize with employees and treat all equally. Avatars include McDonalds, Fed Ex and UPS where employees and management are one.

– Little or no accountability – The United States economic system is currently in financial turmoil and no one is accountable. Employees need to know that mistakes count for learning but criminals punished for repeat offenses.

– Career planning and succession planning is null – Simply put there is no succession planning. Most CEO’s and managers arrive from competitive industries and companies. Whatever happened to the mailroom climb?

– Infighting amongst departments – When the fighting ends and all understand the reason for being employed perhaps harmony arrives.

– Too many silos – Companies are in business for one reason- to create clients. End the infighting and focus on the most vital asset!

Causes of morale also correlate back to the organization, its culture, and its management. After 25 years of research in this area, we find five factors contributing to organizational morale. A study by the Corporate Leadership Council reveals managers have a tremendous impact on an employee’s level of commitment. It is imperative to note that individuals do not leave companies they leave poor managers. Organizational management contributes to the negative morale. As recent as 2006 the Gallup Organization estimates there are 32 million actively disengaged employees costing the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity. Such loss includes absenteeism, tardiness, and poor work.

Helping to dilute the productivity issue, research depicts that taking time to build relationships with employees through personal interactions is a key step managers can take to keep morale high. Employees need to feel trust and respect from managers. Employees desire feedback to build management relationships to understand their work matters.

Ending the morale issue is not easy but there are cures.

1. Begin with talent acquisition – Start with the right people. No firm we work with ever hires on a proactive basis. Most firms conduct employment searches reactively. Seek employees that fit with the organizational culture and with the obligatory skills. Never wait!

2. Hire for skill – Talent is innate. Organizations hire for personality and behavior first and skill second. Skill is not interchangeable, behavior is. A great hire might have a wonderful temperament and lack the skill to plug a socket into an outlet. I recall a fire star hotel that sought advice to correct housekeeping flaws. After five minutes, it was easy enough to terminate staff and find those without flaws.

3. Look at best practices from best people – Management focuses on repairing those that cannot rather than improve those that can. Avatars exist in your organization. Discover what they do right and emulate it.

4. Passion – In the 1980’s Sylvester Stallone appeared again as Rocky this time with a theme, “Eye of the Tiger”. What a great metaphor for valuable talent. Seek to acquire talent that truly loves work. Passion too is innate. Employees must love what they do and how they do it. In addition, managers, the organization, and the employees must vehemently focus on the customer. When passion is high so too is morale. Remember Winnie the Pooh, try finding Eyeor amongst staff at Disney; Southwest Airlines and FedEx, all intensely focus on servicing the client.

Lastly, management must focus on vital areas for improving the success of morale and productivity. Managers must constantly strive to provide feedback to employees. Feedback is not an annual event- Performance Review. It is imperative that daily communication exists for good information and improvement. Coaching, counseling, and mentoring are components of organizational morale. In addition, many attend church and hear the words, “It is right to give thanks and praise”. Many watch professional sports and view coaches coddling athletes. We can learn something here; simple words of thanks and praise constantly improve morale and employee relationships. Finally, the first item terminated during economic volatility is training. Research finds that employees are assets and require that treatment. Never stop training; this improves productivity and morale at all times.

Issues of morale and productivity are onerous, volatile, and difficult to control. There is a need for management, the organization, and the individual to assist with success factors. Much is dependent on the desire to change; methods chosen and consistent follow through. However, if you do nothing you still have a morale issue. Take the time, seek remedies, and keep morale high. Doing so, lowers attrition, improves productivity, increases profitability and most importantly- reduces stress.

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