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Improving Employee Morale

Squash negative attitudes in the workplace and get your employees motivated again.
January 2, 2005

In last month's column, "How to Prevent--and Rescue--Burnt-Out Employees,"I gave you the signs of burnout and how to prevent it in your employees. But what steps can you take even earlier to keep your employees on the right track? Way before an employee shows any sign of burnout, you may notice a dip in their workplace morale.

Morale is defined as the end result of many factors present in the workplace environment. Some of these factors are the work setting itself, worker satisfaction and action, salary, supervisory input, working conditions, status, and more.

Some of the signs of decreased morale are: tardiness, absenteeism, apathy, moping, backstabbing, decreased quality, decreased productivity, increased errors, accidents or injuries. It's important to note that contrary to popular belief, morale is not a cause, but rather the effect or result of many factors going awry.

Getting to the Root of the Problem
The key to unraveling the mystery of a morale slump is to determine the cause or source of the decreased morale. Some of the usual suspects are:

Other reasons may be:

Steps to Improving Morale
Entrepreneurs may have some ideas why morale is poor, and may call in external consultants to help solve the problem. However, the easiest and fastest way to determine at least some of the sources of the issue is to simply ask the employee. Ask what the cause of poor morale is and what the employee believes can be done to turn it around. Obtaining information directly from the person who's experiencing the poor morale can often be an important key to solving this mystery. Additionally, these people will receive a sense of pride and worth that their boss asked them for their input.

Other ways to reach your demotivated employees are:

Another strategy for identifying the cause of poor morale and turning it around is to determine if the work load is sufficient or too pressured, challenging or boring, professionally satisfying or not. As long as the current job isn't overly taxing, provide more challenging tasks--either in breadth or depth to spark an interest in employees. When completed, the employee will discover a sense of accomplishment, feel increased self-worth, and be more productive. And as a result, productivity and morale will increase.

The next step, and one that often follows more challenging tasks, is to promote people for their achievements. When employees see that their boss recognizes and rewards accomplishments, they'll be more satisfied, and their self-esteem and prestige will increase along with the amount in their paycheck. This method of attacking poor morale can be extremely productive for all parties involved.