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Low employee morale has high costs

January 7, 2013

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

An “employee morale” problem is more than a morale problem. Low employee morale can be at the root of such costly workplace problems as high turnover, lower productivity, inefficiency, poor quality, and heightened stress leading to higher health care costs. Check out eight causes of low morale and some solutions to improve employee morale.

Employee morale is a measurable, controllable expense. That’s the position of Carol Hacker, author of “The High Cost of Low Morale.” And according to Hacker, employers and workplace leaders “can beat the negativity that saps employees’ energy.”

Employee morale involves the attitudes of individuals and groups toward their work, their environment, their managers, and the business or organization. This morale is not a single feeling, but a composite of feelings, sentiments and attitudes. So, why should an employer be concerned about employee morale? Hacker’s response: “Because it’s tied to profitability.”

Consider the downside of low employee morale. The primary sign that a business or organization has a morale problem is the number of people leaving. High turnover is a sign that there most likely is also a morale problem. And along with the morale problem comes lower productivity, inefficiency, poor quality, lack of cooperation, bad attitudes, and a lot of stress generated for both managers and employees. In the worst cases of low morale, there can even be instances of sabotage.

Check out these eight problems that can undermine morale:

  1. A lack of orientation and training of new employees. “When you’re bringing people in and they don’t know what’s expected, immediately you’ve got problems, and that can get worse,” said Hacker.
  2. Insufficient opportunities for advancement for employees.
  3. Managers failing to praise and appreciate their people or show an interest in employees’ ideas.
  4. Management not being honest with employees and not keeping them informed.
  5. Unfair promotion practices and management not promoting from within.
  6. Not addressing behavior and performance problems as they arise.
  7. Management not getting rid of the “bad apples.”
  8. Actually getting rid of the “bad apples.” Unfortunately, said Hacker, “if you fire someone, you fire their entire family. But there are times, for the sake of the business, that some people have to be moved out of the organization.” Also, terminations can create morale problems for the remaining people in the organization. Explained Hacker: “Terminations are hard on morale when employees don’t know the whole story.”

Hacker offers these suggestions to help keep employee morale high:

  • Keep compensation competitive.
  • Look for other ways to reward people. For example, have a fun work environment, or give employees flexibility in scheduling their time.
  • Delegate whenever possible. “When you do, you let people know you believe in them. It gives employees a chance to grow and learn and develop.”
  • Let people know that they count, that they’re appreciated. You can do that with a simple thank-you or with other perks that are meaningful to them.
  • Learn to give feedback without causing defensiveness. You can turn someone off with a negative comment and never regain their support.
  • Promote from within first. It’s a real morale-buster if you don’t.
  • Celebrate success with a potluck, gift certificates or time off, for example.
  • Hire right.
  • Build fun into your organization.
  • Address problems as they arise.

Turn-Offs or Turn-Ons?

There are four types of employees, when it comes to employee morale, according to author Carol Hacker. She identified them as:

  • Turnovers – They aren’t happy with their jobs and will leave at the first opportunity.
  • Turn-offs – They have negative attitudes but stay because of “golden handcuffs” (financial security, benefits, fear of not finding a better job).
  • Turn-ons – They have positive attitudes and stay because they enjoy the work. However, if they don’t get continual job satisfaction, they’ll leave.
  • Turn-ons plus – They like the work and the work environment. Even if occasionally dissatisfied, they’re the most likely to stay for the long run.

“Try to screen out the turnovers and the turn-offs,” Hacker advised and “hire turn-ons.”

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