Employees with high morale tend to be happier, more engaged, and try their best to achieve objectives. But, how can managers spot signs when it comes to low employee morale? Noticing a decrease in collaboration, negative interactions, and low performance, can feel like just the beginning.

It's important for managers to know how and when to intervene.

That's why we're looking into the causes of low employee morale, to learn strategies to flip a negative employee experience into a positive outcome.

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Common causes of low employee morale

Learning the root causes of low employee morale helps is a key first step. We put together a list of common causes of low employee morale:

Minimal professional development 

A 2017 survey done by Gallup indicated that “inadequate or a lack of professional and career development” can be a main driver for employee disengagement.

This data helps us understand that employees value learning more skills to grow their career. Noticeably, managers who don't prioritize the development of their team will experience low motivation and productivity.

When managers prioritize the growth of employees, they feel valued, supported, and motivated.

Tip: Hold space for regular career conversations with your employees and learn about their career goals. Ask them questions like:

  • What motivates you at work?
  • What is something you find challenging that you’d like to work on?
  • What are some skills or expertise you’d like to develop?

Confusion and unclear expectations

A lack of team transparency can cause confusion. Often, employees may not understand what’s expected from them which can lead to feelings of unnecessary stress, low employee satisfaction, and burnout.

Having clear goals set intentionally from managers gives employees concrete objectives to work towards.

At Officevibe, we developed our own collaborative goal-setting framework for managers and employees. We did this because we want each team member to have a meaningful stake in their own development. Check it out here!

Tip: Host regular 1-on-1s with employees. Set clear goals and follow up on their progress. Ask questions like:

  • What will success look like if this goal is achieved?
  • What are some milestones we can agree on as you work towards this goal?
  • How will you communicate with me if we aren't meeting objectives?

Difficulty adapting to change

Experiencing change at work can feel stressful. Whether it's a shift to remote work, or in team structure. Either way, this is can cause negative effects when accompanied by a lack of communication.

When managers maintain transparency, it facilitates clear communication. Ultimately, teams need to know how changes will impact them. Let them know that you understand their concern and do your best to answer their questions.

Tip: Check in frequently with each of your employees. Try a simple tool like Officevibe's employee engagement solution to keep track of how people are really feeling using weekly pulse surveys.

Response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Right now, your employees are doing their best during unprecedented times. Many people feel the imbalance between their work life and home life. When this isn't addressed, it can cause employees to feel burnt out and disengaged.

Practicing compassion and empathy with your team will encourage a culture of flexibility and empathy.

Tip: Encourage employees to take personal days to rest and recharge. Lead by example by signing off at a reasonable time, taking time off, and prioritizing rest.

Effects of low employee morale

There are two common effects of low employee morale. Each one helps managers learn about how to create a positive culture for their team.

Decreased productivity and engagement

Employee morale tends to be low when people feel less motivated to help the company succeed. Without a team of engaged employees, it's difficult for managers to build momentum towards objectives. 

Research shows that employees experiencing low morale at work may also demonstrate a higher level of absenteeism. That means that one employee experience with low morale can affect others on the team.

Employee turnover 

Experiencing high turnover can inspire feelings of instability. When this occurs, it's important for managers to inspire a solid foundation for their team. This will prevent other employees from following suit.

The trickle down effects of decreased productivity and employee turnover can be detrimental on your overall team morale and organization.

6 Strategies to improve employee morale

Luckily, there's a lot managers can do to alleviate the causes of low employee morale. Here are six strategies to help you improve employee morale:

Employee morale evolution

1. Practice transparency

Rather than sweeping areas of concern under the rug, tackle them head on. Teams respect managers for taking action and working together to find a solution. Be open about recurring areas of concern and lead with vulnerability to inspire the same.

Tip: Send out a poll or survey at the beginning of the meeting to explore potential issues affecting your team. Then, discuss the results together.

2. Practice recognition

A lack of employee recognition may be one of the culprits to poor morale. It’s in a managers best interest to acknowledge individual efforts, celebrate small wins and draw attention towards strong leadership skills.

Tip: If you notice employees collaborate well, or show exemplary leadership abilities, congratulate them in a public channel. Call out how their work has impacted the greater team goals. Check out Officevibe's employee recognition guide for more ideas!

3. Prioritize wellness 

Setting aggressive goals and pushing your team might feel motivating, but pushing too hard causes employees to feel inadequate, and disengaged.

We recommend a more balanced approach. Start by integrating mindfulness and employee wellbeing practices. Prioritizing wellness is a great reminder to your employees that you care about them, which will result in them feeling supported.

Tip: Create space during team meetings for a minute of mindfulness. You can also encourage employees to turn their work related notifications off when they end their day.

4. Take part in employee growth

Keep employees motivated, by actively prioritizing their development. This can be done during regular 1-on-1 meetings. Employees will feel supported when they have the opportunity to develop new skills and are challenged in their role.

Actively encourage employees to be accountable for their engagement. When managers do this, they'll notice a boost in employee morale and engagement.

Tip: Get to know the goals of your team. Whether they're after a promotion, or wanting to expand on their existing skills, take time to understand how they want to develop.

5. Collect feedback

A great way to increase morale is to collect feedback from the team and show them that you’re listening. Even if you can’t implement every piece of feedback right away, you’ll be able to tackle achievable short term issues that benefit teams over the long term.

Tip: Set up an anonymous employee engagement platform like Officevibe or have informal team meetings. The more insight you collect as a manager, the more targeted your efforts will be.

6. Nurture human connection 

Managers, it's time to get creative and have a little fun! Organize team building activities to promote the importance of workplace friendships. This helps improve the dynamics of your team, a crucial element to boosting employee morale.

Tip: Remote teams can schedule optional virtual coffee chats or a virtual team hangout. Make this a weekly habit and you'll notice relationships start to flourish. At the end of the day, the people we work with make our experiences more enjoyable and collaborative. Consequently a job becomes something to look forward to.

Remember that the more you connect with your people, the more you can guide them towards success. Positive employee morale can greatly impact their relationship with managers and with their peers.

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