If your employees are dragging themselves into work with long faces and office laughter is non-existent, then staff morale definitely needs a boost.

Low employee morale could be costing your business much more than you think. As well as contributing to higher absenteeism, lower customer satisfaction and lower staff retention rates, low morale amongst your staff will also impact on overall productivity and profitability. Employee morale is critical for employee engagement and that is the key to business success.

So, how do you spot poor morale? And what can you do about it?

This article examines the issue of employee morale, how to recognise low morale, what the causes are and how to fix it.

How to recognize low morale amongst employees

While some of your employees may be openly disgruntled about how they are treated at work, many will simply suffer in silence. But, just because your employees are keeping a lid on their true feelings, it doesn’t mean that low morale isn’t a problem affecting how they perform at work.

Low morale is a sure sign that the culture in your business is a problem. According to a report on The Culture Economy, published by Breathe HR, poor company culture is costing the UK economy £23.6 billion a year.

The tell-tale signs of low morale include:

  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Uncooperative attitude
  • No commitment
  • Increasing absenteeism and late arrival at work
  • Increasing customer complaints
  • Fault-finding and nit-picking about small things
  • Gossiping
  • Staff conflicts
  • Long faces
  • High staff turnover
  • Silence in meetings
  • Lack of initiative
  • More mistakes

What causes low employee morale?

Low employee morale isn’t simply and directly caused by one thing. There are often several factors contributing to poor morale. The biggest issue, however, is usually trust in leadership. Positive morale comes from the top down. The efforts and behaviours of leaders and managers has a direct impact on those who work for them.

Lack of communication, bullying behaviour, a lack of team spirit, negative employees and a lack of incentives are just a few of the problems which add to low morale in the workplace.

Overwork, understaffing, a lack of opportunities and poor management support will also amplify problems with staff morale. Employees who don’t feel valued (not just pay and benefits), respected or appreciated will cost your business big time. The causes of low staff morale are many.

How to fix poor employee morale

Recognizing and understanding the causes of low employee morale is the first step to fixing any problems. Once you have insight, it is easy to instigate change. Here are 6 ways you can begin to fix low morale and give your employees a boost.

  1. Give your people interesting work, challenges and opportunities if they want them. Remember, some of your employees won’t have their eye on a management role and will be quite happy without a promotion, but they’ll still need to feel valued and motivated. Importantly be aware that any apparent lack of drive to progress could be due to poor morale and that can change.
  2. Listen to your people. Communication isn’t a one-way street. Listening to what your employees have to say is imperative. It not only enables you to pick up any seeds of discontent early, you will benefit from ideas and solutions you and your management team may not have thought about. If an employees’ suggestion isn’t accepted, explain why and encourage them to make more suggestions in the future.
  3. Address toxic employees. These are people who are doing harm to your business through how they behave at work. There are ways to manage toxic employees if they are people you want to keep (say your best salesperson). Be compassionate, set expectations and implement a performance improvement plan. Sometimes a quiet word in private is all that is needed. You’ll also need to model the behaviors you expect to see in your business.

If, however, disruptive behavior persists and you can’t remedy the situation, have the courage to get rid of a toxic employee through the proper channels. For guidance, see The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s (ACAS) guide to managing unacceptable behavior in the workplace here.

  1. Recognize and celebrate good work. Focus on the positive. A lack of recognition can contribute to low morale. Your employees need to feel valued and appreciated.
  2. Train and hire good managers. People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Give your managers training in leadership skills, performance management and communication. It is essential your managers can motivate employees and give constructive feedback.
  3. Build teams. Strong bonds between employees in the workplace gets everyone on the same page. Healthy communication and forging cross-team bonds will contribute towards sustaining employee morale.

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