Tips on Finding the Root Cause of Low Employee Morale
written by: Tess C. Taylor, HR Expert•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 11/21/2010
Low employee morale is a common occurrence in the workplace that can cost organizations millions in revenues due to a reduction in productivity. Let's take a look at most prevalent contributing factors.
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Finding the root cause of low employee morale can be a challenge for any human resources department. When times get difficult, employees at all levels of an organization can become negative, which then affects all other areas of the business. Symptoms of low employee morale include tardiness, absences, and low productivity.
According to Dr. David G. Javitch, a leading organizational psychologist, “morale is defined as the end result of many factors present in the workplace environment." (1) When low employee morale is occurring, there are generally several factors that lead to this condition. Identifying sources of low employee morale from within employee ranks is critical to making the workplace a productive environment for the majority of employees. Read on to learn some tips for finding the causes.
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Consider External Factors
Unfortunately, much of the low employee morale that occurs on the job has to do with the external conditions of the world. From financial and housing market crashes to family and social problems, the root cause of low employee morale can often be contributed to things that are far beyond the control of an individual company. When this is the case, the best course of action is to acknowledge these external factors. You can encourage employees to talk about their feelings and get support from HR rather than let this fester under the surface.
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Review Work Loads
Another way to get to the root cause of low employee morale is to consider just how employee workloads and duties play a part in the role of the workplace experience. Employees who are overburdened with unrealistic tasks day after day tend to get negative very quickly. This happens when there are shortages of employees to handle certain tasks or when layoffs and departmental shifts occur. To avoid this problem, make sure management is actively supporting the work of subordinates, providing ongoing training and help whenever and wherever it’s needed.
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Take Employment Events Seriously
Any event that occurs within the context of a workplace can have both positive and negative effects on employees. For example, a few new hires followed by a layoff in another department can lead to an overall feeling of insecurity in the employees left behind. Give the “rumor mill" a listen once in a while to determine if this is generally the root cause of low employee morale. Then you can deal with it directly with each employee.
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Evaluate the Leadership
Last, it can be the leadership that is the root cause of low employee morale. Leaders get so caught up in the daily operations of a business that they can forget the most important part of the organization – its people. When employees get frustrated about the way things are going in a company, they immediately start to look to the leaders to make changes to solve problems. HR can serve as a bridge between leaders and employees to make sure morale levels stay high within a company.
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(1) Javitch, DG. Improving employee morale. Entrepreneur Internet magazine, January 2005, retrieved at http://www.entrepreneur.com/humanresources/employeemanagementcolumnistdavidjavitch/article82710.html