Seeking answers to the “low morale” dilemma in the workplace

24 July 2014 by Mark Williams

Here’s a question for you: Do you believe that “morale is affected by performance” or that “performance is affected by morale”? You might well feel both to be true; perhaps one to a higher degree than the other. If so, how do you deal with each of the two situations? Incidentally, it’s interesting to note how productivity has been seen to improve in cities where the local sports team has just won a major competition!

Rather than being able to consider a team as a single entity, the answers might well be different for each person within that group. It was recently suggested that being a Premier League football manager was as awkward as “trying to herd a group of cats”. This can be true, especially in difficult times, when dealing with individuals and trying to coax them into a high performance team.

Identifying the causes of low morale and taking action

Look around you. How many people are currently confident of enjoying total job security – either within your work orbit or in the country in general? It’s a long way from rocket science to know that, if you can’t pay the bills, winning “Employee of the Month” doesn’t carry much kudos.

Of course, you simply can’t guarantee job safety – now and forever. One thing you can do is become an expert observer of the rumour mill. To amend an old saying: “What people think might be bad news travels fast”. Make sure that silly rumours don’t become an accepted truth.

You might also find ways to be a “gentle advisor”. For example, where you feel company financial problems might be having their affect, make sure schemes such as CAB (the Citizen’s Advice Bureau) are promoted on staff notice boards and recreation areas so that staff knows there are options outside of the company.

A revolutionary suggestion

Ask your people! You could simply draw groups together and put the “morale vs performance” proposition to them and ask for their views and suggestions to improve both. You might even find this process of consultation itself kick-starts an improvement in performance or an increase in enthusiasm and commitment. People do like to be consulted rather than simply discussed. As they say the closer to the coalface people are, the more they know about the best ways of digging for coal.

Final words

President Dwight D Eisenhower once said: “The best morale exists when you never hear the word mentioned. When you hear a lot of talk about it, it’s usually lousy.” However true this is, it’s likely that you’ll have to discuss the matter much before improvement truly happens. Stop talking about low morale and start talking about how to boost performance – your business will thank you.

Have you ever had the “morale vs performance” discussion within your organisation? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

This blog post was brought to you courtesy of Shelley Fishel, Founder and Director of The IT Training Surgery.

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