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8 Reasons for Low Employee Morale

When employee morale is high, people are satisfied when they’re at work. They take pride in their jobs and want to make a quality contribution. On top of that, your business is most likely running more smoothly, customers are happy, and your personal stress level is lower.

But when morale is low, it’s a different story. You might notice more complaining, less cooperation, and less teamwork. You may also notice your business suffers. A Gallup poll estimates that low morale costs U.S. businesses up to $550 billion a year due to lost productivity including absenteeism, illness, and other problems that result when employees are unhappy at work.

Low morale is also a major cause of low employee engagement. Another poll finds that low employee engagement costs businesses worldwide $7.8 trillion. Needless to say, low employee morale is something that no business owner, supervisor, or leader should ignore.

The good news is that low morale doesn’t just come from out of nowhere. There are some common reasons why employee happiness decreases. Here are common reasons for low employee morale


Poor Communication

Have you ever said, “I’m not a mind-reader?” It’s frustrating trying to read someone’s mind. Not knowing what they’re thinking can lead to some misunderstandings.

What happens when this occurs at the office? What happens when you feel like you’re asked to be a mind-reader? Poor communication is one of the top causes for low employee morale. Employees get frustrated when they don’t know what’s expected of them. If expectations frequently change, confusion occurs. When the rules constantly change, people don’t know what to expect. They may often wonder if they’ll get in trouble or what they’re supposed to do.

A solution? You can improve communication. And, maintaining consistent expectations is another way to improve morale.


Lack of Trust (In Management Or Amongst Employees)

Has the rumor mill been working overtime? The rumor mill can create a lack of trust among employees. So can intense conflicts among team members. These negative distractions can put a dent in morale. And, when coworkers don’t trust each other, they’re far less likely to be focused on sharing ideas and other business goals.

Another problem that can occur is when employees don’t trust management. This could stem from perceived favoritism. It’s important for the leadership team to be perceived as fair professionals. They should have the attributes of integrity and competence. And, if management has lost the trust of the team, this is bound to harm morale.


Limited Opportunities for Advancement

What would your employees say about a future with your company? Would they say that the future holds possibility? Or, would they say they see no future?

While not every employee wants to go up the ladder, most employees want some sort of challenge. It’s important for employees to know that their skill and experience matters.  Not everyone wants the same thing. Some employees want to stay in their current role, while others want to move up. But, when employees feel that the only way to be challenged is to leave, this harms morale.


Excessive Workload

A busy day can make time fly by, but an excessive workload is more than that.  An excessive workload is usually caused by a pattern of assigning too much work to one person. Typical roots of this problem are staffing issues or expecting too much from one person. And, this problem can be extremely hard to correct.

Employees who find themselves doing the work of two people may be subtly forced into reducing their quality of work. Or, they may have to find shortcuts into getting things done. This can cause a ripple effect that customers will eventually notice.

Ultimately, employees in this situation may become so frustrated that they become apathetic. They may even look for options outside the company if they feel this situation will not be remedied.


Lack of Recognition

Are your team members doing a good job? When was the last time you told them so? Without any recognition, employees might start feeling like their efforts aren’t being seen. And, if their efforts aren’t being seen, do their efforts really even matter? Does anyone even notice or care?

Praise is a simple way to help employees stay motivated. Some simple words of praise acknowledging their efforts can go a long way. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be a simple “good job” or “thank you.”

Recognition should also come through appropriate bonuses and pay. If your business is in the early days of startup stage – and you truly are surviving from month-to-month – you can get creative non-financial ways to recognize your employees. This might come in the form of a special Employee of the Month parking space, a gift card to a local restaurant, an extra day off with pay, or another perk that rewards efforts.



Have you ever had that creepy feeling that somebody was watching you? Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, there can be a feeling of somebody watching you: the micromanaging supervisor.

While this supervisor might have the best of intentions, the impact is anything but.  The micromanager may physically stand over your shoulder or monitor you in a way that is simply excessive. He or she might ask for too many status updates while you’re trying to work. These requests bog you down and interfere with productivity.

And, rather than setting deadlines and being available for questions, the micromanager seems more set on hounding you with requests that distract you from what you were hired to do. All in all, it’s incredibly frustrating for competent professionals who want to do a good job.


Employee Conflict

One of the reasons why morale may be low may have nothing to do with management or leadership. There are times when conflicts amongst team members brings the entire morale of the team down. When employees are not getting along, it makes it hard for them and those around them to focus. It also makes it much harder to work together.

The difficulty almost always leads to lower productivity, poorer communication and job satisfaction. The key is to find out the source of the conflict and those involved. From there there are several steps you need to take to eliminate the conflict or to make sure it doesn’t impact your business and its customers. Read our post What to Do When Employees Don’t Get Along  for more ways to resolve the conflicts.


Physical Working Conditions

An often overlooked reason for low morale is unfavorable working conditions. Working conditions are the conditions under which the work of an employee is performed, including physical or psychological factors. Here are a few questions to ask to see if the physical environment of the workplace is hurting morale.

  • Are employees expected to produce when there aren’t enough resources?
  • Is the environment comfortable and safe?
  • Are they working unreasonable hours with no end in sight?

Making sure that your employees have what they need to get their jobs done and that the working environment you create facilitates their ability to do so is important. When employees do not have these things they often feel helpless. This increases their stress levels and can destroy morale.



Everyone wants a pleasant work environment. Maintaining positive morale might not be an easy task, but avoiding some common blunders can go a long way. Maintaining open lines of communication, recognizing a job well done, and avoiding a micromanaging style are just some of the ways to avoid creating an atmosphere of low employee morale. 


Also read:

How to Keep Your Employees Motivated

How to Retain Top Talent: 8 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees

8 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity

Erin Shelby on TwitterErin Shelby on Wordpress
Erin Shelby
Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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Team Writer: Erin Shelby is a writer and blogger based in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter @ByErinShelby

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