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Who Is Really Responsible for Employee Morale?

If you’ve ever worked in an environment where the morale was low, you understand how dreadful it can be. Usually, the tension, stress, and employee disengagement are high. When this happens, people hate coming to work, dealing with customers, and engaging with their co-workers. Most people’s first reaction is to blame a person, people, or department. But, who is truly responsible for low employee morale?

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. This means morale is a major inhibitor to a company’s growth. If a business wants to change this, they need to first understand who is responsible for the low employee morale. From there, they can take steps to improve morale company-wide.

Who Is Responsible for Employee Morale?

Management and leaders are typically the ones responsible for employee morale. However, HR and employees also have their share of responsibility. Since workplace and employee morale is a fluid concept, it changes constantly. The causes and solutions also change. Since these things are in flux, the responsibility to monitor and influence morale also changes.

That means that for a time, the low morale could be primarily because of leadership’s inability to communicate well with their team. This means it is the leadership’s responsibility to find out how they are damaging morale and take steps towards correcting the situation.

On the other hand, employees may be perpetuating bad attitudes about their work and co-workers. While management should step in to address these issues, ultimately, each individual’s attitude is their responsibility. Before we go into detail about how each person and department share responsibility for morale, let’s take a look at how morale affects employees and businesses.

How Morale Impacts Employees and Businesses

Even though having low employee morale is a known inhibitor, many leaders do not fully understand the damage it can cause. Morale instills confidence and emotional satisfaction, ensuring the work environment is comfortable, sustainable, and conducive to progress. 

If the workspace is inhospitable, unsafe, or disorganized, employees are less likely to feel responsible for its upkeep. This can result in plummeting engagement rates. Research shows that businesses with higher employee engagement rates are 23% more profitable than those with lower engagement. So, not taking action can severely damage the goals a company is trying to reach.

There are a few key things that typically cause low morale in the workplace. Here are just a few:

  • Poor Communication
  • Lack of Trust (In Management Or Amongst Employees)
  • Limited Opportunities for Advancement
  • Excessive Workload
  • Lack of Recognition
  • Micromanaging
  • Employee Conflict

There are many reasons for low employee morale in the workplace. Maybe employee morale is low because everyone is overworked and experiencing burnout. Or, perhaps management has been doing a poor job of leading and motivating the team. It could even be because a few employees are not getting along and the strife is causing everyone extra stress. 

Whatever the cause, low morale is never good and is damaging to the goals of any business or organization. And we all know that the signs of low morale will eventually be evident to everyone.

Human Resource

First, let’s talk about Human Resources – or HR, as we often call it. HR plays a pivotal role in shaping and maintaining employee morale. One of the things HR is instrumental in is establishing a company culture. The way this is done is primarily by developing and implementing policies that create a positive work environment.

Since the HR department is responsible for finding qualified candidates, this is where it starts. The HR department needs to practice fair and transparent hiring practices. If the department makes it a habit of hiring based on discriminatory practices, nepotism, or misleading candidates about the job they’re applying for, those effects will trickle down into the workplace.

Beyond that, HR is also responsible for recognizing and addressing factors that can negatively impact employee morale. This includes identifying workload issues and helping resolve interpersonal conflicts. If left unchecked, issues like these eat into employee morale fairly quickly.

Training and development are also key areas where HR can positively impact morale. By providing opportunities for professional growth and career advancement, HR shows a commitment to the personal and professional development of the employees. This not only enhances job satisfaction but also helps in retaining talent and reducing turnover.

 

Managers and Supervisors

Since a key responsibility of managers and supervisors is to build a team culture that promotes high morale, leaders have a huge influence on employee morale. When many people assume that a morale issue is a leadership issue, they are not wrong. This is because leaders are responsible for an atmosphere of respect, trust, and open communication.

Managers and supervisors are often the first point of contact for employees when there is an issue. How they respond to those issues is what’s important. If a team member has a personal issue that causes them to miss a few days of work, are leaders approachable and empathetic? Or, are they judgemental and suspicious? The rest of the team observes how leaders respond and it either lifts morale or causes it to fall.

Recognition and appreciation of employees’ efforts are also fundamental to maintaining high morale. Managers and supervisors should acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of their team members. This recognition not only boosts the morale of the individual employees but also motivates the entire team.

Another important responsibility is managing workloads to prevent burnout. Managers and supervisors should ensure that the work is evenly distributed and that employees are not overloaded. They should also be proactive in identifying signs of stress or burnout among team members and take steps to address these issues promptly.

One of the major causes of low employee morale is simply the team not trusting leaders. Supervisors and managers have to let their teams know that they are on their side. This means practicing respect, helping them grow professionally, and communicating well with them while acknowledging their good work.

 

The Employees’ Part

Employees also play a significant role in contributing to and maintaining high morale in the workplace. While managers and HR departments set the tone, employees can greatly influence the overall work environment.

Firstly, employees contribute to morale through their engagement and attitude. Good employees with bad attitudes can ruin the workplace environment. A positive attitude can be infectious. It often inspires colleagues to do better work. Employees who approach their work with enthusiasm and a can-do spirit often find that this attitude is mirrored by their colleagues, thereby boosting overall morale.

Communication is another key aspect of an employee’s role in maintaining morale. While this is often put on management, employees need to do their part in making sure communication in the workplace is smooth. This involves participating in open and honest conversations with peers and supervisors. It also means listening well to others without dismissing them. That also includes the opinions of coworkers or leaders the employee is not fond of. By engaging in respectful and constructive communication, employees can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts that can dampen morale.

Collaboration and teamwork are also vital. Employees who are willing to help their colleagues, share knowledge, and work cooperatively on team projects contribute significantly to a positive work environment. There is little worse in the workplace than feeling like your team members don’t have your back when you need help.

 

Remote and Hybrid Work Paradigm

Now that many employees are remote and hybrid workers, workplaces have new challenges when it comes to morale. In a remote work scenario, where physical interactions are minimized and team members collaborate across digital platforms, the strategies to build and maintain engagement need reimagining.

Here, both employers and employees need to navigate a new paradigm. Employers must explore innovative ways to keep remote workers involved and connected, such as leveraging digital tools to facilitate smooth communication, organizing virtual team-building activities, and ensuring that remote employees have adequate resources to perform their tasks efficiently.

Concurrently, remote employees bear the responsibility to stay connected. It is also their responsibility to be actively involved in virtual meetings and activities. and communicate their challenges and needs clearly to their supervisors.

While gauging employee morale for remote employees can be done with a good employee morale survey, leaders should be more proactive and have virtual or in-person discussions periodically specifically on the topic of morale. This will prevent morale from slipping so far that it causes real damage to the employees’ sense of satisfaction in their jobs.

 

Conclusion

Morale is one of those aspects of the workplace that is delicate. Also, many things affect team morale. This is one of the reasons morale needs to be monitored constantly and steps taken quickly if employee morale begins to plummet. While it is the company’s leaders who are primarily responsible for fostering good morale, employees have a huge influence on workplace morale as well.

Ralph Paul on Twitter
Ralph Paul
Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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