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High Cost of Low Morale Published: Sunday, May 24, 1998 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Behavioral sciences research clearly states that morale is an elusive quality. It`s a feeling that`s created within every employee. It`s a state of mind and emotions. It`s about attitudes of individuals and teams toward their work, their environment, their managers and the organization. Morale is not a single feeling but a system of feelings, sentiments, perceptions and attitudes. When morale is low, the cost is tremendous. The factors that help create high morale in the work place are pretty much the same as those found in a healthy family or school environment. (For years we have been investigating and teaching about the relationships of family-school-work and community interactions). Thus, many organizations think of themselves as a family or a learning community where a sense of belonging and lots of positive feedback help promote high morale.

The problems associated with low morale among employees, particularly high turnover, plague organizations in every sector. It affects employee performance and willingness to do a quality work, which in turn affects individual and organizational objectives. Why the fus about morale, which traditional management often views as elusive? Because it`s tied to profits, efficiency, quality, cooperation, productivity and financial competitiveness. Other factors include employee and employer attitudes toward change; agreements about organizational goals; standards, requirements and values; concern for people; reward and punishment; communication; market and customer orientation; team and organizational pride. The core argument is that morale can be predictable and attainable. Like it or not, much of what happens is determined by the manager. Most managers want productive employees who will stick with them in the good and bad times. For this to happen there has to be a basic chemistry and willingness by both parties to join together and do what it takes to tackle morale problems.

A very profound piece of research by Hughes and Flowers identified employees as one of four types:

  • Turnovers - are not happy with their jobs, have few external reasons to stay, and will leave at the first opportunity.
  • Turn-offs - have negative attitudes about their jobs and stay because of golden handcuffs (financial security, benefits or fear of not finding anything better).
  • Turn-ons - have positive attitudes and stick with the organization because they enjoy the work. They are greatly affected by their environment and will leave if they don`t get continuous satisfaction.
  • Turn-ons-plus - are most likely to stay for the long run because they like their work and the environment. Even if occasionally dissatisfied, it is not enough to leave to resignation.

There are three main reasons why turnover caused by low morale occurs:

  • Inadequate compensation;
  • Wrong fit;
  • Weak managers who hurt employee morale.

Cost fall into major categories of:

  • separation (severance pay, unemployment compensation, extended medical benefits);
  • Replacement (advertising, travel expenses for interviews, time it takes to interview, time it takes to interview);
  • Training (on the job training and classroom education;
  • Low productivity (unhappy employees often slack off).

Finally, we like to share that a survey of 5,000 highly productive employees provided six key reasons people quit their jobs:

  • Insufficient opportunity for advancement
  • Feel uninformed
  • Hesitant to express their feelings
  • Believe management is not interested in their ideas
  • Managers fail to praise good work
  • Managers use unfair promotion practices.

Don`t accept these reasons as facts of life. Acknowledging responsibility for morale opens the door to creative solutions.

Copyright 1998 QBS, Inc.
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