HR Management & Compliance, Talent

What Causes Negative Morale?

Negative or low morale among employees can be problematic for employers, and equally so for recruiters who are trying to promote the company’s culture in a positive way. Not only does it lead to an unhappy workplace, but it can also cause increased turnover and decreased productivity. And unfortunately, it can be difficult to fully recover from low morale once it sets in.


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Here are some of the causes of negative or low employee morale:
  • Inconsistency in employee treatment
  • Lack of discipline for problem employees
  • Lack of effective communication
  • Not providing good tools or clear processes to do the job well
  • Not being clear about or constantly changing expectations or priorities
  • Having unrealistic expectations or unreasonable workloads
  • Micromanaging
  • High-stress environments
  • Lack of advancement opportunities
  • Not enough employee development or training
  • Not responding promptly when employees come to management with concerns, problems, questions, or other issues
  • Not giving employees enough information to be effective
  • Not investigating when employees have complaints
  • Failing to recognize employees who are doing their job well
  • Failing to give feedback—both positive and negative
  • Providing inadequate performance raises or cost-of-living increases or not providing appropriate incentives
  • Not empowering employees to handle regular workday problems
  • Not giving employees challenging enough work
  • Showing lack of trust in employees
  • Too much employee monitoring
  • Leadership that cannot be trusted to tell the whole story or follow up on items brought to their attention
  • Not addressing negativity among employees
  • Treating employees as though they’re lucky to have the job instead of treating them as a valuable part of the team
  • Being disrespectful or not addressing disrespectful situations
  • Failing to address bullying, harassment, discrimination, or violence

What Can be Done?

It can seem daunting to address low morale, given the many possible issues, but fortunately, there are many actions managers can take, such as:

  • Provide manager’s with training on recognizing and combating low morale.
  • Provide training to improve problem behaviors from the list above.
  • Consider providing both employees and managers with training on emotional intelligence.
  • Discipline or terminate problem employees.
  • Always investigate employee complaints.
  • Pay attention to managerial problems; don’t allow bad bosses to stay in their roles.
  • Provide resources to help managers do their jobs well.
  • Implement effective antiharassment, antibullying, antidiscrimination, and antiviolence policies.
  • Conduct surveys to determine employee engagement levels and get feedback.
  • Encourage organizational leadership to communicate well and be transparent in how the organization makes decisions.
  • Work with others in the organization to implement programs for employee feedback and recognition.
  • Work with others in the organization to implement clear career paths and employee development programs.
  • Be strategic in hiring decisions; hire extra help when needed.
  • Work with the rest of the team to ensure proper employee training.
  • Train managers to proactively look for signs of stress and burnout and take steps to reduce them.

What has your experience been in addressing low morale? What would you add to this list?

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