Low Morale

Recently I had a conversation with a client that had a problem with employee retention. Here are some of the things they were dealing with and some of the symptoms showing. Let's see if you can identify what was going on.

They were losing staff to other companies but this is what they were seeing before they left. The staff used to show up on time but now more and more people are showing up late for work. We have more work than we can handle sometimes and need to offer overtime but it's hard to get volunteers to work overtime. There are some complaints about attitude about staff members coming from other departments.

Let's see if we can analyze this situation to figure out what's going on here and offer some help. If you have any suggestions on how you would handle this please post a comment, it would be greatly appreciated.

First let's look at the tardiness situation. That is usually the first sign of a dropping morale. When morale is high people can't wait to get to work. They are excited about their jobs and happy to be there. On the other hand when morale drops employees start drudging going to work. They don't want to be there so they show up late. When people HAVE to do something it gets a different effort than when they WANT to do something. So the tardiness is a result of low morale especially when they were prompt or early to work at one time.

Secondly the refusal of working overtime. Not everybody wants to work overtime but usually it's not hard to find takers. With home projects being done by everyone there is always the need for extra cash to finish a stalled job. But with some that have a new family they may value their family time over working overtime. In any event let's get to the cause of this change in desire. If people are coming in late because they don't want to be at work it's going to be tough to get them to stay longer at a place that they don't want to be. Many times the need for overtime is a result of low productivity which is a result of low morale. It can spiral downward pretty deep if it's not caught in time. When overtime money doesn't tempt employees to work extra hours there usually is an underlying issue. 9 out of 10 times it's low morale. Those people have probably already put in applications somewhere else and just waiting for a call back. I know me personally there's no amount of money that would make me stay at a place that I'm miserable at.

Then there is the attitude problem. People from other departments are beginning to complain about the attitude of the individuals from this particular department that is suffering low morale. With low morale people become disengaged from their work, they would rather be anywhere else. Their minds are many miles away dreaming of things they want to be doing when they get off of work. So interacting with fellow employees becomes a bother.  Since they are not there mentally they are getting disturbed by fellow employees and keeping them from their mental daydreaming. Productivity suffers and the company is losing money.

All of these things are symptoms of an underlying issue that can be repaired. Low morale kills productivity and deteriorates employee retention. Replacing trained employees can be extremely expensive. Since all employees basically start out the same as far as motivation is concerned and with your hiring filters they have the same educational levels then it would make a lot of sense to do what we can to keep our trained employees.

Let's see if we have some suggestions that may turn this situation around. The first thing I would recommend to management is to call each person into their office and probe to find out what the problem is from an employee perspective. Sometimes they won't open up to immediate supervisors about complaints which usually include direct supervisors. You can get a survey and let them take it anonymously through something like Survey Monkey. However you do it you have to get their perspective. If they feel that their direct supervisor is sincere in their attempt to find the problem and willing to implement a resolution they will open up. Write down the problems and suggestions that you glean from your interviews so they can see that you care. Promise them anonymity if needed to get to the bottom of the issue.

The most important thing to remember is that you want to build morale. Self esteem is often associated with morale and if you build self esteem then morale will follow. When you finish your meeting with the employees before they leave your office you MUST commend them on something about the work they do! You have to point out something specific that you have noticed that they do well. What you are doing is two things; you are building their self esteem and you are changing their perception of you. Low morale is a management problem so as a member of management you can be part of the solution. If you can change their perception of you and cause them to think that you listen and care they will feel a little better about working for you. Their morale will increase, they will stand a little taller and productivity will increase. Good luck!

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