By Jennifer E. Goldman, President
It’s amazing to me how many places of business continually suffer from low morale. These are typically the companies that also provide low levels of customer service and either extremely high or low employee turnover rates. What I don’t understand is how the owner or upper management is completely blind to it.
What it really boils down to is a breakdown in the company culture. It isn’t that upper management is blind to it, it’s that they’re the ones who created it.
Have you ever noticed the difference in how people interact with you (or avoid you) when you’re in a good mood versus when you’re down in the dumps? That’s the affect owners and managers have on their staff, and over time it’s what creates what we call corporate culture.
When owners and managers have positive attitudes, are efficient workers, empower those around them to make decisions, allow their employees to make mistakes, regularly show appreciation and generally treat people fairly it creates a positive corporate culture.
When owners and managers are negative, expect more from others than they are willing to do themselves, demand that everything be done their way and are quick to criticize, it creates a negative corporate culture.
There are many more factors, however, that can affect corporate culture and thus employee morale.
What’s worse is that it began with the leaders, and although they may notice that their staff isn’t happy or behaving the way they would like, they don’t know what to do and ultimately wind up behaving in a more unsatisfactory way themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.
Sometimes the problem is that the person at the top is too removed now to notice. Sometimes they don’t have the authority they feel they need to make the decisions they think will change things.
So how you can turn bad morale around? Well, like everything else, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
One easy way is to invite someone you know will be completely honest with you to basically just wander around your place of business, strike up random conversations with employees, make observations, and ask absurd questions. Retail and restaurant businesses do this all the time, they call the spies ‘secret shoppers’.
Another way is to hire consultants who provide services that include keywords like employee relations, change management, process review, or human resources/relations. These consultants can offer data driven reports to help put the problem into perspective for absentee owners, removed boards, or oblivious managers.
Once the report is digested, it’s time to make a plan. Those same consultants can likely offer recommendations, best practices, implementation plans and strategies, and other assistance.
What can you do if you’ve noticed bad morale in your workplace but you have no authority? You could request a closed door candid conversation with your boss, you can take notes and make a report of your own that you share with the “powers that be” at your company, you could locate consultants in your area who may be able to help and find a way to discreetly introduce them to upper management, and ultimately you could decide to leave in search of a job in a better environment. But do me a favor? On your way out, tell them the truth about why you’re leaving. It could just be the wakeup call they need.