5 Factors That Negatively Impact Employee Morale and Productivity

April 23, 2019

Satisfied employees are productive employees, and it’s your job as a manager to keep them that way. People who are engaged and enthusiastic at work are 21% more productive than those who are not, meaning that poor morale doesn’t just feel bad, it can actually also really affect the bottom line.

Learn about the most common factors that drag down employee morale and what you can do to restore the balance:

1. Poor Leadership

Nearly 1/3 of employees think their current boss is a bad manager, and nearly half have left a job because of a bad boss. That’s a huge problem for companies looking to retain their best employees. Poor leadership allows unproductive employees to stagnate. At the same time, good employees become discouraged and stop giving good effort to their work. In sum, everyone suffers under poor leadership.

Even more concerning, research shows that bad leadership is contagious. This means that people who work for a bad boss are more likely to be a bad boss themselves. The converse is also true, and poor leadership is reversible. If you train your managers to be better leaders, this will have a positive impact on the performance of those around them. In short, good leaders inspire other good leaders. And that will have a trickle-down effect on employee morale and productivity.

2. Lack of Incentives

There’s a reason scientists study lab rats pressing levers to get treats — because people work in the same way when offered rewards for certain behavior (though hopefully we’re a bit more sophisticated than the average rodent!). Our brains are hard-wired to respond to rewards and punishments and in a business setting, lack of good incentives can drag down employee morale. Similarly, small punishments such as criticism or demerits can add up to a major morale problem.

If you’re looking for a quick way to boost team spirit, brainstorm good incentives. Something as simple as actual treats to stock in the kitchen, chair massages, or an afternoon party can temporarily boost spirits. However, keep in mind that the best incentives are those with longer term payoffs. Higher salary, vacation time, flexible schedules, continuing education reimbursement, and other benefits not only boost morale, but they also increase employee retention.

Investing in these structural changes as incentives for your employees has larger up-front costs, but it can result in transformative changes to your company culture.

3. The Office “Negative Nancy”

The saying “it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch” applies to your employees’ morale, too. A single disgruntled employee can profoundly affect the morale of an entire team.

Although it’s tempting to dismiss the office grump with an eye roll when he or she says something negative, it’s important to nip that behavior in the bud. Talk to the employee privately about his or her attitude, and discuss the reasons behind the negativity. Spending time and resources to mitigate and solve issues with a single employee who is killing your morale can have a positive long-term effect on overall team culture.

4. Secretive Communication Style

Employees hate dishonesty, and 58% would trust a complete stranger over their own boss. Lack of open, honest communication breeds distrust and resentment. Yet managers often fear honesty and transparency, worrying that employees will react negatively if they hear less-than-stellar news. However, the opposite is often true. Building honest communication from the top of the hierarchy down generates trust and enthusiasm for your company.

If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and make amends. If third quarter earnings are down, let your employees know before they hear it in the news. When employees feel that they are being respected, morale increases.

5. Unclear Expectations

It’s simple logic that people fail to meet productivity goals if they don’t even know what the expectations of them are. Yet only half of employees say they know what’s expected of them at work. Make your expectations for performance clear for each and every team member by providing specific, measurable markers of productivity, and check in frequently to make sure employees stay on track.

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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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