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Brain Circuits

How to identify when you have morale problems

IbyIMD+Published 8 August 2023 in Brain Circuits • 2 min read

Morale is critical to ensuring smooth operations within any organization. When morale is low, companies are at risk of losing talent, people making costly mistakes, and customer service suffering. The higher you rise in an organization, the more difficult it can become to see when morale problems are becoming pervasive. Here are some ways you can pay attention:

  1. Retention rates: This is an easy one that your HR department should be able to loop you in on right away. If your attrition numbers rise higher than normal and stay there, it is highly likely you have a morale problem.
  1. Sick time: Similar to retention rates, if people are calling in sick more than normal it could be a sign of waning morale. It could also be people are simply sick on the same team because one coworker brought in a contagious bug – but if there are patterns that look unusual, take them as red flags, and dig a little deeper. 
  1. Are people using their time off? It pays to dig into these metrics a bit. Do records of time off indicate that employees feel that they are able to take their leave and are doing so according to their allowance, or is there a culture of unease at being away from work that might result in a less-favorable appraisal?
  1. Managers aren’t meeting deadlines. If your management is struggling to get things done on time, it is a sign they may be overwhelmed. If this is the case, they are likely passing on that stress to their teams as well, indicating a larger morale problem may be present.
  1. Does your organization make an effort to communicate with people at every level? Often the people who have the best idea of what’s happening with your company and customers are on the shop floor. If these people are ignored, morale problems can travel upwards. Make sure your executives aren’t just communicating with each other.

In the longer-term, morale can be reflected in individual mental health. Often, companies are concerned when employees express feeling ‘burnt out’ and are keen to learn how to address it. To do so, however, is to confront the symptoms rather than the cause. It is more important to focus on the individual and collective morale of an organization and the elements that go into generating that morale than it is to confront the consequences of a lack of attention to those elements day to day.

Further reading: 

Lessons from military leadership: the importance of morale by Francesca Giulia Mereu and Stephen Kilpatrick 


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