Company morale can boost or hinder productivity

     Excessive employee absences and a high employee turnover rate are symptoms of a low company morale.  When morale is high, co-workers work together and the customer service provided by the team spurs company productivity and ultimately, company profits.  When morale bottoms out, the misery spills over and negatively affects the goods and services provided by the company.

     Wages and salary are not always the biggest factor in determining if workers are satisfied.  If an employee is being paid below the standard wage for his performance, then he or she may eventually leave for more money.  But higher wages will not always guarantee that workers will stay.

     Often, a company pays competitive wages or higher salaries and assumes that employees will stay at their job.  The company is then shocked when talent drifts away.  Valuable talent can be retained if businesses will monitor and attempt to boost company morale.

 

                                                                          THE POWER OF TEAMWORK

     Teamwork can obviously make a team more successful or a lack of teamwork can sink any team.  Morale strengthens teamwork and drives each member to increase their efforts.  A low morale leads to poor contributions from team members who will likely use their energy by gossipping, backstabbing, and other negative forces that negatively impact teamwork and productivity.

     When working toward my Master's Degree in Training and Development at Marshall University, I learned to use systems management to analyze the chain of productivity and to troubleshoot where productivity may be breaking down.  As I have also seen in my over twenty years of management experience, when departments do not work together....low morale is usually the culprit.

 

     Morale is the grease that lubricates the engine of productivity.  It allows productivity to flow from department to department and ensures the engine is running well.  When the productivity is not flowing well, it can often be traced back to negative attitudes that affect morale.  

 

     Poor morale causes employees to just focus on their own responsibilities.  Their tunnel vision causes them to not focus on overall company goals and focus solely on their owned defined responsibilities or quite simply...'what they have to do to get by.'  When company services call for different parts of the company engine to work together, the oil (morale) can hinder the flow of company productivity and cause the engine to sputter.

                                                          EXCESSIVE ABSENCES AND HIGH TURNOVER

 

     Repetitive absences and employees leaving the company cause a workforce to be understaffed.  This creates a vicious circle....poor morale leads to call-ins and to people quitting their jobs which again leads to lower company morale.  The chain never stops, it keeps re-enforcing negative attitudes.

 

     Training dollars add up fast when high turnover produces the necessity of constant hiring.  A good, experienced employee not only knows how to perform the required job duties but also has often built a relationship with his company's regular customers.  It would make sense that a company would invest to keep its' experienced employees.

 

     Often, the investment does not require money.  A good leader invests time and empathy.  He lets his followers know they are valued and cared about.  A company that is always working shorthanded can be helped by good leadership.  If a good leader such as a CEO or upper administrative member would don the company uniform and go in on a Sunday afternoon or another shift where there are excessive call-offs and help out the short crew, the results could be astounding.  The leader would become a legend.  First, they would be showing empathy and regard for employee safety, not to let them work shorthanded.  It would also show workers how much their absences effect things.  The employee may think, "Wow!  I didn't work and it hurt my company so bad my CEO had to work and I know he has much more important things to do than do my job."

 

     A supervisor once went into his business to see how things  were going.  When he was told the business were understaffed and the staff were not getting breaks, the salaried supervisor neglected to help.  If the supervisor had relieved just one employee, the company grapevine would have been ripe with buzz of how he cared and looked out for his employee.  Instead, the incident became negative fodder saying that he did not care.  So, what could have been an opportunity to increase morale, likely became an event that lowered it.

 

         "WORKERS LEAVE MANAGERS, NOT COMPANIES"

 

when morale gets low enough, people may leave on their own.  Most workers quit bosses, not jobs.  Many workers may get frustrated and blame the boss.  It may be because they feel the boss picks on them or it may be that there just is not any leadership skills in the boss. While it is always great for morale to promote from within, the managers need to make sure the new manager is a good fit for company morale.  Sometimes, a person 'who does not play well with other children' is promoted.  While this person may have been good in another position, they may not have the skills for a position with a different skill set.

     Dr. Lawrence Peter came up with a management philosophy in the 1970's called The Peter Principle.  The Peter Principle  "is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence."  What the theory stated was that the skills that made Joe a good car washer were different than those required to make Joe a good car washer manager.  In order to be a good manager, Joe has to be able to communicate well.  Joe would have to be able to prioritize well.  Joe would need to be a team player who works well with others.  If Joe is seen as a "rat" or a person who tries to get others in trouble but is promoted because he makes the cars shine...well....in the long run, it is likely Joe will bring down company morale and cause people to leave.  If the atmosphere has always been one that the managers worked well as team players and Joe comes in and tries to micromanage, the chances are morale will be effected and so will productivity.

     My father, Melvin Williams, was a General Plant Manager for CSX in Huntington and managed a shop with over 600 employees.  Dad always referred to the products being managed as widgets.  It does not matter if it is apples or services such as dog sitting.  What matters is how you manage people.  He said 'if you can not manage and get along with people, then it does not matter how much you know about your product, making your product, or providing that service, you are going to fail."

      Some people have a natural aversion to change.  As we all know, change is often necessary.  Sometimes, when a new manager is brought in from outside of the organization, they will change things because they have had success in the past and they naturally want to use what worked for them in the past.  That is great and is why the person was brought in to start with but the person has to make sure that the change is not personal.  They first need to come in and accept their employees as people.  The employees have often been there a while and have done things a certain way, so it is human nature for these employees to be scared.  They may think they are going to be replaced.  I have seen managers not personally introduce themselves to their workers.  This often makes the worker think the manager does not care for them as people.  Incoming managers need to validate their new employees.  They need to let them know that the manager does care about them and is excited to work with them and is open to their input.

 

     Probably the biggest reason why morale sinks and employees quit is that there is not any growth or they do not feel any creative value.  Employees that are allowed some input or where there ideas are appreciated will be happier and will stay.  This is particularly true during a managerial change but is also true in any circumstances.  Employees do not always leave because of more money, they often leave because there is not any personal growth or they feel like there skills are not valued.

I know of a manager who came into a situation and even micromanaged when breaks were taken.  This was not done out of necessity but just a whim of the manager.  The employees did not like this because this was a person they had worked with and they thought the manager was trying to control them.  They had break times that they had taken for years and they thought this manager was "trying to show who is boss."  This may have not exactly been the case.  The manager felt like people in different departments were taking breaks at same time.  But the new manager lacked the communication and people skills to 'sell' this idea to the employees.  It effected the morale, that effected productivity, that effected the profits....that "lived in the house that Jack built" (an analogy).

It is good for meetings to discuss and implement new policies and areas that need improvement.  New managers and managers, in general, need to watch sending out too many negative group emails.  These group emails may contain important messages but the manager needs to realize that too many of these cast the manager in a negative light which leads to people quitting perceived bad bosses which usually starts with detrimental call-ins, low morale, which leads to lower productivity, which leads to lower profits,....that lived in the house that Jack built.  Now, these issues may need to be addressed but the manager may be better off addressing these issues individually with the people that are causing the issues.  A manager has to realize that if a person does not know them well and they are constantly sending them negative messages about things that they do not even do, then the manager is going to be as the one having a negative attitude and that will lower morale.

 

                                                                                             ANSWERS?

 

     In order to keep morale up, is necessary for there to be communication between administration and employees.  The employees need to realize and feel that their contributions are valued and the administration not only knows who they are  but cares about who they are.  Employees will stay longer idf they feel like their ideas and creative abilities are appreciated.  Positive emails should replace frequent negative emails.  When managers and administration visit the workplace, they should recognize the positive as well as the negative.  The old adage "catch someone doing something right' becomes valuable.  If a company does have a system where good effort is recognized by email or cards, they should make sure that it is fair.  They should make sure it is used and used properly.  If one group is constantly recognized but another department is never mentioned, then this system designed to have a positive effect on morale, may have the opposite intended negative effect.

 

                                                                                             CONCLUSION

 

     Constant costly call-ins and high turnover that cause staffing to be understaffed and possibly even unsafe can possibly be avoided if a company is aware of and effectively monitors company morale.  Often, it does not take a big event to positively or negatively impact morale, often the factors that impact morale are small things like the way employees are talked to or if they are even talked to at all.  Sometimes, if administration treats employees the way employees are expected to treat the customers they serve, the attitude will roll downhill.  A company needs to monitor group communication and try as much as possible to restrict negative or threatening messages to those who the message directly pertains to.  A company that pays attention to morale will see happier employees which lead to better attitudes which lead to better morale which leads to higher productivity which leads to higher profits...all in the house that Jack built.

 

  

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