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Without you realizing it, low morale can creep into your organization.

Check every day to make sure people stay in tune. Here are 10 sour notes to listen for:

1. Uncooperative attitudes. These are easily detected, even if you can’t tell what’s wrong right off.

2. Lack of enthusiasm. This is different from an uncooperative attitude. If they’re bored, they’re not sold on the mission.

3. Absence of commitment. If the leaders don’t believe in it, do you think employees will?

4. Fault-finding.
People can find fault in anything, but when they do work they believe in with co-workers they trust, it doesn’t happen.

5. Increasing complaints. By the time you become aware of complaints, the situation is pretty bad.

6. Growing tardiness and absenteeism. These are grounds for disciplinary action, but they also trigger an alarm for the astute leader.

7. Deterioration in the appearance of the work area. Some people are naturally neat or messy, but you can tell if it gets worse.

8. Breakdown in discipline. Again, the thing to watch for is change.

9. Chronic long faces. You know your people enough to know when individual situations are different from unhappy looks on everyone every day.

10. When low morale becomes a rallying point. If people form a consensus about how lousy their employer is and discuss it openly, you’ve got serious trouble.

True story:
During a flight delay, attendants pulled the curtain but still could be clearly heard renouncing their loyalty to the airline and trying to top each others’ ugly stories. One passenger, a former test pilot, thought: “Now might be a good time to develop a fear of flying.” The passenger next to him turned out to be in charge of customer service for that airline, and said she never passed customer complaints upward because she was instructed not to.

Bottom line: To be effective, you need real feedback and solutions, no matter how painful.

— Adapted from Leadership When the Heat’s On, Danny Cox with John Hoover, McGraw-Hill.

Tip: Access our free report, Office Communication Toolkit: 10 Tips for Managers.

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