Lack of communication main source of low employee morale: Survey

Micromanaging, lack of recognition also cited by HR professionals

Poor communication may do the greatest harm to workplace morale, according to an Accountemps survey. One-quarter (25 per cent) of HR managers interviewed said a breakdown in communication is at the heart of most morale problems. Almost one in five (18 per cent) pointed to failure to recognize employee achievements as the biggest factor while an equal number cited micromanagement.

Communication was also cited by 37 per cent of HR managers as the most effective way to counter low employee morale, found the survey of 300 HR managers at Canadian companies with 20 or more employees.

“What has the most negative impact on employee morale?"

•Lack of open, honest communication


•Micromanaging employees


•Failure to recognize employee achievements


Fear of job loss


Excessive workloads for extended periods


“What is the best remedy for low morale?"



Monetary rewards for exceptional performance


Recognition programs


Unexpected rewards, such as gift certificates


Team-building events or meetings


Additional days off


"Ineffective or incomplete communication between managers and employees could spell the difference between a team that is engaged and one that is suffering from low morale," said Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, International Staffing Operations. 

"Fostering an environment of two-way communication can help boost morale by making staff feel engaged. Managers can start by keeping their teams informed of company goals, challenges and business performance while encouraging staff to ask questions and provide feedback."

Accountemps highlighted five characteristics of — and remedies for — low-morale:

An active grapevine: When communication is scarce, gossip and misinformation flourish. Even if you have bad news to share or don't have all the answers, honesty is still the best policy. The more team members can rely on accurate information, the less grist they'll have for the rumour mill.

Lack of initiative: Unmotivated employees just go through the motions rather than taking an active seat at the table. Foster an ownership environment where employees are challenged to take initiative and solve problems in creative ways.

Scarce rewards: Step up efforts to recognize employees' efforts with praise, low-cost awards and spot bonuses. Make rewards personal and give them as soon after an achievement as possible.

Changes in attitude: If employees are unhappy, it will show. Look for red flags — increased negativity, higher rates of absenteeism or reduced co-operation or commitment. Checking in with workers on a regular basis will help you gauge morale and address budding problems.

Poor performance: Morale problems can quickly affect a team's quality of work. Signs of trouble include missed deadlines, an increase in mistakes or a decline in service levels. Consider bringing in temporary professionals to ease the team's workload.

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