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Top 11 Causes of Low Employee Morale at the Office

Keep your employees happy so your business is a success. Know the top 12 causes of low employee morale.

Caroline Whitney
Jan 07, 20165 minutes
Top 11 Causes of Winter Blues at the Office

With the new year upon us, make sure your company is doing it all it can to keep its employees happy by ensuring morale is high.  SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder) can be the strongest in January and February when days tend to be shorter and colder. 

When morale is low, the obvious result is disengaged employees and a suffering business. And trust us, low morale can really cost you. A Gallup Poll from the early 2000s estimated that there were “...more than 22 million workers — in the United States alone — who are extremely negative or ‘actively disengaged’” at work, which cost the U.S. economy about $250- $300 billion each year.  

While Gallup's newest poll showed some improvement in employee engagement since 2000, it isn't much.  In 2014, 51% of employees remained "not engaged," and 17.5% were "actively disengaged.

But when morale is high, your employees will work together towards a common goal, and your business will boom.  There have been a number of studies over the years proving this.

Don’t let the winter blues affect your company!  Understand what causes low employee morale.  That way, if it’s happening in your company, you’ll be able to recognize it right away and work towards bringing it up.  Now, let’s examine the causes of low employee morale.

1. Lack of Communication & Clear Instruction

This employee morale crusher is by far the worst: 33% of human resources managers surveyed said lack of communication was the main cause of low morale.  

When employees don’t know exactly what they should be doing for a certain task, they’ll feel unstable and unsure.  A lack of effective communication isolates team members and closes off the open flow of ideas.  

2. Lack of Trust

Trust is important for a positive company culture. It's also directly related to employee morale, as some studies have shown. If your employees don’t trust you, they won’t feel invested in the business. Build a culture of trust. Say what you mean and follow through. Which goes hand in hand with...

3. Dishonesty

When team members or leaders are dishonest, employees don’t trust them.  If there is no trust, there is no effective teamwork.  It's as simple as that.

4. Micromanagement

Constantly peeking over your employees’ shoulders can make them feel nervous. 18% of human resources managers agree.

If you don’t give your employees the space to freely do their work in the way that feels most comfortable for them, they won’t be doing their best.  Find the perfect balance, one that allows you to manage your team effectively, but also gives them some space.

5. No Team Bonding

When employees don’t feel connected to their coworkers, they don’t feel connected to the business as a whole.

Conversely, if they are bonded with their team, they are more likely to enjoy being at work, as well as the work they do.  Make time for your team to bond together with team bonding activities at (and outside of) work.

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6. Lack of Praise or Thanks

Saying thank you, or recognizing a team member’s good work, can go a long way.  When you rarely say thank you or “great job!” employees may start to feel like their work doesn’t matter, and morale goes down; 15% of human resources managers report this as well.

While many people might say they don’t need this kind of recognition, it really helps to boost self esteem. And high self esteem leads to high morale.

7. Lack of Training

It’s one thing to have independence within your position, but when we feel as if we are floundering and without guidance, our morale sinks.  Make sure you train your employees adequately and that they feel there is a support system behind them.

8. Lack of Acceptance for Responsibility

When the boss, or the team, doesn’t accept responsibility for their actions (especially their mistakes), it pushes employees away.  Blameless team members might be afraid that the blame will unfairly shift to them.  It creates a dishonest environment, one in which it’s difficult to work together.

9. Disrespect

When employees don’t feel respected, they don’t like being at work- period.

10. Unrealistic Goal Setting

If you set a goal employees cannot reach, all their hard work will be for naught.  They won’t be able to reach it, their confidence will be dashed, and morale will go down.

Meet with your supervisees regularly and set goals they can reach; those goals can always be set higher, as time goes by.  Which brings us to...

11. Inadequate Supervisory Meetings

If you don’t schedule regular meetings between supervisors and supervisees, employees may feel a bit lost.  They might not know if they are doing things right or wrong, and will lack guidance. Their work will suffer, whether it’s because they in fact aren’t doing something right, or they just don’t know.

Even if everything is going fine, supervisory meetings can help you and your employees stay on track. And when something of issue does come up, your employee will have a venue in which to voice it. So, have those meetings, and make sure they are useful and efficient.

Be a good leader. If any of these morale killers are present at your office, recognize it and take steps to ameliorate it ASAP!  

One great suggestion is to take regular employee satisfaction surveys. You can also use our tips for boosting team morale. Working on your team’s morale will make your office a better place to work, which will lead to fabulous returns for your company.