Everything rises and falls on leadership. – John Maxwell
Addressing the topic of work many years ago, Indira Gandhi said, “My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.” While there may not be a shortage of people trying to take the credit for work, many a leader faces the challenge of a strong workplace culture and its accompanying morale.
In my research on the topic of employee morale much of the focus I’ve seen is employee driven. By that I mean the attention leans toward what can be done to make the employee happy (perks driven), motivated, etc. I see little on what I consider to be the root of the problem which is leadership driven.
In Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Study, as reported on in RYOT (http://bit.ly/1poqwxQ) 70 percent of those who participated described themselves as “disengaged” from their work. Only 30 percent admitted they honestly enjoy their job and bosses. Interestingly, the study revealed that workplace perks which have been popular approaches to boosting workplace morale, “do not compare to the employee enjoying and feeling engaged in their work.” Here’s the takeaway – employees and employers desire the same results, but often have two distinctly different means of getting there.
Strong morale is essential to your success as an organization. Leaders need employees who are engaged on all fronts. Employees need strong leaders to show the way. The last thing you want to do is kill employee morale with ineffective leadership. Here are six ways it could be happening.
You kill employee morale when you ignore input
A leader who won’t listen to his or her people is a leader who is out of touch. If you are out of touch with the people that make your business work then employee morale will suffer. If your people attempt to be engaged and offer their input only to be ignored then you are killing employee morale. A smart leader will make it a priority to listen and to invite feedback from team members. Buy-in begins when you invite them in.
You kill employee morale when you hoard decisions
Killing morale happens when leaders hoard the decision making process and by-pass those directly affected by the decision. The most successful teams are those whose people are engaged and invested in the well-being of the organization. They are the ones who have bought in and go all out to be successful. A smart leader won’t hoard decisions but will bring others in to help make them. Employees don’t want a dictator; they want a facilitator. Here’s a simple rule to consider: if a decision affects your people then talk to your people.
You kill employee morale when you keep people in the dark
Communication is the life-blood of any organization, but if you keep your people in the dark; especially with things that directly affect their performance, then you are killing employee morale. This weak leadership style not only builds walls but it tears down trust. If you want your people engaged and enjoying what they do then make open communication a practice and a priority.
You kill employee morale when you play favorites
While responsibilities may differ among departments and personnel, it is important not to play favorites with your people. While not everyone’s role is the same, the way you treat them should be. As a leader it is important to understand the basics of good social skills. The amount of time you spend with the people in your organization will vary depending on assignments, responsibilities, skills, etc., it’s a variable. But not the way you treat your people. If you are perceived as playing favorites you will kill employee morale. Be nice to everyone.
You kill employee morale when you lead from behind
Successful organizations have strong leaders who are not afraid to lead. Employees respeect a leader who will confidently lead his or her team. A leader who is perceived to be weak, indecisive, reactionary, or uncertain of their role will kill morale. How can an employee confidently follow a leader who is unsure of himself? Leaders who lead from behind can’t possibly know what direction they are going, the pitfalls in front of them, and how to stay relevant. Leaders; be out front, lead with confidence and with clarity, and you will have employees who will go the distance with you.
What do you say?
© 2014 Doug Dickerson
1. The list is not comprehensive. What would you add?
2. As a leader; what other ways can you engage your team to avoid negative morale issues?
3. Do you agree or disagree with my premise that employee morale issues are at the root leadership issues? (I am not discouraging perks, bonuses, rewards, etc. These are all good things, but as the study showed, most employees place a higher value in being engaged and enjoying their work.) What are some other measurable steps leaders can take to bridge that gap?