When it comes to stories and plot lines, the miserable employee with a deep hatred for his/her job is easy fodder. Especially in Hollywood. (Think Office Space.) In reality though, low employee morale isn’t all that funny. Effective managers know this. Not only can it cause a business to take a serious hit, but the impact on the employee can be equally harsh.

It’s stressful for managers these days. Many businesses that once allocated half their budget to human capital management have had to take cost cutting measurements in the current financial landscape. This makes it even more challenging for managers to maintain efficiency and productivity.

The Gallup Organization estimates that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees costing the economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity. Disengaged is just another world for “riddled with low employee morale.” And as that employee is growing ever more disengaged – staring out the window, ignoring emails, eating a sixth package of those low calorie cookies – the stress effects of plummeting employee morale are taking root.

So how does this happen? It could be any number of things.

Lack of an effective leader.

Ineffective leadership is all too frequently at the core of employee low morale. This isn’t to say necessarily that a specific manager has all the savvy of a pine stump. While that may well be the case, the manager could just as easily be the greatest person in the galaxy. This person just doesn’t have the management style it takes to mesh with the team. Or s/he simply isn’t management material.

Expectations are unclear or vague.

Boosting Employee Morale

This one is tied in with poor leadership as well. Though there’s a chicken-egg question here. Is someone a poor leader because they don’t explain things clearly, or do they not explain things clearly because they’re a poor leader? You see the quagmire.

Either way, when expectations aren’t clear, it creates stress and lower morale for employees because they can’t possibly know if they’re meeting them.

Feeling stuck, underutilized and/or generally unappreciated.

While some employees are gunning for the corner office, others are far less inclined toward such upward mobility. Whatever the case, if employees don’t feel appreciated – in other words, if they’re performing the work but management is doing nothing to show them they are valued – then the climate is right for low employee morale.

There’s a bad seed in the mix.

It happens. The picture on the package displays happy sunny faced flowers. But somehow amidst those seeds lays one for hemlock. Or deadly nightshade. (You pick your poison.) Soon enough, the plant from the bad seed is choking out those flowers.

When management turns a cheek on a difficult employee, negativity quickly vines its way through the entire staff creating low morale. There be may no “I” in team, but there are still an “M” and an “E”. A toxic team member will monopolize on that.

Bottom line?

Losing employees to low morale is a drag. It has a huge financial impact and decreases productivity levels. It doesn’t have to be like this though.

The first thing management can do to foster efficiency is invest in time-saving apps. Zip clocks has several, including those specifically for human resources personnel, as well as time and attendance software for managers to help boost profits.

There are also management techniques to keep stress at a minimum and morale at a maximum. And they’re really pretty simple:

The money thing

Is there anybody who feels they’re being paid what they deserve for their work? Maybe. They’re the minority though. Still, there’s a big difference between the feeling of getting paid fairly, and getting taken.

Remuneration is an important factor affecting employee morale. Fair payment is motivation. Plain and simple. So too are extra perks like health insurance, paid time off, an occasional free lunch (there is such a thing) and other basic and incentive pay plans. Perks = higher employee morale.

The environment thing

Boosting Employee Morale

There’s a direct correlation between an employee’s mental and physical well-being and their workspace. If the workspace has all the warmth of a high-security prison, consider consulting with a professional on how to make simple changes in lighting and color choices. Allow employees to personalize their space. If available, give them the option to work from home if they want that.

Employee counseling is also another big plus. It gives employees a place to vent. This release of emotional tension alone may help to minimize dissatisfactions and boost employee morale.

The communication thing

Two-way communication – the upward and downward variety – is vital in keeping employees connected with the organization for which they work and not just feeling like a cog in the wheel. When employees are informed of and consulted with about changes to the organization’s policies and programs, the result is higher morale.

The social thing

 Especially in situations involving teams, managers are well advised to encourage social group activities among the workers. This doesn’t mean karaoke and congo lines. (Well, at least not exclusively.) Community service projects are an effective means for creating greater group cohesiveness while doing good for the community and boosting high morale.

The training thing 

Lack of job security can leave employees fearful and stressed – thus lowering morale. When companies provide training for employees so they can stay up-to-date with developments in their field, the result is improved performance. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to get out of the office every so often.

The R-E-S-P-E-C-T thing

 This one should be obvious, but often isn’t.

Managers who take interest in the lives of their team members are at a huge advantage. Simply inquiring about a team member’s weekend, their current project, their international spoon collection, whatever, gives them a sense of belonging and worth that translates to satisfaction and pride in their work. This is key in elevating morale. Oh, and it may not seem like much, but saying please and thank you helps in going the distance too.

In a nutshell…

Creating a climate of trust boosts employee morale. This includes embracing individual employees’ abilities, recognizing achievement, giving them enough of a challenge to utilize their skills, and providing them the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.

You’ve got this.