Poor communication may do the greatest harm to workplace morale, suggests a new Accountemps survey. One-third (33 percent) of human resources (HR) managers interviewed said a breakdown in communication is at the heart of most morale problems; almost one in five (18 percent) survey respondents pointed to micromanagement as the biggest factor. Communication also was cited by 38 percent of HR managers as the most effective way to counter low employee morale.
The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world's first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with more than 300 HR managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
HR managers were asked, ”
Which one of the following has the most negative impact on employee morale?
” Their responses:
Lack of open, honest communication 33%
Micromanaging employees 18%
Failure to recognize employee achievements 15%
Fear of job loss 10%
Excessive workloads for extended periods 9%
None of these 14%
Don't know 2%
HR managers also were asked, ”
What is the best remedy for low morale?
” Their responses:
Monetary rewards for exceptional performance 15%
Recognition programs 15%
Unexpected rewards, such as gift certificates or sporting events tickets 13%
Team building events or meetings 11%
Additional days off 6%
None of the above 2%
Don't know 2%
*Responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.
View an infographic featuring the research highlights.
“Managers can be doing everything right, but if they're not including employees in the information loop, staff engagement could suffer,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies®, 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “To improve communication, keep team members apprised of company goals and performance, and encourage them to ask questions and offer feedback.”
Messmer added, “Fortunately, morale problems can often be addressed relatively easily. Improving workplace communication is one of the most effective — and one of the least costly — ways to combat the problem of a disengaged workforce.”
Accountemps highlights 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 rumor mill.
Lack of initiative.
Unmotivated employees just go through the motions rather than taking an active seat at the table. Foster an ownership environment in which employees are challenged to take initiative and solve problems in creative ways.
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 cooperation or commitment. Checking in with workers on a regular basis will help you gauge morale and address budding problems.
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 your team's workload.