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December 30, 2006, 09:52 PM
I've worked from 1966 to present and have found some other reasons for low morale.

Many employees talk at the water coolers and this is what I've heard over and over:

Employees have no respect for managers who are not fair. It is rare to find a manager who can keep an emotional distance and not favor certain employees. Managers think being "objectivite and fair" means they won't be liked. It's better to be 'respected' than liked and many managers have problems with this issue.

Many managers like the apple polishers. But it's what happens after they've been presented the shiny apples as to how it affects staff morale.

The polishers sometimes become the manager by proxy.

Every situation I've worked in where employees were disgruntled is because at least one of the peer employees actually are the one running the operation.

This can be seen by observing group dynamics, even in such mundane activities such as planning staff parties. Watch who is in control? who makes the primary decisions? who starts the planning without getting the concensus of the group? what is the reaction of the majority when some employees don't want to participate?

It is unbelievable of the many things managers act like they don't know what's going on.

Every manager where I've worked seemed to have problems remembering we are at work to get the work done. We are not at work for pure socializing and political networking which often brings down morale.

Another thing which brings down morale : when a manager doesn't know what they are suppose to be doing. They pick at minute things like how your desk is organized, micro managing, taking credit for work they have not done,being afraid to assert their control with the apple polishers.

Another thing: managers who have the attitude they are "better" than their employees and refuse to learn and or understand the duties and roles of their subordinates, so they better understand the issues involved in the work.

As far as the top down or authoritarian style of management: you need to be a manager who is fair, focused and dedicated to doing work rather than winning a popularity contest.

Another thing: managers need to treat responsible adults as "adults". How many managers do you know who are watching the clock to write up someone for being 2 minutes late rather than judging the overall behavior and performance of each employee. If an employee is doing 10 hours of work in an 8 hour day you bet I'm not going to make an issue over them being late 5 minutes. And also if an employee is sue apple polisher and doing 3 hours of work in and 8 hour day: I don't think you need those apples.

Good luck with your project. Hope this helps.

I have run into a lot of workplaces with low morale and am coaching a couple of managers on this problem. So here are a few of my thoughts.

Everyone knows that the sports team with the highest morale wins. In fact, every manager wants high morale in his/her group. So why do most managers create low morale in their employees?

In truth, given the societal, educational and workplace related influences, it would be amazing if managers did not create low morale and severely damage employee motivation.

From birth, most of us are told what to do. We receive a rather overwhelming number of orders, directions and policies from those who believe we should follow their dictates; parents, teachers, churches, government and finally bosses in the workplace.

This is commonly referred to as the top-down command and control management model. Having been literally bombarded with this model, it is unsurprising that the vast majority of managers adopt it as their own.

But what of the people being managed with this model? Unfortunately for managers, no one likes to take orders and all consider it to be demeaning, degrading and disrespectful. In addition, they also feel demeaned and degraded if no one listens carefully to their ideas and whatever else they have to say.

But the command and control model implies that employees should listen to the leaders and that leaders have no need to listen to employees. So managers spend most of their time trying to figure out their next order and rarely if ever take the time to listen to their people.

But there are more negative effects on morale and workforce motivation associated with the command and control model, specifically from not listening to employees and not dialoguing with them over workplace problems. Without these, managers are denied a firsthand view of problems from those living with them up close and personal every day.

Without these facts, orders and directives from managers rarely address the real problems and more often exacerbate them. This leads employees to distrust and disrespect management and causes further reductions of morale and workforce motivation.

And there's more. Failure to listen and dialog over perceived problems denies employees information which only the manager has and which is necessary to being able to understand the true cause of problems or the seriousness of them. Lacking this information, employee expectations and criticisms are quite often unrealistic, thus causing the manager to disrespect employees.

Thus, low workforce morale, poorly motivated employees and greatly reduced employee performance quite naturally result from using an authoritarian based command and control model.

Our educational system is of little help. It is excellent at teaching management of "things" like engineering, marketing, finances, supply chain, and quality, but it rarely teaches the soft skills, the whats, whys and how tos of managing people. The tools learned for managing "things" actually reinforce the authoritarian, "just do as I say", approach to managing people.

As a manager, I spent 12 years stuck in this model, stuck with much lower morale and performance than I believed was possible. Fortunately, life provided me with two revelations which allowed me to transform my methods and subsequently prove that a level of employee morale and performance far beyond my wildest dreams does exist.

After 30+ years managing people, I now help managers to become effective, mostly by phone. Some are paying clients and some non-paying.

Thanks for reading

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