Signs of Low Employee Morale and How to Course Correct

- By Ajay Kumar |

January 9, 2024

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Imagine a situation where employees no longer participate in meetings, exhibit little or no enthusiasm at work, and take frequent unplanned leaves. In other words, you witness increased disengagement and a slump in productivity.  

What’s the first thing you would do? Indeed, you will try to get to the root cause of the situation. Let us help you there,  

This above-mentioned situation primarily stems from low employee morale, poor management, an inconducive work environment, lack of growth opportunities, micromanagement, etc. 

According to Gallup, 

15% of employees possess low workplace morale due to miserable work experiences and poor management. 

Lower employee morale has a direct impact on productivity and profitability. There can be delays in meeting deadlines, compromised project quality, leading to client dissatisfaction, and you may even see an increase in employee turnover. 

So, how can organizations combat it?  The first step is to detect the signs of low staff morale in the workplace and course-correct them before it is too late.  

This article takes you through these signs and the subsequent remedial actions. But, first, let’s start with the definition. 

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What is employee morale, and why is it important?

Employee morale is defined as job satisfaction and the feeling of well-being that an employee experiences at the workplace, reflecting their attitude, behavior, and performance. Simply put, it encompasses how your employees feel about work, their approach to assigned tasks, etc. Factors such as leadership style, professional development opportunities, work-life balance, organization culture, etc., directly impact employee morale.    

High employee morale ensures increased productivity, motivation, efficiency, and engagement at work.  

It is also intrinsic to a company’s overall success.  On the contrary, low morale results in disengaged employees reflecting poor performance, unplanned absenteeism, high turnover rates, etc. 

Therefore, leaders must identify the signs of low employee morale and implement deliberate steps to boost the same.  

Listed below are some of these signs that need to be course-corrected when seen in the workforce. 

Signs of low employee morale in the workforce

Low employee morale manifests itself in diverse ways, with some visible signs. 

Here are some prominent ones: 

  • Poor employee performance: Decreased output quality and a significant dip in employee performance are telltale signs of low employee morale. It becomes more evident when there are frequent project delays, subpar quality, error-prone work, or the need to rework increases. 
  • Increase in unplanned absenteeism: If employee absences increase at an alarming rate, it tantamounts to workplace morale. This can be due to an increase in workload, which can take a toll on their mental and physical health. When resources are not allocated to suitable opportunities or projects of interest, etc., it could result in low workforce morale resulting in unplanned leaves.  
  • Decrease in active participation: If you observe that employees reduce involvement in meetings, this indicates lower motivation and morale. This can be because they feel like their opinions are not appreciated and valued. 
  • Increase in conflicts and complaints: Low workforce morale is often reflected in the overall attitude and behavior, disrupting internal harmony and interdepartmental collaboration. It is indicated by frequent complaints, arguments, and disputes between employees and management.  
  • Lack of innovation and creativity: When you witness employees not being driven enough to exhibit innovation and creativity in their work, their morale is lower. This can be attributed to excessive micromanagement, lack of autonomy, etc.  
  • High employee attrition: High attrition is one of the sure-shot signs of low staff morale. It affects the employees’ interpersonal relationships, motivation, and engagement. When employees are unhappy at an organization and have only a few reasons to stay, it will lead to high attrition.  

Now that you know some of the visible signs of low employee morale, and if you spot them in your organization, it’s time to act towards it and adopt robust strategies to combat them. 

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7 ways to boost employee morale

As mentioned above, high employee morale creates a positive work environment and helps attract and retain top talent. Below are some techniques that can be implemented to boost the workforce’s morale. 

Implement cross-departmental activities to improve team participation

When employees work in a single team performing similar tasks, it leads to boredom, disinterest, and disengagement. It also lowers their exposure since there is no opportunity to hone their skills.  

The lack of growth opportunities will drastically affect their morale, and therefore, it is necessary to provide them with cross-departmental opportunities. In addition, it will increase interdepartmental collaboration, knowledge sharing and thus enhance creativity.  

According to Stanford 

Individuals who work in collaborative settings are more than 50% more effective at completing tasks. 

In addition, working on multi-faceted projects will enable employees to diversify their skill sets, thereby boosting their morale. 

Read More: 7 Effective Ways to Boost Remote Team Collaboration

Have an open-door policy for robust communication

The overall morale of the workforce plummets when there are communication gaps between management and employees. In addition, a lack of space for employees to share their opinions and concerns will also affect their overall motivation and engagement.  

Thus, an open-door policy can be set as a workplace standard to communicate freely with managers or supervisors. As a result, the policy will help solve any persisting problems between managers and their team members, restore trust, and address issues or challenges before they become more significant problems. Moreover, such practices foster a sense of belonging amongst employees and help maintain employee morale. 

Offer flexibility to eliminate stress and burnout

Working in rigid schedules with minimal breaks can cause stress and disrupt an employee’s work-life balance. Moreover, when employees are assigned multiple tasks beyond their capacity, it will result in burnout. Thus, morale can sink when the workplace starts to stagnate and lack vibrancy.  

Changing the routine with flexible work arrangements can positively affect morale. According to a Gartner survey,  

43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours helped them achieve greater productivity 

Employees can be given a choice to choose work timings and location based on their convenience. It enables employees to have a better work-life balance and do justice to personal and work obligations. In addition, it will reduce the risks of fatigue and promote mental and physical well-being.  

Read More: 7 Best Practices to Eliminate Work Stress and Enhance Productivity

Avoid micromanagement and provide autonomy for employee empowerment

Micromanagement is one of the primary reasons for lower workforce morale. Compelling employees to use specific methods or constantly monitoring them only increases stress. It stifles creativity and leaves them feeling powerless, lowering their confidence.  In addition, since micromanagers do not consider employees’ opinions, the trust between employees and employers would be lost. 

Therefore, employers must grant autonomy and empower their employees. When the workforce has the authority over their tasks and the liberty to explore different methods to accomplish the activities, it will enhance their engagement. In addition, practicing autonomy will improve employee-employer relationships with the company and demonstrate that their efforts are known, recognized, and rewarded, thus, maintaining high workforce morale. 

Read More: 7 Effective Ways to Empower Employees and Prevent Micromanagement

Allocate responsibilities based on their skill set and interests

Allocation of responsibilities plays a significant role in stimulating employee morale. It is necessary to allocate the right project to the right employee to maximize productivity. When employees are assigned to projects that don’t match their skills, they will be under pressure and unable to attain their goals. 

Thus, managers should assign tasks based on employees’ skillset or let employees choose their areas of interest. This will ascertain more commitment towards the assigned tasks and better quality. Thus, when employees have the freedom to incorporate and explore their ideas into their work, you will witness an increase in their morale. 

Read More: Resource Allocation: A Guide on How to Apply it to Project Management

Reward and recognize employees to boost confidence

Staff morale declines when their efforts and hard work are undermined and underappreciated. Therefore, timely acknowledgment and appreciation play a considerable role in boosting employee morale. 

When they are recognized for their hard work and contribution, it increases their motivation and drives their focus towards achieving their goals. Providing employees with monetary and non-monetary benefits will give them a sense of accomplishment and lift their spirits. It will also create a healthy work environment because employees will put in extra effort and attain better results. 

Make learning and development part of your DNA

Professional growth and career development are crucial factors in employee retention. The current workforce is career-driven and seeks growth opportunities in their workplace. So, to help them attain their goals and diversify their skillsets, managers can initiate resource skill development programs.   

As part of learning and development, organizations can conduct training and upskilling programs and formulate Individual development plans (IDP). It can help the employees to expand their skills and develop professionally. Furthermore, managers can also conduct workshops to provide a space for learning and improve their efficiency and work quality. 


Employee morale is the cornerstone of better performance and productivity. It assures better output and helps build a positive work environment. Therefore, managers need to ensure employees are always motivated and high on spirit. The points mentioned above will help managers identify the signs of low morale and implement ways to course-correct the same. 

What do you do to improve morale at your organization? 

The Glossary

Read More: Glossary of Resource Workforce Planning, Scheduling and Management

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