Counteract low employee morale

Low Employee Morale: Top 5 Signs and How You Can Boost It

Discover the 5 unmistakable low employee morale signs. Unmotivated teams? Lack of engagement? Find solutions to boost morale now.

Low Employee Morale: Top 5 Signs and How You Can Boost It


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A staggering 85% of employees worldwide are disengaged at work, revealing a pressing need to address low employee morale. High morale is crucial for organizational success, as it affects productivity and turnover rates. 

In this article, we’ll uncover the common signs of low employee morale and provide practical strategies to boost engagement and foster a positive work environment.

Understanding the causes and impact of low employee morale is essential for managers, team leaders, and HR professionals alike. By implementing these proven solutions, you’ll be empowered to create a thriving workplace culture that drives organizational success.

What Is Low Employee Morale?

A person sleeping at a desk
Source: BusinessJargons

Let’s begin with a simple definition before delving into how this condition manifests within the workplace. Low employee morale can be defined as a state in which employees harbor a negative or dissatisfied attitude toward their work, organization, or job environment. 

When employees experience low morale, it becomes evident through a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction, disengagement, and lack of motivation. These employees may display reduced enthusiasm for their tasks, resulting in decreased productivity and efficiency. The negative impact on team dynamics and overall organizational performance can be profound.

Gallup identifies three types of employees: actively engaged, not engaged (disengaged), and actively disengaged. 

1. Engaged: These highly-engaged employees exhibit strong connections to the organization and demonstrate enthusiasm for their jobs. They often drive initiatives.

2. Not Engaged (Disengaged): Employees who are disinterested in their work may appear bored or apathetic about their job and organization. Unmotivated by rewards or recognition, they tend only to meet expectations.

3. Actively Disengaged: Highly dissatisfied with their current situation, these individuals lack enthusiasm for tasks while harboring negative attitudes toward the company. They may undermine organizational goals, intentionally spread negativity throughout the workplace, or even sabotage other employees’ efforts.

By understanding these different employee categories, we can recognize that low employee morale is often linked to higher proportions of disengaged and actively disengaged employees within an organization. 

Addressing low morale requires targeted efforts to improve employee engagement, enhance job satisfaction, and identify and rectify the underlying causes of disengagement.

If you notice the telltale signs of low employee morale in your workplace, you need actionable strategies for mitigating their effects—but what are those effects in the first place, and how can they hinder your productivity?

How Does Low Employee Morale Affect the Workplace?

Low employee morale can profoundly impact a workplace’s overall functioning and productivity. When employees are disengaged or actively disengaged, the consequences can be significant. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, the global economy suffers a staggering cost of $7.8 trillion in lost productivity due to unengaged employees. To put this figure into perspective, it amounts to approximately 11% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).

A green and white card with a pink gas pump and yellow text
Source: HRDirect

Low employee morale leads to decreased productivity, poor work quality, and frequent absenteeism. 

The impact of low employee morale is not limited to large-scale economic effects but also affects individual businesses. HRDirect’s recent survey on the Impact of Absenteeism on Small Businesses in the US reveals that more than 20% of small business respondents reported an annual cost of $3,000 or more per employee due to employee absenteeism.

These statistics highlight the financial implications of low employee morale, but the consequences extend beyond monetary losses. Low morale can create a negative work environment, resulting in higher employee turnover rates and difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.

Moreover, low employee morale can have a detrimental effect on teamwork and collaboration. When individuals feel demotivated or disengaged, they are less likely to contribute to team efforts, share ideas, or support their colleagues. 

This can hinder innovation and creativity within the organization and limit its ability to adapt and thrive in a competitive market.

Signs of Low Employee Morale in the Workplace

Counteracting low employee morale before it significantly impacts the overall productivity and atmosphere within a workplace is crucial. The first step is recognizing the warning signs of low morale so employers and managers can address the underlying issues and improve employee engagement and satisfaction. Here are five common indicators of low employee morale to watch for:

1. Passive behavior

One sign of low morale is when employees exhibit passive behavior. This can manifest as a lack of communication with team members or clients. They may become disengaged, unresponsive, and fail to proactively contribute to projects or initiatives. 

2. Frequent absences

Frequent and unexpected absences can be another indication of low employee morale. Employees who are disengaged or unhappy in their work may take more time off than usual, extending beyond their scheduled paid time off (PTO). This behavior can also include being absent during working hours without valid reasons. 

3. Poor performance

Poor morale often translates into poor performance. Demotivated or disengaged employees may not deliver their best work or meet expected standards. This decline in performance can be noticeable through missed deadlines, reduced productivity, and a lack of enthusiasm toward tasks. 

4. Negative attitude

A negative attitude among employees can be contagious and detrimental to the overall work environment. Disgruntled employees may exhibit pessimism, cynicism, or constant complaints about their work or colleagues. This negativity can impact teamwork, communication, and overall morale. 

5. High turnover

When employees are dissatisfied, and morale is low, it often leads to high turnover rates. If talented and motivated employees consistently leave the organization, it may indicate deeper issues within the workplace. High turnover disrupts the workflow and also increases recruitment and training costs. 

What Are the Causes of Employees Having Low Morale?

There are several key causes for poor morale; let’s zoom in on each.

A graph with blue bars
Source: Deloitte

Dissatisfaction with pay

Despite deep financial concerns, many employees hesitate to discuss raises or promotions with their employers. Studies reveal that approximately 43% of Gen Zs and 34% of millennials plan to leave their current employers within the next year, with pay being the primary reason for their departure. 

Issues with superiors or team members

A strained relationship with a supervisor or team member can significantly impact an employee’s morale. Interpersonal conflicts, lack of support, or unfair treatment from superiors or colleagues can create a negative work environment and contribute to low morale. 

Lack of appreciation

Employees who feel undervalued or underappreciated are likely to experience low morale. When leadership fails to express appreciation, this can lead to demotivation and disengagement among employees. Recognizing and acknowledging employees’ contributions and achievements is vital in boosting morale.

Lack of direction on tasks/processes

When employees are clear about their tasks or have adequate guidance on the processes they need to follow, it can positively impact their morale. On the other hand, ambiguity in expectations, inadequate or poor communication, or a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities can leave employees feeling lost and disheartened. 

Unproductive work environment and/or culture

A work environment that hampers productivity and fosters negativity can significantly contribute to low morale. Factors such as excessive bureaucracy, toxic workplace culture, lack of work-life balance, or unsupportive management can lead to employee dissatisfaction and reduced motivation. 

No opportunity for professional growth and/or lack of trust

Employees who feel stagnant in their roles and lack opportunities for professional development may experience low morale. Similarly, if employees don’t feel superiors trust them to take on greater responsibilities, motivation can suffer. 

Best Ways To Fight Low Morale

Ready to bring your employee satisfaction levels back up to scratch? Here are a few strategies you can employ to fight off low morale. 

Employee engagement initiatives

One effective approach to combat low morale is to implement employee engagement initiatives. Focus on creating a positive, inclusive work environment that encourages employees to feel connected, motivated, and valued. 

For instance, organizations can enhance overall morale by involving employees in decision-making processes, providing opportunities for growth and development (courses, mentorship programs), and promoting a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible schedules.

Fun team activities during work or after

employees huddled together looking at laptop while smiling

Incorporating fun team activities during work can significantly boost morale and create a more enjoyable work atmosphere. These activities can range from virtual team-building exercises, such as online games or trivia sessions, to in-person activities, like group outings or sports competitions. 

Don’t forget about your remote workers—host virtual team-building activities such as virtual happy hours or online games to help foster relationships between remote employees and those in the office. Make remote workers feel that they are part of the team even when they are not there in person.

Work-related initiatives with assigned team leaders

Empowering team members by assigning them to lead work-related initiatives can be an effective morale-boosting strategy. Employees feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment by delegating responsibilities and allowing colleagues to take charge of specific projects or tasks. 

Employee appreciation day or week

Organizing an employee appreciation day or week is an excellent way to recognize and celebrate employees’ contributions. This dedicated time allows organizations to show gratitude for their employees’ hard work and dedication. 

Activities can include awards ceremonies, personalized notes of appreciation, small tokens of recognition, or even special events or outings.

Offering incentives or recognition for hard work motivates workers and encourages them to exceed expectations.

It’s a good idea to use employee recognition software to routinely reward your staff. It will not only improve your team's morale, but it can also make your task easier by leveraging the available tools.

Offsite meetings

Conducting offsite meetings can provide a refreshing change of scenery and a break from the usual work routine. These meetings can be held at external locations, such as conference centers or retreat venues, where employees can engage in team-building exercises, workshops, and strategic planning sessions. 

A simple change in environment fosters creativity, collaboration, and a renewed sense of purpose.

Budget for SPIFs/Perks

Allocating a budget for SPIFs (sales performance incentive funds) or perks can serve as a motivating factor for employees. SPIFs can be financial incentives or rewards given for achieving specific goals or targets, while perks can include additional benefits like gym memberships, wellness programs, or flexible work arrangements. 

Such rewards and perks provide tangible recognition for employees’ efforts and contribute to overall job satisfaction.

Individual transparent performance development and career plans

To combat low workplace morale, it’s crucial to prioritize individual performance development and career planning. Regular and transparent performance discussions between employees and their superiors help identify strengths, areas for improvement, and growth opportunities. 

Keep in touch with employees

Maintaining regular communication with employees is essential to prevent or address low morale. Having someone, preferably a superior, conduct regular check-ins with employees is crucial. Don’t pay exclusive attention to the employee’s performance; check on their overall well-being and show that you’re interested in their job satisfaction.

When employees feel that their opinions and sentiments matter, you’ll find they are more likely to open up about any challenges or concerns they may be facing.

When dealing with poor performance, provide support, feedback, and resources to help employees overcome performance challenges and restore their motivation.

Again it’s important to remember your remote workers. Check in often with remote workers and provide them with the necessary resources to do their job effectively. Work-from-home employees may need even more support to maintain a high level of performance away from the office.

Resolve issues together

It is best to have a superior engage one-to-one with an employee with low morale. During the session, the superior should aim to understand and acknowledge the situation, offer options and potential solutions, and agree on the way forward. It is crucial that both parties agree to meet regularly to monitor progress and the level of support needed. 

Organizations can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment by resolving issues together and involving employees in the problem-solving process.

As discussed earlier, dissatisfaction with pay is a key cause of low morale. It is crucial for employers to create an environment where employees feel comfortable addressing their financial concerns, raises, or promotions. Employers risk losing valuable employees if the employees perceive a lack of openness or approachability in their superiors.

Open communication and a supportive atmosphere can lead to more constructive discussions about pay-related issues and potentially mitigate the risk of losing talented individuals due to unresolved financial concerns.

A collaborative approach allows employees to voice their concerns, offer suggestions, and actively participate in finding resolutions. Organizations can create a more positive and supportive work environment by addressing the root causes of low morale and working together to implement effective solutions.

Using these various strategies, employers can increase employee well-being and morale and ultimately improve remote employee retention and productivity.

Final Thoughts

In a world where employee morale holds the key to unlocking your organization’s hidden potential, it’s time to think outside the box. Delve into the underlying issues that dampen motivation and tackle them head-on by fostering engaging activities, promoting open communication, nurturing healthy relationships, and creating a positive work environment.

With regular evaluations of these strategies, you’ll witness a transformative effect on job satisfaction, productivity, and retention rates. By fostering high employee morale today, you’re building a bridge toward long-term organizational triumph.

Ready for an unconventional approach? Explore Near’s resource library for expertise in assembling highly productive remote teams while saving up to 70% on labor costs. Dive into our insights on effective remote team management and begin expanding your talent pool for boundless success!

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