5 Reasons for Low Employee Morale

by Chris Young

Employee Morale 1 resized 600One topic that always comes up during the course of our work with an organization is the issue of politics, and I am not referring to tomorrows election day.

Every organization has politics - it is unavoidable. However, one must remember that politics can be both good and bad. Good politics are rooted in personal accountability and promote innovation and performance excellence. Bad politics on the other hand are characterized by a lack of personal accountability and the acceptance of poor performance by team members and are often the result of a phenomenon that we refer to as "The Who matters more than the What."

This phenomenon is seen most often in manager/subordinate relationships where a low performing manager is unable to gain the respect of his or her team without exhibiting favoritism towards chosen team members. This can be especially devastating on employee morale and invariably diminishes the performance of the team and the organization as a whole.

Below you will find five signs that poor management and a lack of personal accountability are damaging employee morale and destroying Possibility in your organization.

1. When the WHO matters more than the WHAT - Meaning that who a team member is matters more that what they contribute when it comes to performance reviews, project assignments, raises, and promotions. In these situations how well an individual performs has no impact on their career aspects as the favored employees always seem to get the best opportunities to advance their careers regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

This display of favoritism is often a two-way street as a manager will curry favor on a team member in return for an acceptance of this manager's poor performance. Ultimately the manager and subordinate will work in concert to help conceal their poor performance and blame others for missed opportunities and team shortcomings.This ultimately has the effect of driving the real high performers to other organizations and teams where personal accountability is embraced and employee performance is judge objectively.

2. Information is distributed on a "need to know" basis - In cultures that lack personal accountability, organizational knowledge and information is guarded as a form or power and currency. Managers abstain from transparency and only share information with team members that they feel have a need to know about it. Low performing and insecure managers often do this to give themselves a sense of power and control and give off the impression that they are important members of the organization.  One way you can tell if this is an issue in your organization is that numerous employee team members are heard asking a manager the same or similar questions aimed at retrieving a given piece of organizational information. Personally accountable managers recognize the need to share information with others and do so proactively.

3. Trivial issues must be handled by management - This can be a particularly troublesome destroyer of employee morale and organizational Possibility. Poor managers want control over issue - even when it could be best handled by establishing a company system or policy to empower employees to make routine decisions. Low performing managers use this as a means of displaying their power and exerting control over their employees. Not surprisingly, this diminishes morale among employees who are intelligent enough to make on their own and do not need to be coddled by their supervisor.

4. Top performers leave for greener pastures - Poor management that lacks personal accountability will consistently drive the best performers within an organization to companies (often competitors) that embrace personal accountability and reward high levels of performance. High performers quickly recognize a manager that is inept and quickly become frustrated with their lack of performance. You might say the two are like oil and water. The truth is that lousy managers don't want high performers on their team whose performance will ultimately shed light on their own incompetence.

Remember… People most often leave their manager, not their position. If you have carefully hired a team member using a validated personality profile assessment and compared the results to a job benchmark for the position, the chances are overwhelmingly good that the top performer has left in response to a lousy manager.

5. Management places blame on their team for poor performance - This is a clear sign of a lack of personal accountability and creates considerable employee morale problems. The truth is that the "buck" stops with the manager of a team or department and he or she must be personally accountable for the results the team achieves. After all, it is the manager who must assure that the right people are hired onto the team and placed in the right seats on the "bus". It is the manager that must ensure that each team member knows what is expected of them and does their job well. And ultimately, it is the manager who sets the bar for job performance with the level of personal accountability they exhibit.

An organization's culture is critically important to both its identity and its ultimate success. Furthermore, it provides the foundation for high levels of employee morale and job engagement.

The choice is up to you: Mediocrity of Performance Excellence.

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