May 2, 2022
The High Cost of Low Morale
It happens in every work environment at one time or another. People grumbling, having a bad attitude, not being productive, and missing work days. Low morale sneaks in like a virus, infecting one employee after another. If not addressed, low morale will impede the performance of the business, even to the point where customers become dissatisfied.
So, what is the real cost of low morale?
The High Cost of Low Morale
Employee morale is a measurable, controllable expense. It involves the attitudes of individuals and groups toward their work, their environment, and their managers. Morale is not a single feeling, but a composite of feelings, sentiments and attitudes. So, why should an employer be concerned about employee morale? Because it’s tied to profitability.
While the morale of an organization is an intangible element composed of feelings and attitudes of individuals and groups, the effects of morale include tangible and extremely important factors such as profits, efficiency, quality, and productivity. Low morale and its costliest indicator, high turnover, can be a tremendous drain on a company's finances. So, how expensive is it?
According to Gallup, low morale costs American businesses up to $550 billion dollars a year due to lost productivity including absenteeism, illness, and other problems that result when employees are unhappy at work. And it doesn’t stop there. Businesses with low employee morale encounter lower productivity, more mistakes, lack of cooperation, higher turnover, less sales, and increased stress. In the worst cases of low morale, there can even be instances of sabotage.
Not only does low morale negatively impact the employee experience and business performance, but it also has a direct detrimental impact on customer satisfaction (MetricNet). According to ICMI, 92% of consumers say an agent’s perceived happiness affects their personal customer experience. In addition, customers of firms with highly-engaged workers were 10% more loyal than those whose workers were disengaged from their jobs (Gallup).
Signs Low Morale Is Infecting Your Support Team
Low morale is typically a symptom of something much more serious than temporary mood swings or day-to-day conflicts among your employees. In fact, in every workplace, employees may feel frustrated or discouraged on occasion, but low morale is a deeper, more persistent negativity that often manifests in one or more of the following ways.
Companies suffering from low morale may notice a decline in productivity. Signs of trouble include missed deadlines, increase in errors, the need for re-work, and an increase in customer complaints. This can happen when employees have too much on their plate or lack proper training. If employees feel overwhelmed, they’re likely struggling to meet their usual work standards. Conversely, boredom is often a factor that can lead to poor work performance and indicate low morale. If employees feel their assignments don’t make the best use of their skills or if they're eager for new challenges, they may become bored and lack initiative. And, sometimes, low morale and poor performance are simply the result of employees feeling unappreciated and undercompensated.
How To Fix It: First, you need to identify the root cause. The solution may include better management of workloads or shifting projects to suit each individual's strengths and preferences. It could also include developing a better onboarding and training process, or offering employee recognition and bonuses for their achievements. Bottom line, managers need to take full responsibility for providing the support employees need and creating a positive work environment.
Growing Tardiness and Absenteeism
We all have lives that exist outside of work, so having to leave the office early or take a few days off here and there is perfectly normal and understandable. However, when an employee is consistently missing scheduled work there’s usually a reason. In fact, an increase in tardiness and absenteeism is almost always a sign of low morale caused by work related stress. As a result, employees take more sick days and are more likely to experience emotional outbursts, such as crying or yelling.
When employees have a disrupted work life balance, they experience an overall reduced sense of wellbeing. This can lead to anger, depression, and spikes in cortisol, which can result in high blood pressure and poor immune function. Thus, it comes as no surprise to learn that unhappy, unwell workers take more sick days than happy workers. In fact, a study conducted by Gallup found that people with low well-being scores can cost a company up to $28,000 a year in sick-day expenses and lost productivity, compared to only $840 for happy and engaged workers.
How To Fix It: To counteract low employee morale resulting from stress, the American Psychological Association recommends giving employees more control over their time at work and even providing the opportunity to set flexible hours. Empowering team members the freedom to set their own hours represents a major morale opportunity. A recent study by SnackNation, found that “flexible work hours” was rated the third most important perk (87% of respondents said it is “important” or “very important” to them), yet only 46% of respondents said that this perk is available to them. In addition to flexible hours, managers should regularly check in with their employees to make sure they aren’t feeling overwhelmed, and make adjustments if they are.
Changes in Attitudes
A change in attitude is often an indicator of low morale. Not everyone is the happy-go-lucky type and sometimes it can be hard for employees to conceal a foul mood after they’ve had a bad day. However, these are typical reactions to temporary problems. A persistent negative attitude, on the other hand - especially from someone who has otherwise been a positive force in your workplace - is a red flag signaling deflated morale. In addition, increased pessimism, fault finding, an increase in an “us versus them” attitude, and a lack of willingness to cooperate with teammates or commit to new assignments are other clear warning signs of trouble.
How To Fix It: Companies need to build a foundation of trust and appreciation. This requires having open conversations with employees on a regular basis. It also means taking the time to show employees that they are appreciated and valued for their contributions. Stopping negativity in its tracks early on is key to keeping morale high. One disgruntled employee is a morale risk, but an entire group of disengaged employees is a business threat.
Gossip, Misinformation, & Rumor Mills
If you’ve recently been hearing gossip around the office, there could be a full-blown morale crisis lurking around the corner. When the rumor mill is running rampant, there’s generally a lot of misinformation circulating. This typically happens when businesses fail to communicate and share information proactively with employees. While total transparency carries its own risks, leaving employees to fill in too many of the blanks often spreads hearsay. And don’t think that misinformation won’t run rampant in a remote work environment. Without ongoing communications from management, it could spread even faster and before you know it, employee morale has taken a hit.
How To Fix It: The key to combating low morale due to misinformation is to create a culture of transparency. Be quick to share updates with your team members and make sure everyone is in the loop. Employees that are armed with timely and accurate information will be less inclined to fill in the blanks with their imagination. Also, be honest with your workers about any changes that may impact their roles or the company. Whether you’re planning on switching to a new helpdesk software or have incoming product changes, keeping people up to date is vital. To help keep communication flowing, institute an open-door policy. Let staff members know they can ask questions or express their concerns at any time.
Finding a way to boost team morale can be one of the toughest challenges that a customer service manager has to overcome. Although low morale can have many causes, the symptoms are recognizable and often treatable if addressed early. However, refusing to deal with low morale head-on can trigger a dangerous cycle of decreased engagement, missed metrics, and increased turnover. Creating an environment of open communication, clear expectations, and appreciation will go a long way to help preserve the well being of your customer support team.
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