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Workplace Morale - 25 November 2014

Morale is one of those things you can feel and sense but can’t pin down. Workplaces are electric when it’s present and miserable when it’s not. But often what we think generates morale isn’t what generates it at all.

In a new study conducted at Eastern Kentucky University, a variety of factors were tested. Of the following eight, which three do you think were found to have a minimal impact on morale?

- Input into decision-making: Having a say in what happens at work.
- Fairness: Leaders treating employees equitably.
- Low stress: Sustainable levels of pressure.
- Communication: Clear, timely and accurate messages.
- Role clarity: Information on how jobs should be performed.
- Co-worker perceptions: Colleagues thinking positively of each other.
- Cooperation: Resources, support and guidance within the team.
- Public support: Doing work that’s good for the community.

So, of those eight, which three do you think had a negligible effect? If you selected communication, role clarity and public support, well done. That doesn’t mean they’re not important; they’re essential. It’s just that they don’t necessarily translate into greater morale. The others do.

Input into decision-making: When employees are given the opportunity to express their opinion, they feel as though they’re making a more meaningful contribution to the team. That emotion of feeling valued leads to greater morale.

Fairness: Fairness arises when people believe they’re treated with dignity and respect, that decisions are unbiased, and that processes are transparent. With those factors in place, it’s unsurprising to see why morale would be the natural outcome.

Low stress: Previous research has already proven excessive job stress causes health issues, absenteeism, turnover, conflict and – seriously – divorce and death. But when job stress (and those consequences) are absent, the resulting harmony ramps up morale.

Co-worker perceptions: Morale is also enhanced when employees feel as though their colleagues are upbeat, pleasant and supportive. And, here’s the important part, they also need to believe their teammates are producing work of high quality.

Cooperation: Finally, there has to be some form of interaction in pursuit of a common goal. If team members are working independently without any need to collaborate, a vital ingredient for morale is missing: people contact.

And here's the thing. That study was conducted among prison officers. So, if morale can be increased in a prison, it can surely be increased in your team, right?

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